20th Toss Up

Congressman Scott Murphy faces a strong challenger in a tough political year. This story was published in Metroland on September 2nd, 2010.

The race for the 20th Congressional District seat between incumbent Democrat Scott Murphy and political neophyte Republican Chris Gibson is very close, according to recent polls. In terms of experience, Murphy beats Gibson hands down. However, in an electoral climate where constituents are anxious to change the political oil, anything can happen.

“We feel good that we’re going to get reelected but I think it’ll be a close race,” said Murphy. “That’s the nature of the year that we’re in.”

Gibson, a proponent of free market policies and limited government, criticized Murphy’s support of President Obama’s healthcare bill and the economic stimulus. Gibson is strongly against the recently passed healthcare bill.

“I think that as a consequence of that bill we’re going to end up with higher premiums, higher taxes, more regulation, and more big government at a time that we need to be reducing the size of the federal government,” said Gibson.

“That is totally and absolutely untrue,” said Murphy. “That is something he just says over and over again, but that doesn’t make it true.”

Gibson called into question the methods by which the Congressional Budget Office created their cost-savings forecast, which helped the healthcare bill pass. Murphy has certainly taken flak in his district for supporting the healthcare plan, but that decision was partly responsible for him getting the Working Families Party endorsement, as they are on record saying they would not support any candidate opposed to the bill.

Gibson said that the Independence Party chairmen from Columbia and Warren counties endorsed his campaign. However, Murphy won the larger NYS Independence Party endorsement. Gibson said that was mainly due to Chairman Frank MacKay deciding there wasn’t going to be a primary. MacKay could not be reached for comment.

Gibson has the Republican Party nomination and recently enjoyed the fundraising clout of Representative John Boehner (R-Ohio) at a private function in Saratoga Springs. According to the most recent filings with the Federal Election Commission, Gibson has a $452,000 campaign fund, compared to Murphy’s $1.3 million.

Both candidates agree that government transparency is a key issue; however, they differ on the means to that end. Gibson said that every major effort to get corporate money out of politics is struck down by the Supreme Court.

“We need a creative, new approach to reforming the political process” said Gibson. “I’m an advocate for term limits.” Gibson said that if he were elected he would draft legislation that would prohibit legislators from serving for more than two terms, a total of eight years.

Murphy has sponsored clean- government bills, such as the Fair Elections Now Act, and supports movements by progressive political organizations, including Moveon.org’s “The Other 98%” initiative, that focused on limiting corporate influence on politics and repealing the recent Supreme Court ruling that gave corporations the same first amendment rights as citizens.

Gibson has stated he is against the now-defunct Disclose Act, a law that would enhance campaign donation disclosures.

“The bill was meant to combat corruption, the problem is the bill itself was corrupt, because it didn’t treat all organizations the same,” said Gibson. “I don’t even think the bill would be constitutional.” Plus, he said he opposes the Fair Elections Now Act, a bill that would provide public financing for independently funded candidates, because that would mean more government spending.

Murphy characterized Gibson’s stance on issues of government transparency as typical of the Republican attitude. “The Republican leadership told him key Republicans are going to stand firmly opposed to any disclosure and he just does what he’s told,” said Murphy.

Both candidates stressed the importance of creating jobs and growing small business in the 20th district.

“Companies I’ve started and helped build have created over a thousand jobs,” said Murphy. “I don’t think people are particularly going to be worried about partisan politics as much as they are who can get the job done, and the job is very clearly getting the economy moving and getting people back to work.”

Gibson said the biggest impediments to job growth in the 20th are tax regulation and healthcare costs. “I believe that we’re going to revitalize the economy by removing impediments to growth,” said Gibson. “Not by sending money to Washington and doing it through a stimulus bill.”

Murphy said his constituents are familiar with him and his track record. “I think what people are looking for is the candidate that is going to be better at getting the economy moving and helping create jobs and I think my experience is absolutely on point for that project. It’s what I’ve been doing my whole life.”

About Daniel Fitzsimmons

Staff writer for the Manhattan weeklies Our Town, Our Town Downtown and the West Side Spirit.
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