Afternooner: Maggie is Woman of the Year, Louise Fundraising on Robocalls

Maggie Brooks was named Republican Woman of the Year at a gathering of Republican women in Albany.

I just got a fundraising letter from the Slaughter campaign asking for money to fight what she calls “misleading robo-calls”. Here’s what the calls say:

Hello, I’m calling from the National Republican Congressional Committee with an important alert about your Congressman Louise Slaughter. Slaughter voted for the government takeover of healthcare which cuts $500 billion from Medicare and is going to cost taxpayers nearly double what Washington politicians claimed. Slaughter’s plan even empowers unelected bureaucrats to make decisions that could deny access and raise the cost of care. Call Louise Slaughter at 202-225-3615 and tell her enough is enough and to keep her hands off our healthcare. Paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. 320 First Street SE, Washington, DC 20003. 202.479.7000

If you heard that call, you’d think that $500 billion was cut from Medicare benefits, but no benefits were cut, just some budget juggling, as every fact-checking organization agreed when this came up in 2010 (here’s CNN’s analysis, but you can use Google to find a dozen other, similar articles).

Spoiler Alert

Next door in the new NY-27, former Erie County exec Chris Collins will be face off in a primary against highly decorated and very conservative Iraq War vet David Bellavia. According to Alan Bedenko (Buffalopundit), Bellavia will receive support from Jack Davis, a millionaire serial candidate for Congress. Davis alternated between running as a Democrat and a Republican during the last few cycles, while consistently remaining a bitter old man with zero retail political skills. He’s planning to inject his money and vitriol into the NY-27 race in the form a SuperPAC that will advertise on behalf of Bellavia.

Because the new NY-27 encompasses some Monroe County towns and neighboring counties south and west of Rochester, Davis’ PAC will probably buy a fair amount of  advertising in the Rochester market. Collins, like Brooks, is a middle-of-the-road, pork-friendly Republican who doesn’t want to talk about social issues. Pro-Bellavia ads will expose Rochester voters to attacks on a moderate Republican from the right, and Rochester media will no doubt ask Maggie Brooks whether the substance of those attacks also apply to her.

In addition to making trouble for Collins in the Republican primary, Bellavia (with Davis’ money behind him) is a logical choice for the Conservative party line. If he wins that and Collins wins the Republican Primary, we’ll have the wet dream of every Democrat in the new NY-27, which is a Dede Scozzafava situation where conservatives split between Collins and Bellavia. That’s relevant to NY-25 because Bellavia ads in the Fall will continue to put far-right ideology in front of NY-25 voters. Maggie will either have to disavow that ideology (and alienate her base), or embrace it (and alienate moderates).

Gillibrand Fundraises for Slaughter

Liz Benjamin at YNN has the latest Gillibrand fundraising letter, which asks for money for Kathy Hochul and Louise Slaughter. Gillibrand can afford to be magnanimous because the recent Republican convention in Rochester ratified what was already obvious: she’s going to cruise to an easy re-election win against a second- or third-tier token Republican challenger. This is a double-edged sword for Slaughter. On one hand, it means that Gillibrand will be able to campaign for Slaughter, Hochul and other down-ticket candidates, since her re-election campaign will be a formality. On the other hand, since she won’t have a serious competitor, her campaign won’t put on a full-press get-out-the-vote effort, which means that Slaughter will be relying on her own effort, and that of the Monroe County Democratic Party, which is mediocre at best at getting voters to the polls.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

The Cook Political Report, a fairly well-respected political analysis service, has its first set of rankings out since redistricting. The new NY-25 is in the “leans Democratic” category, which is the second most competitive category. Cook calculates the PVI of NY-25 as D+5, which makes it fairly Democratic, but also indicates that Obama’s 18-point win in 2008 (11 points over the national results) was a Democratic high-water mark in NY-25. NY-28, Slaughter’s current district, was a D+15 “safe” district by Cook’s reckoning.

Cook rates NY-24, the new Syracuse district, as another “leans Democratic” race. There, Ann-Marie Buerkle will face Dan Maffei, who she beat in 2010. Since that district is now D+4 (it was D+3), and since Buerkle hasn’t moderated any of her Tea Party stances, even a weak campaigner like Maffei will probably win, despite the well-demonstrated fact that he’s a guy who could probably fuck up a ham sandwich. Rochester will probably see a lot of NY-24 ads because its bedroom communities in Wayne County are still part of the new district.

The new NY-27, which Kathy Hochul won after Chris Lee resigned, is R+6 instead of R+7 but will still be tough for her to win. It’s currently rated “Leans Republican” by Cook, but with former Erie County Executive Chris Collins announcing this weekend, that may change for the worse. Collins, who lost his re-election bid last year, is in no way as strong a challenger as Brooks, and he’s also widely considered to be at fault for the incompetent campaign run by Jane Corwin, Hochul’s challenger in the special election. NY-27 includes a few towns in Monroe County so we’ll see plenty of advertising for this race, which is the most likely Republican pick-up in New York this year.

NY-23, the new Southern Tier district, is in the “likely Republican” category, though it is a R+3 district now instead of the safer R+5 district it was. Cook has this as a “likely Republican” district mainly because Tom Reed doesn’t have strong opposition for that seat. NY-23 won’t much of a factor in Rochester politics any longer, since no Monroe County towns, or even any bordering counties, are part of the district.

Speaking of Reed, he brought House Minority Leader Eric Cantor to Henrietta on Friday. Cantor also met in private with Brooks to discuss her campaign.

Louise Does It Her Way

Over on the Twitter, Sean Carroll was complaining about Louise Slaughter’s refusal to take campaign questions at her press availability this afternoon.  Since the event was in the Federal Building, she said she couldn’t talk about the campaign.  Chapter 4 of the House Ethics manual [pdf] does say you can’t conduct a campaign out of a House office, but answering questions isn’t campaigning, so I think Louise just didn’t want to talk to the press and she came up with a plausible excuse. So, on the part of the 13-WHAM newscast I saw, Sean got to tell us all that Louise looked good and said she was feeling fine.

For more than twenty years, Louise has lived in a world where Louise talks about what Louise wants to talk about.  Today, Louise wanted to talk about the bill she sponsored, the STOCK act, which just passed Congress, so that’s what she did.  Like Maggie, Louise  has been in front of the press for a good part of her adult life, and she’s not going to get caught saying anything unless she’s prepared to say it.

Poll Mentions Morelle

Rachel Barnhart has been hearing about a poll comparing Maggie Brooks with Louise Slaughter (no surprise) and Monroe County Democratic Chair Assemblyman Joe Morelle (big surprise).

In addition to Rachel’s guesses (centered around Louise’s health), this could just be a simple “what if” comparing a lesser-known Democrat to a well-known one to gauge the bottom of Democratic support in the district. I was polled a few times by someone interested in the 2010 Jim Alesi race in my district, and they compared him to a couple of well-known Republicans and Democrats.

It’s No Fun In Romney’s Shadow

Christine Fein at City asks Maggie a good question and gets a bob and weave:

Brooks also hasn’t yet addressed the social issues, like contraception, that are getting so much attention in the excruciating Republican presidential primaries. In our conversation, Brooks said she will be “fully vetted” on those issues, but they’re not what she’s running on. But Brooks and her competitor, incumbent representative Louise Slaughter, are two women running for Congress in a year when women’s issues are getting star billing. People will want to know and deserve to know where Brooks stands. If she’s the last vote standing between President Mitt Romney and the elimination of Planned Parenthood, what would she do?

“I want to establish a campaign that shows people what my priorities will be and what I think is important,” she said, in response to the Romney question. “And I want to hear from them what they think is important. All the other stuff needs to be answered, certainly. But it shouldn’t be a distraction right out of the gate.”

If we take that metaphor literally, apparently Maggie would prefer to have her distraction in the home stretch. The way you know when a politician doesn’t have a good answer to a question is when they call it a “distraction”.

Give Me Land, Lots of Land and a Sunny Sky Above

Maggie Brooks doesn’t want to be “pinned down” on issues quite yet.

“To me, that’s always been the same: jobs and the economy,” she continued. “You know, the social things don’t get people back to work, the social issues don’t lower taxes, don’t relieve regulation from business. Those are the things I want to focus on initially, and we’ll take our time with the other things.

“We’ll be fully vetted on those, you better believe it.”

Brooks was asked specifically about whether she would vote to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, known to critics as Obamacare, and her views on the federal mandate for health insurance coverage of contraceptives.

The notion that she’ll be fully vetted mainly on non-social issues, and concentrating on those, is a fond wish that won’t come true. Brooks is running to join a House caucus that spends a good deal of its time on social issues. Repealing Obamacare, to name one example, is vitally important to a lot of Republicans, and her supporters will want to know how she stands on that. On the Democratic side, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is prepping reporters with 10 questions, three of which are about women’s health care, and those questions are all fair ones. That’s just a taste of what’s to come from the media and her opponent.

Finally–and this will be a theme repeated for the rest of this campaign–Maggie’s not the top of the ticket in 2012. That honor probably belongs to Mitt Romney, who instructs women to “vote for the other guy” if women want “free stuff” like contraception. That quote is one of many reasons that Romney’s likely nomination is a double-edged sword for Brooks. He’s theoretically a Northeastern moderate Republican, which is what Brooks will run as in a Democratic district. But he’s also an example of how moderation in today’s Republican party isn’t durable. As recently as 2002, Mitt supported Medicaid-funded abortions. Romneycare funds contraception, now Mitt’s against it.

If the 2012 standard-bearer can change his positions that radically, it’s fair to ask how Representative Maggie will differ from County Executive Maggie, once she’s under pressure to be a loyal vote for her party in Washington. Whatever phrase you choose–“pinned down”, “fenced in”, or “held accountable”–Maggie’s positions on the social issues that are dominating the Presidential race are going to be fully vetted before this election is over.

Slaughter’s Response

Representing your neighbors in Congress is a great honor and it is a responsibility that must be taken seriously. I am running for Congress because there’s more work to do on behalf of Monroe County. Our fight is not yet over to end insider trading in Congress and demand more accountability in our political system, to make our food supply safe for American families, and fix the trade policies that have left our local manufacturers competing on an unlevel playing field.

Here’s the whole thing via Rachel Barnhart.