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.

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

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:

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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.

Patronage Accusation Details

The Slaughter campaign sent out the details on Maggie Brooks’ husband’s patronage job at the Monroe County Water Authority. It includes the most controversial accusation, which is that Brooks accompanied her husband to Disneyland and San Diego on the county’s dime, so I’m including it after the break.

As for the politics of this, like everything else in this race, I don’t see much new in the release. People know that Maggie got her husband a cushy job at the Water Authority, and spouses accompany husbands on business trips. The Brooks response, which called this “gutter politics”, was a laugh, since the accusation is a summary of a bunch of public records. The whole “gutter politics” or “politics of division” line that the Brooks campaign is pushing is a waste of time as far as I’m concerned. Everyone knew this thing was going to be a battle royale, and my guess is they’d be disappointed if there weren’t a few fireworks.

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More Blurry Photos from Events May Reveal Brooks’ Funders

As a photographer, I have always wished I could find a way to track down campaign money photographically.  Fortunately,  yesterday everything became a lot easier when I got this message from the Louise Slaughter campaign:



Guess who Louise’s Republican opponent Maggie Brooks was caught on film cheering with at the GOP Convention in Tampa?
A picture says a thousand words and here she is with none other than David Koch, of the billionaire Koch Brothers and architect of almost every negative deceitful attack ad this year.
Who knows how much money the Koch brothers will pump into Rochester to get their golden girl Maggie elected.”

Could the Slaughter campaign have found a way (without looking at filings or disclosure reports from the FEC) to get at who is really backing Brooks?  Why else would somebody be at an event near another person if they weren’t giving them millions of dollars?

I went into my archive and found a slew of other blurry photos of Maggie Brooks at events that show people near her.  Could these blurry people “caught on film” near Maggie Brooks at some event pump millions into Rochester to get her elected?

Though he has not “contributed” to her campaign “officially”, longtime Rochester political insider Darryl Porter can be blurrily seen here with Maggie Brooks at an event of some kind. Photo by Clarke Condé.

While the Urban League of Rochester has not “endorsed” Maggie Brooks for congress, she was obviously at an event where they had a sign. Photo by Clarke Condé.

Though a longtime Slaughter supporter, Democratic County Legislator Paul Haney can be seen here listening intently to Maggie Brooks at a public event. Photo by Clarke Condé.

Former Congressman Eric Massa is seen in this blurry photo standing somewhat near Maggie Brooks. What could it mean? Photo by Clarke Condé.

Mayor Tom Richards (seen here in a blurry photo at an event where Maggie Brooks also was) is reported by some to have a lot of money AND has been known to give money to candidates running for political office. Photo by Clarke Condé.


Non-Denial Denial

YNN has dueling statements from Brooks and Slaughter on the rape comments Here’s Slaughter:

Maggie Brooks has been deliberately hiding her anti-choice views from the public during this campaign, and has repeatedly aligned herself with some of the most conservative voices in Washington who have tried to strip women of their health care rights and redefine rape to satisfy their radical ideologies. The only thing we really know about Maggie Brooks is that she’s willing to take money from any right-wing group that will try to buy her a seat in Congress.

This is Brooks:

Louise Slaughter should be ashamed of this outrageous and dishonest attack on Maggie Brooks’ character. It’s sad to see Louise bring her hyper-partisan brand of Washington politics to our community. The voters of Monroe County know and trust Maggie and her record of protecting taxpayers, and won’t be fooled by Louise’s dirty tricks.

That statement says nothing about Brooks’ position on “forcible rape” or the rape exemption for abortion in general, so we’re left to assume that Brooks doesn’t want to talk about it. When a campaign resorts to “I’m rubber, you’re glue”, it’s because they don’t want to address the underlying issue, and that’s clearly what’s going on here.

Tax Workers Not Wealth

Photo by Clarke Condé.

ROCHESTER, NY- So goes the chant with which the dozen or so protesters greeted House Speaker John Boehner at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center for a Maggie Brooks fundraiser Saturday.  Dressed in furs, they proclaimed themselves “Millionaires for Maggie” and put on a bit of a show that was at the very least entertaining.   Protesters always spice up a campaign and as we round the 100 day mark before the election, it seems like time for a little more spice (and substance) from both sides in this campaign.

Maggie at the D&C

Maggie Brooks went to the D&C Editorial Board yesterday, and because this is still 1955 and everyone waits for the paper newspaper to hit their steps before they’re sure it’s news, Jim Lawrence will write it up on Sunday. Until then, here’s the D&C’s liveblog transcript.

Editorial board member Larry Frye thinks he caught Maggie saying something out-of-sync with her party’s position on immigration, quoting her as saying “We can agree in principle with the president’s position”, referring to the Obama Administration’s recent decision to stop deporting illegal immigrants who arrived in the US as children.

Brian Sharp at the D&C has a follow-up story where the Slaughter campaign addresses Brooks’ criticism that she’s a Washington insider who’s never in the district by trotting out Maggie’s scandals. As a sidelight, Gerald Gamm gets to be as wrong as he was the last time he was quoted in the D&C:

Both are well known in the district and have “enormous reservoirs of goodwill,” said Gerald Gamm, chairman of the University of Rochester political science department. “Most voters like both of them. I think it’s really a risky strategy for either one of them to start attacking the other one.”

Brooks is running against an Democratic incumbent in a Democratic district. Presumably these Democrats are in general agreement on the issues with their fellow Democrat, Louise Slaughter. How the hell is Brooks going to win if she doesn’t convince voters there’s something wrong with Louise Slaughter?

Finally, as kind of an amusing sidelight to this little event, Maggie Brooks finally put some national issues on her website on the day of the meeting according to my monitoring software. I’ll have more on that in later posts.