Mark Assini appeared on Connections on WXXI, hosted by Evan Dawson this afternoon. Dawson is smart and one of the best reporters in Rochester. At an hour, Connections is the right length for an in-depth interview. WXXI callers are generally well-informed and they ask good questions. Yet, despite the best efforts of all involved, I think that this hour didn’t do much to inform the voters of the 25th District, because Mark Assini isn’t running to be the disinterested arbiter of abstract policy. Assini is running to join the majority of the most radical Congress in modern history, one which has done very little other than attempting to shut down the government and repeal Obamacare. So having a discussion that resembles a policy seminar at the Aspen Institute, rather than a real-world examination of how Assini would end up voting, is simply a waste of time.
Over the past 8 years that I’ve been writing on Congressional elections, I see the same pattern in local media. During the Spring and Summer, the candidates suck up all the free media they can by appearing before editorial boards and on radio shows where they are asked about their theoretical views on “policy”, a discussion that is completely removed from the realities of how they would act in today’s dysfunctional Congress. Then, the candidates retreat to a fortress of solitude to prepare for the couple of debates that will occur during the late Summer and Fall, where the only pointed questions that are asked come from one candidate to the other. Finally, we have a month of toxic TV and radio spots that are full of misinformation and bile.
The TV spots are always with us. Debates in a district like this one are going to be limited because the incumbent will always want to avoid the possibility of screwing up. So what’s left is Spring and Summer, and during that time I’d like to see at least one media opportunity where the candidates are asked tough questions relevant to how they’d vote next year, not about what they want in some perfect world. A good way to do this would be to take a dozen tough votes in Congress and ask the candidate how they would have voted. The obvious question for Assini, using that technique, is whether he would have voted to repeal Obamacare. All you need to know about this particular forum’s ability to suss out Assini’s real intent in running for Congress is that Dawson did not ask that question. Read on if you want to learn about the rest. Continue reading