The Gannett Washington Bureau reported yesterday that Representative Tom Reed’s support of the shutdown has dramatically changed the odds of his re-election.
Reed represents New York’s 23rd Congressional District, which is located in the Southern Tier of New York, in southwest corner of the state.
The district includes Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tompkins, Tioga, and Yates counties and part of Ontario County.
Like most of upstate New York, the district is Republican territory: a lot of open countryside with rolling hills and valleys dotted with small towns. There are also several small cities – Bath, Corning, Elmira, Ithaca, and Jamestown – where you traditionally find a lot of Democrats.
That mix explains why the area has often been represented by Democrats.
The district boundaries were redrawn by a federal judge in 2012. Until 2010 the area was represented by Democrat Eric Massa, a Naval Academy graduate.
But after Massa suddenly resigned in March 2010 amid an ethics investigation involving sexual misconduct, Reed defeated Matt Zeller, an under-financed Democrat, who had little name recognition and no background in elected office.
After redistricting, Reed was re-elected in 2012. But even though the Democrats didn’t target Reed's district that year, the Democratic candidate, county legislator Nate Shinagawa ran a strong race, which drew the attention of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Martha Robertson, Chairwoman of the Tompkins County Legislature, has already announced that she is running against Reed. Tompkins County includes Ithaca, the home of Cornell University.
Robertson is already actively campaigning in the district, and has put Reed on the defensive because of his support of the shutdown and his ties to the Tea Party.
The Elmira Star Gazette reports that Robertson slammed Reed for supporting the shutdown that is cutting off benefits to veterans.
Veterans’ issues are important in the district, which is home to a VA hospital, a national cemetery, and several VA Outpatient Clinics.
Robertson is also courting the district’s traditionally moderate Republican base. While most of rural western New York is soundly Republican, they are Eisenhower Republicans, moderate conservatives, rather than radical tea party conservatives.
According to the New York State Board of Elections, there are 394, 502 registered voters in the district: 157,961 Republicans, 129,955 Democrats, and 106,586 registered voters who are not affiliated with either party.
That means that 27% of the registered voters are neither Republicans nor Democrats.
Throw in Reed’s support of the wildly unpopular shutdown, and it makes sense for the Democrats to target New York’s 23rd Congressional District.
Can Reed be re-elected next year? Yes.
Can Reed be defeated next year? Yes
Before the shutdown, the answer would have been different.