Over the last two days, I've had the chance to talk to both Bruce Tytler and Les Roberts about their stands on the issues. As I listened to them speak about what matters to the people of the 24th District, I was powerfully impressed with the depth of knowledge and insight that both of these candidates bring to the race.
Arranging a time to talk with Roberts and Tytler was not at all difficult - something any voter in the 24th District could do. It seems that they regard open contact with voters as a matter of course, something that candidates for public office are duty bound to make possible. Their idea of campaigning seems more connected with us, the voters of the 24th District, than the model used by their rivals. They've got the sadly unorthodox idea that the average Democrat in the district matters just as much as the people I have heard too often referred to as "important Democrats".
Here in my little village of Trumansburg, the Les Roberts campaign has made several visits, and that's smart. We may be small, but we've got a heavy concentration of especially active progressive Democrats. In a village of just 1,600 people, over 125 turned out in last Saturday's bitter cold for a march for peace through downtown. To understand how many people that is, try to picture 4,680 Uticans marching against the war through the streets of that self-important city - it's the same percentage. Now, how many people actually showed up to march in Utica in commemoration of the 3rd anniversary of the war this last weekend? Did even 125 people manage to come? In political demonstrations - and in political elections - turnout is everything.
[Where's Waldo Challenge: It seems some supporters of Michael Arcuri have the strange idea that I must be some kind of right wing Republican plant. A few have announced that they're going to try to find out who I really am. After all, they reason, with that strangely Uticentric attitude, how could any Democrat dare to criticize Michael Arcuri in public? Well, it just so happens that I'm in the front page photographs of the Trumansburg peace march in both the Ithaca Journal and the Trumansburg Free Press. So, if you Uticans can lower yourselves to look outside your fair city and look at those photographs, you'll be able to see who I really am.]
During that anti-war protest, people were talking quite a bit about politics, and about Sherwood Boehlert's announcement that he would retire. People were ecstatic about Boehlert's retirement - after all, as much as Democrats feel duty-bound to praise Sherwood Boehlert these days, the fact is that Boehlert voted in favor of allowing Bush to start the Iraq War, and supported Bush's foolish war afterwards.
Who's name do you think was on the lips of the people in Trumansburg? It wasn't Michael Arcuri, that's for sure. When I brought up Arcuri's name, no one even knew who he was. No, people were talking about Les Roberts - and there's a good reason for that. Les Roberts has actually campaigned in Trumansburg.
Before Michael Arcuri could even stir himself to make his announcement speech, Les Roberts had come to Trumansburg to meet with Town of Ulysses Democrats, and the campaign manager and field director for the Les Roberts campaign came to meet with Democrats here on three separate occasions. Les Roberts is scheduled to come to our village again in April, to speak to more Democrats in our Fire Hall. Trumansburg Has Michael Arcuri ever been over here?
I've made the offer to help Mr. Arcuri arrange a visit to Trumansburg, but that offer, like the requests for an interview with Mr. Arcuri, have fallen on deaf ears. I got the same attitude from Leon Koziol's office. Yesterday, a member Koziol's campaign committee wrote over here to ask me why I'm not giving Koziol any positive press. One important reason for the lack of positive coverage of the Koziol campaign is that Leon Koziol hasn't bothered himself to send me any positive materials related to his campaign - whereas Bruce Tytler and Les Roberts have.
This Koziol campaigner asked me, in exasperated tones, if I am still on "the 'contact test' trip". Yes, I am.
In my opinion, the first and fundamental test of a candidate's worthiness is that candidate's willingness to get back in touch with a voter who has expressed interest in helping the campaign. This is not a presidential election. It's not even a race for the United States Senate. In a race for the the United States House of Representatives, keeping in close contact with the people of the district is essential. A busy schedule is no excuse. All the Democratic candidates are busy. None of them, not Leon Koziol, and not Michael Arcuri, are so important that they can't bother to speak with a voter, or arrange for their campaign manager to do so.
Thank you to Bruce Tytler and Les Roberts for take a bit of time with me to talk about the issues. Your outreach in my direction of the district reassures me that your campaigns are making similar efforts elsewhere. If we are to take back the 24th District, that's the kind of work we need our candidates to do.