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Reed Machine Tests Mitrano’s Mettle

Tracy Mitrano

Congressional candidate Tracy Mitrano was shaken as she appeared on a Zoom meeting with Southern Tier media on Monday afternoon. It was earlier that same morning, incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom Reed and members of his campaign team singled out the challenger while winning an endorsement from the Police Conference of New York.

During Reed’s gathering, he and his staff pointed to anti-police communications on a personal online account of a staff member from a firm hired by the Penn Yan Democrat’s campaign. That worker was to handle publicity and social media accounts for the challenger. The messages from this individual were never posted to any of the Mitrano sites and would have likely gone unnoticed if not for the mention in Corning.

“We are disgusted by this consistent pattern of anti-police rhetoric and policy positions by Tracy Mitrano,” said Reed campaign spokesman Matt Coker in a news release. “But it should come as no surprise given her stated policy positions and her close association with radicals who share her anti-police world view.”

What was already a steep and mountainous climb for Mitrano to defeat the more than four-term incumbent had turned into a downhill avalanche in a matter of hours. Instead of allowing the sound bites and accusations to ferment, she rushed for a discussion with Southern Tier media.

It was not well orchestrated and became quite defensive.

Tom Reed

Mitrano was passionate at times while becoming heated with some of the television reporters who were participating. Her emotions that afternoon were not all about what Reed said, but almost a realization that the more than three-year battle and grind had turned into an abrasive and personal contest.

On this afternoon, it did not matter what the major everyday issues of those living in the 23rd Congressional District that spans 7,400 square miles from Chautauqua County to just outside of Binghamton were. In the spotlight were the accusations that could be traced back to Mitrano’s camp.

Though flustered, she responded succinctly and to the point. “I support law enforcement,” she said. “My entire family, the men, have been involved in military service and law enforcement. I currently have two stepsons who are deputy sheriffs in one of the counties in this district … I am for funding police and I am in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in so far as that movement is about justice and fairness.”

After defeating Mitrano in 2018, Reed vowed on that Election evening he was retiring the phrase “Extreme Liberal” that had been previously used in successful races against Martha Robertson in 2014 and John Plumb in 2016. He’s kept his word, but he’s been vocally consistent in recent weeks with his usage of “radical” and “extreme.”

In reality, this is what many of the campaigns of this current divisive era are all about. Coin a popular phrase or slogan and then get elected. President Donald Trump has mastered this tactic, which could work out for him again in 10 days.

As Robertson, Plumb and Nate Shinagawa in 2012 learned, battling Reed is more than just about going after hot-button issues. It’s about being engulfed by a red Southern Tier overcoat that comes with a pair of blue mittens. Democrats are greatly outnumbered.

Each year, these challengers have been left to fend for themselves, hitting the trail in nifty two-door sedans that come with little party support while Reed rides in a limousine of power. One of Mitrano’s major successes has been in the fund-raising from individuals in recent months, receiving some $1.15 million in contributions through Sept. 30.

That beats Reed, but not by much. Even so, the incumbent has more than $1 million in cash on hand. It’s almost impossible for any non-Republican challenger to make a dent in this district.

By the way, this does not speak to the job the incumbent has done. He faithfully has met with constituents in town halls, especially those who vocally disagree with many of his platforms. He is often in our district touting work-force initiatives while bringing needed funding to regional hospitals and institutions.

He also looked upon as a leader in bipartisanship, if there is such a thing at this time in Washington, as a member of the Problem Solvers caucus.

Yes, he supports Trump. But let’s not forget this county’s last long-term Congressional Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democrat, often followed the lead of President Barack Obama who was from the same party. It never seemed to be a major issue then, but times have changed.

What hasn’t is how Reed’s will to win remains. Mitrano has an impressive resume of work that include a prestigious and important position at Cornell University. She kept up appearances throughout the district in 2019 while spending many days and hours in this area taking in this county’s culture and lifestyle.

Effort and will, however, can get you only so far. Republicans, through loyal voters and a swath of conservative values, have built a Southern Tier machine.

John D’Agostino is the regional editor of the OBSERVER, The Post-Journal and the Times Observer of Warren, Pa. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 253.

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