Louise Slaughter, RIP

Louise Slaughter passed away today at the age of 88. She was a remarkable woman, a fighter, and a force of nature.  As the first woman to chair the Rules Committee (one of two most important committees in the House), she also made history.

Many people in Rochester can’t imagine politics here without Louise’s presence, and there here will be many obituaries written about her to celebrate an interesting life well-led.

One thing that most of her tributes probably won’t mention is that she was the opposite  of a greedy politician. She raised very little money in her campaigns. She didn’t have a PAC, and a review of her spending reports showed that she didn’t use her money to influence other candidates. Her main concern was representing her constituents, both in Congress and in field offices. In today’s political environment, that’s worth noting.

Whoa, What Happened?

In what should have been a gimme election, Louise Slaughter is barely ahead. At this moment, the D&C is reporting that she’s got a 605 vote lead with 2,800 absentee ballots left to count. That means Assini needs about 1,700 of those 2,800 votes to win (over 60%), which is very unlikely, since we’ve seen in other recent tight races (most notably the 2008 Massa-Kuhl race) that absentee ballots generally break in the same percentages as the general election.

Still, that result is way too tight, and an election night mis-count coupled with a few extra Assini absentee ballots could put him over the top.

How did this happen? Simple: Democrats just don’t turn out in off-year elections, especially if there’s nothing going on. In 2012, there were 323K votes cast in NY-25. Last night, 191K people voted. That’s a 37% decline in turnout. If you think this is about Rich Funke, let me point out that 89K voted in last night’s State Senate race. In the race O’Brien won in 2012, 137K voted. That’s a 34% decline in turnout.

This isn’t about Slaughter’s campaign (minimal), Assini’s campaign (also minimal), a “wave” or anything else. It’s about Democrats not going to the voting booth unless there’s a Presidential candidate on the ticket.

Don’t Hate the Player

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

Behold, I Tell You A Mystery

Mark Assini, after a bridge in Gates was closed because it’s structurally deficient:

Assini, a member of the Genesee Transportation Council, the agency that helps determine how to locally spend federal transportation funds, said his intent is not to scare people about the condition of our bridges, but to start a conversation about getting more federal money for roadwork.

“In years past, the feds made additional money available for bridges, but most of that funding has dried up,” he said.

I wonder how that money mysteriously dried up? It couldn’t have been global warming, because Assini doesn’t believe in that. Could that mysterious money drying event be caused by Republicans not supporting more highway funds? Let me pull out the Google machine and check:

House GOP Unveils Bill Slashing Highway GrantsSenate Republicans Block Advancement of Transportation BillHouse Republicans Fail to Pass Transportation Extension.

Do I need to go any further to show the kind of hypocrite one needs to be to whine about the lack of federal funds while at the same time running to join the obstructionists who have repeatedly and proudly blocked this funding?

Louise Schools Assini

Louise Slaughter’s first piece of action in the 2014 campaign came in a press release that contained a letter to Mark Assini. To hear her tell it, she had to teach Mark Assini a little bit about flood insurance and town government. Apparently, a number of Gates residents received notices that their flood insurance premiums would rise because the Town of Gates failed to file a map revision with FEMA. Here’s the key part of Slaughter’s letter to Assini:

It was recently brought to my attention that McMahon LaRue Associates submitted a Letter of Map Revision (LOMR) on behalf of the Town of Gates to FEMA. I understand that after FEMA began the review process that they required additional, up to date information about the Town of Gates’ floodplain management efforts.  FEMA sent McMahon LaRue Associates and the Town a letter in July 2013 explaining that in order for LOMR to move forward, the Town and Town’s flood administrator needed to provide info more information to FEMA within 90-days to support the map revision.  After no response to FEMA within the 90-day timeframe, FEMA was forced to close the LOMR case for the Town due to lack of response.

Expect this to come up in the Assini/Slaughter debate later this year. The whole press release is included after the break:

Continue reading

Things That Should Go Without Saying

Let’s begin with the fact that’s obvious to all paying attention: Lovely Warren is a disaster as a politician. Beholden to the corrupt Gantt machine, she not only followed in her mentor’s dirty footsteps by hiring her uncle as the head of her security detail, she also made matters worse by getting in a stupid fight with the queen of Twitter in Rochester, Rachel Barnhart, when it was revealed that her uncle tends to drive too fast on the Thruway.

After a disastrous start in 2014, even someone with the deadened political instincts of Ms. Warren wouldn’t take a shot at Louise Slaughter this cycle, no matter what some gullible reporter at Channel 10 thinks. And if she did run for the seat in any other cycle, she might win the primary, but she’d lose to any Republican with a pulse and regular respiration.

That said, let me pick an important nit: the fact that Lovely raised $400K, as was reported breathlessly by Channel 10, is irrelevant to any present or future run for the House. As every reporter in Rochester should have learned from studying the Brooks campaign, you can’t transfer funds from your local campaign treasury to your House race. So Lovely can raise a million dollars for her next mayoral run (and Lord knows she’ll need it), but that won’t do her any good if she ever decides to run for Congress.

Even a Stopped Lonsberry Is Right Twice a Day

Bob Lonsberry’s latest love poem to Mark Assini is strong, noble and true:

Louise Slaughter has her seat in Congress until she or God decide it is time to move on. That was proven last go-round in a full-on assault by County Executive Maggie Brooks. It was one popular local leader against another and when they counted the votes it was a blowout.

And if Maggie Brooks can’t beat Louise Slaughter, neither can Mark Assini.

According to Bob, Assini says he has a “mathematical path” to victory that he hopes to follow. Assini thinks that path starts with the repeal of Obamacare and opposition to the SAFE Act (which, memo to Assini, is a piece of state, not federal legislation). If so, the “mathematical path” Assini is following begins with 1+1=3.

Assini: Teaching Kids About Evolution and Global Warming is Like Hitler Youth Indoctrination

The wayback machine is not kind to Mark Assini. Here’s a taste:

A disturbing movement exists to indoctrinate students to politically correct thinking. This movement resembles the Hitler Youth activities in pre World War IIGermany. The Hitler Youth were taught, trained and recruited to be future members of the Nazi Party. The Hitler Youth were viewed as future Aryan supermen and were indoctrinated into believing in ant-Semitism.


If you are a parent and don’t buy into the theory of Global Warming – well tough beans! Global Warming is being taught as fact by those that believe man is the main factor in climate change. Guilt is being pushed on students in the classroom for the “incorrect” choices of America. Students are being told how evil we are and how wrong America is on the issue of Global Warming.

Another recent example involves the fierce battle that has waged to eliminate Intelligent Design from being taught in the class room as a balance to the Theory of Evolution.

Assini wrote this when he was blogging at Bob Lonsberry’s “Writers on the Loose” site. He no longer blogs there, but, as with all things on the Internet, it’s archived for all to see. This is via a Huffington Post story on Assini’s run.

Correction: Dean is Not Running in Republican Primary

I foolishly assumed that Tim Dean was running as a Republican in the primary in the 25th, mainly because of his walking and quacking like that kind of duck. But at his official announcement today, he says he’s not running for any party’s nomination:

Dean announced his candidacy today, a day after Republican Gates Supervisor Mark Assini kicked off his campaign and sitting House Representative Louise Slaughter, a Democrat, indirectly confirmed she’s seeking re-election. County Board of Elections Commissioner Tom Ferrarese says Dean is registered with the Independence Party, though Dean says he’s running as an independent and is not affiliated with a party.

To get on the November ballot as an independent, without the designation of a party, Dean would have to collect the signatures of 3,500 registered voters who have not yet signed other candidate petitions.

If Dean is serious, this is worse news for Assini than a primary challenge, because if Dean makes it on the ballot on some line or other, he’ll inevitably take votes that would have otherwise been Assini’s.

That said, he has to be serious enough to get on the ballot. In 2010, there was another strict constitutionalist, Janice Volk, who attempted to challenge Tom Reed in the Republican primary in the old 29th district. Janice didn’t make it on the ballot because she couldn’t collect enough valid signatures after Reed’s attorneys were done giving her petitions the stink eye. It seems that would-be candidates who make a lot of noise about following the Constitution have a hard time understanding election law.

What Flavor of Tea Would You Like?

It looks like Republicans and Conservatives will be able to choose from two flavors of Tea when picking a challenger for Louise Slaughter.

Judging from his website, I’m going to assume that Tim Dean is going to provide the more robust, highly caffeinated brew in the 25th primary. He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and the second most important issue on his list is gun control. Spoiler alert: he’s against it. And there’s this:

Tim is an avid student of the United States Constitution and vows not only to govern constitutionally, but never to circumvent the law in the performance of his duties as a United States Congressman. According to Tim: “The constitution has been working just fine since its inception and there is absolutely no reason to think it’s an outdated or old document, for without the Constitution, our great country would not have been able to exist as the most free country on earth”.

Then we have Mark Assini, who announced this evening. In kinder, gentler times for the Republican Party, Mark would be considered a fairly strong potion. In 2004, he ran against Randy Kuhl in the 29th Congressional District, which at that time reached into the suburbs of Rochester. Mark lost the Republican primary, but remained on the Conservative line and receive a few percent of the vote. Looking in the wayback machine, we see that Mark’s issues at that time were lowering taxes, reforming Medicaid, and dealing with foreign trade by expanding a trade zone in Western New York, and by enforcing WTO treaties. That was a mere 10 years ago, long before the Tea Party had even begun to make the long, circuitous trip from Glenn Beck’s id to the ears of a tiny minority of Rochester area residents.

Unfortunately for Mr. Assini, who is now the Gates Town Supervisor, talking about taxes is weak Tea. If he’s going to win the hearts and minds, not to mention the guts, of the average Republican primary voter, he’s going to have to fall in line on the repeal of Obamacare, pound the table on Roe v Wade, demand that birth control be stripped from insurance plans, and take on all the other political baggage that weighs down every Republican hoping to hold office in a district that voted for Barack Obama. If Assini isn’t out picketing at Planned Parenthood by the week end, I fear for his chances in the primary.

Mark Assini is clearly the better candidate, especially if his years actually governing in Gates have moderated his views. The best thing that can happen to the Republicans at this point is for Tim Dean to fail to get the requisite number of signatures to place his name on the ballot. Absent that, and assuming that Dean mounts a real campaign, I’m afraid that Mr. Assini is going to emerge from his primary challenge as a completely unelectable right-wing Republican of the Paladino variety.

Perhaps Assini will surprise us all, but at this point, the only thing standing between Louise Slaughter and her inevitable re-election is a possible deterioration of her health.