Ithaca Times sat down with the candidates for the Congressional, Senate and NYS Assembly races to break down their policies and stances.
Polls are currently open for early voting, so we talked to the candidates for local races to help you decide what choices to make. Election Day is Nov. 3, and is the last day to vote. We encourage you to be informed and make your voice count.
This article is part of a three part series written by Glenn Epps, Tanner Harding and Sydney Keller.
District 23 Congressional race
Republican incumbent Tom Reed is facing off against Democratic challenger Tracy Mitrano and Write-In/Democrat candidate Scott Noren for the 23rd Congressional District seat this election. The Ithaca Times spoke with the candidates to find out how each of them would support some of the needs of their constituents after the November election.
Reed was elected to Congress in 2010 and has represented the district for 10 years. He is a member of the Ways and Means Committee, the chief tax-writing committee within the House. This is the second time Reed has gone up against Tracy Mitrano.?
The self-identified gun-toting Democrat ran against Reed in 2018 and lost the general election by nine points; a September poll showed Mitrano seven points behind Reed.?
Noren has run for higher office three times before— in 2010, 2012 and 2018— each time campaigning to unseat New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand. His initial interest in running, he said, came from a conversation with incumbent Reed regarding the opioid crisis. Noren works as an oral surgeon.
Mitrano said she was inspired to run after learning of the election interference in 2016; she has owned an information management, security and privacy consulting business since 2014.?
The pandemic has proven to be less of an impediment to economic growth than originally projected in the spring after the novel coronavirus caused massive shutdowns across the country. The unemployment rate sits around 8.4 % nationally. While extraordinarily high, it’s a far cry from the 13% the U.S. saw before the 2008 presidential election. But what the best plan is to recover from a seemingly never-ending pandemic remains anyone’s best guess.
According to Reed’s website, the congressman believes in providing tax cuts to hardworking families. In 2017, Reed “proudly supported” the The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which has been criticized since its passing for capping state and local tax deductions at $10,000, which pummeled taxpayers in high-tax states like New York and heavily benefitted higher-income families with an AGI of $200,000 or higher.
Several of the laws provisions— including full-expensing for businesses—? are set to expire over the next five years. Senior Advisor for the Reed campaign, Matt Coker, when asked whether the congressman would work to adjust the new tax code, said that in another term Reed would seek to make certain provisions set forth by the law permanent and expand on others. Coker did not comment on which of the provisions would receive which treatment from Reed.
“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provided significant relief for families, created an environment to create? good-paying jobs, and made America the best place in the world to start or expand a business,” Coker said. “In order to ensure that our tax code promotes growth and facilitates a rapid recovery from the pandemic, we need to move to make these provisions permanent. This is why Tom is co-sponsoring the ‘Commitment to American GROWTH Act,’ which would provide certainty to businesses by making these policies permanent while also providing additional incentives to start and grow a business here in the United States.”?
Mitrano and Noren have both said they favor expanding broadband internet access, improving rural infrastructure and improving healthcare. Neither of the candidates said they had an official plan to improve the economy, per se, but both said they would be open to ideas they believe work.?
“Trickle-down economics does not work, and my opponent's 2017 tax plan has created a $2 trillion deficit in addition to putting Social Security and Medicare at risk,” said Mitrano. “It is time to return to a simple and reasonable progressive tax, one that includes many more tax brackets beyond the current cut off of about a half-million dollars. With the ‘one percent’ and corporations paying their fair share, it will not be necessary to raise taxes on the working and middle-class.”
Coker said that Reed also favors expanding broadband internet into rural areas and has already secured funding for Yates County, the third least populated county in New York state.
“Tom successfully fought for $640 billion in federal funding for rural broadband to be included in last December’s spending bill and delivered the USDA Reconnect program funding through the USDA Rural Development program to strengthen rural broadband in Yates County in January. In February, Tom delivered a $1.5 million grant for Southern Tier Network to help boost broadband in Chemung, Steuben, and Schyuler counties. Additionally, funding for broadband expansion was a component of the CARES Act that Tom supported in March,” Coker said.
Healthcare & COVID-19 response
On the topic of healthcare, Mitrano said she would support any plan that “mov[es] towards the goal of affordability, availability, and efficiency” in healthcare. She has said that while she supports the Biden Plan she refuses to limit herself to “just one plan.”
“We're not getting anywhere when people come up with various plans. But we all know what is right,” she said “And so let's just start testing individual bills, instead of trying to come up with a master plan, arguing about it to death, dividing ourselves.”?
She continued, “Let's just start doing what people need and want, one piece of legislation at a time.” She reiterated her commitment to searching for solutions that “mov[e] towards the goal of affordability, availability, and efficiency.”
Alternatively, Reed has expressed his disapproval of the Affordable Care Act and a national healthcare system. In 2017, the congressman voted to repeal the ACA and replace it with the American Healthcare Act.?
This year, he also voted in favor of the Families First Coronavirus Act, which responded to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak by establishing paid sick leave and free coronavirus tests, expanding food assistance and unemployment benefits, and requiring employers to provide additional protections for healthcare workers.?
“The pandemic reinforced the need to support our local hospitals and front line healthcare workers. Their services have never been more essential to the health and safety of our communities,” Coker said. “We previously led the charge to reauthorize the Medicare Low-Volume and Medicare Dependent Hospitals program, and we will continue to fight for our local health networks to have access to the resources they need. The pandemic has reinforced the urgency of the fight to ensure we have strong local hospitals.,”
For Mitrano, the solution is obvious:?“Let me be clear, there is a perfectly appropriate direction we should be taking: funding need first,” Mitrano said. “By that I mean, fund the hospitals and healthcare workers involved in COVID research for treatments and vaccines.” In her reply to a question about the best course to support families during COVID, she said the next step after funding hospitals and research is to focus on hunger, homelessness and evictions.?
Agriculture & immigration
Seventy percent of farms in upstate New York depend on Latino immigrants who make up 50–100% of the workforce, according to a Cornell University study. Within the past decade, nationwide farm employment has decreased, but, Latino workers on dairy farm numbers — and undocumented laborers on farms — have increased.
When it comes to farm labor, it’s not a matter of finding American workers to do the job. It’s a matter of finding laborers skilled enough to work on farms and willing to commit themselves to the profession — often the road to attaining agricultural work visas can be long and overdrawn. Mitrano said she supports extending visas for agricultural and technical workers.
“Most dairy farmers do not want to assimilate to the United States,” Mitrano said. “They want to work here and go home. And we do not yet have the immigration documentation that we need that will allow them to come here and work, whether it's over a 12 month period for dairy or nine month period for fruits or vegetables, and then allow them to go home when it's all done in a way that is documented instead of illegal."
Reed said he supports creating paths toward legal work status for workers already working in the United States under undocumented status. "I do not support amnesty. However, I do believe a path to a solution exists that would provide legal work status to those here illegally, and at the same time ensure our national security remained intact,” Reed said in 2014.
Noren said legitimizing our immigration system is dependent upon how Congress addresses the essential needs of the nation and its undocumented workers.
“I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time, I think we should be able to get anybody who's an undocumented worker, there's always this living in the shadows crap that they have to deal with. And I just think we need to get them out of the shadows, get them documented, get them legitimized in our system”