Missing in Action on the Campaign Trail
by New Times Staff - Wednesday, May 28th, 2014
(Parting Shots) Maffei should have been there

Every week in this space, the Syracuse New Times will give you a piece of our mind. For what it’s worth.

The behavior of Rep. Dan Maffei is not acceptable.

Maybe his campaign managers think the wise course is to avoid appearing side-by-side with the challenger, John Katko; that the wise course is to avoid facing follow-up questions if Maffei isn’t responsive; that the wise course for an incumbent is to maintain control the message and the environment.

There’s no mystery about what’s going on. Everybody knows that conventional wisdom tells professional politicians that the way to stay in office is to avoid any situation in which they risk putting their foot in it, or in which they might say something – even if they’re just being honest – that strays from the party dogma.

Maybe that goal – to stay in office – is shaping his approach.
But that isn’t our goal. And if Maffei chooses that path, the New Times will spend most of the autumn telling its readers why Maffei no longer deserves to be a member of Congress.

A short civics lesson: Our government is a republic. Citizens elect people to represent them in Washington. And the duty of those who seek to represent us is not to get themselves re-elected, but to appear before us as often as possible to share their views and help us decide if they’re worthy of our votes.

Instead, Maffei and his campaign limit his access and interactions with Katko and the voters. That’s wrong, and we won’t sit quietly by if he chooses to play this game.

Why is this an issue? Because, as you can read HERE, Maffei was invited to join Katko in a Campbell Conversation with Grant Reeher. Katko agreed; Maffei ducked it.

“(Maffei) looks forward to highlighting his focus … in fair debates like the ones he participated in during the 2012 campaign that aired on every broadcast television station in Central New York. … But, he will not be able to accommodate this particular request,” wrote Kane Miller, of Friends of Dan Maffei.

Wrong answer.

Maffei should have gone head-to-head with Katko, conventional wisdom be damned, and let the chips fall. If he – and this is true for Katko, too – isn’t up to the demands of a Campbell Conversation, the voters should know that. If he can’t think for himself without relying on pre-packaged positions or limiting the scope of the questions he’s asked, the voters should know that. If he needs to limit debates for any reason – every broadcast television station? Really? Those are the circumstances under which he’ll deign to participate? – the voters should know that.

CLICK HERE to read the Campbell Conversation.

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Maffei should have been there to call out Katko when he talked about a gang task force after being asked about policy differences between them. Gang policy isn’t a federal issue.

Maffei should have been there to demand that Katko, in explanation of how he would reduce the multi-trillion dollar federal debt, go beyond the inane, empty answer suggesting the solution can be found in reducing waste and fraud.

Maffei should have been there to ask Katko if he, in his attempts to reduce spending, would choose, as House Repubicans have, to vilify the poor and bring a meat cleaver to programs that help them while asking the affluent to sacrifice nothing.

Maffei should have been there to ask Katko how to preserve the parts of Obamacare he seems to admire – health care for everyone and 26-year-olds on their parents’ policies, presumably the end of pre-existing condition rules – without providing the pool of relatively healthy people (read: mandate) that the insurance companies need to spread their risk.

That’s what happens in a debate. Both sides hold the other to account.

If the congressman wants to continue to represent us, he needs to step up. If he’s not up to it, the voters should know that.

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