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Stefanik Rises As Reed Goes Quiet

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik has become the most prominent Republican voice in New York state. AP photo

North of Interstate 90 from Syracuse to the Vermont border is the largest of the 23 Congressional districts in New York state. It engulfs the Adirondack region, a portion of the capital district as well as 10 counties and segments of two others.

Within the last month, the area has taken on a tremendous significance due to its outspoken representative who has become one of the biggest names in politics during a continued divisive era. On May 14, U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik was elected by her colleagues to serve as chair of the House Republican Conference. In her remarks, Congresswoman Stefanik outlined her plan to unify the conference and rally against what she termed “President Joe Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s radical Far-Left agenda.”

“Most importantly, I want to thank the voters of New York’s 21st Congressional District, who I am honored to represent each and every day, and fight for them,” Stefanik noted in a prepared statement.

How the tide has turned when it comes to Republican leadership in New York.

Stefanik, without question, has the highest profile. On a national level many view her as the engine for maintaining former President Donald Trump’s agenda.

Previous to her rise, the media and political pundits were clearly focused on District 23. U.S. Rep. Tom Reed in early February had been gaining momentum as a potential challenger to three-term incumbent Andrew Cuomo.

Even before the sexual harassment allegations involving the state’s top leader surfaced, the under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths in the nursing homes last year faced criticism from state officials and numerous families. Reed was able to garner the spotlight by touching on those issues during his then-weekly conference calls with regional news organizations.

In short, without admitting to a run, Reed said Cuomo’s days were numbered.

“There’s leadership coming to Albany very soon,” he noted at the time.

More than one month later, however, another unexpected bomb dropped. It was an allegation of sexual misconduct against Reed.

Within days of the report by The Washington Post, the Corning Republican announced he would not run for governor and would retire from his current post following 2023. Additionally, the once-outspoken rep has grown silent.

For his part, Reed is continuing to make the rounds, but he is definitely keeping a low profile. Within the last two weeks, he has visited the Northwest Bank Arena in Jamestown to oversee the improvements to the facility. He also met with Dunkirk City Schools Superintendent Michael Mansfield, who will soon be in the midst of a tremendous transition. It involves a reduction of elementary buildings from four to three; grades three to six moving to the middle school and grade seven to 12 students being housed at the high school. School 4’s purpose has not yet been defined.

There is a certain respect for Reed’s decision to be less public in moving forward. He’s earned that through years of diligent work here on a number of issues.

That being said, it could not come at a worse time. District 23 is on the chopping block — and Chautauqua County could be placed with Buffalo again like it was from 2004 to 2013 as the state will lose one more Congressional seat.

It also has taken steam out of the gubernatorial race. One of the GOP contenders in Lee Zeldin was in Western New York to meet with local leaders this month. For all intents and purposes, the fanfare that came with his visit was lackluster at best.

No matter what side of the political coin you are on, there was no denying Reed’s moderate or bipartisan stances from the end of the last presidential election through January. In fact, he continues to speak out about the events that occurred on Jan. 6 in Washington.

Stefanik, however, rose to the top of the Republican ranks by continuing to question the election results. Consider her statement from what she called the “truly tragic day.”

“Tens of millions of Americans are concerned that the 2020 election featured unconstitutional overreach by unelected state officials and judges ignoring state election laws. We can and should peacefully and respectfully discuss these concerns,” she said.

There also is a time for moving on — and healing. Democrats did it after the “hanging chads” in Florida in the election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. They did it when Trump won the first time — in another close vote.

Stefanik has become the Republican voice for New York state. Now may be the time we begin to miss that more compromising tone from Reed.

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

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