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EDITORIAL: Zephyr Teachout for Congress


IT HAD TO HAPPEN this way–a contest of ideas and policies proposed by two exceptional politicians has been overwhelmed by the smog of negative ads growling about the alleged flaws of the opposing candidate. And still, it’s the different visions that Democrat Zephyr Teachout and Republican John Faso have for the 19th Congressional District that come through.

Columbia County ranks fifth out of the 11 counties in the district currently represented by Republican Chris Gibson. Republicans have more voters than Democrats district-wide but with the large number of voters who don’t claim a party preference, even a small victory here for either candidate could affect the outcome of the race… especially this year.

Mr. Faso has wealth of political experience that includes minority leader in the state Assembly and the GOP candidate governor. He has also been a lobbyist in Albany, working on behalf of big firms, public entities and, in at least one instance, an autism charity.

He lost his statewide races, which should carry no weight in this race. People can learn from setbacks, and maybe the public, too. His opponent for governor was Elliot Spitzer, who had to resign from office in disgrace.

Ms. Teachout also lost a governor’s race of sorts, when she waged a primary challenge in 2014 against incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo. But she shocked the political world by garnering a third of the primary votes and beating the governor handily throughout large parts of Upstate New York. She clobbered him in the counties of the 19th District and in the process proved she’s willing to stand up for her beliefs, even when it means taking on the leader of her own party.

Like Mr. Faso, Ms. Teachout is a lawyer. She’s also a law professor at Fordham University and has been engaged in efforts to allow the voices of ordinary people to be heard when huge companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable wanted to merge and when the scheme emerged that would have given preferential treatment on the web for large firms while increasing charges for individuals.

When Ms. Teachout talks about pressing for upgraded internet access in Columbia County, it’s clear she knows the issues and voters know her experience lines up with our needs.

Both candidates talk about the need to seek bipartisan solutions to district issues, like help for small scale farms and other small businesses, the need to address the opioid addiction crisis and the global challenge of climate change. An while Mr. Faso acknowledges that climate change is real and needs to be addressed he rejects a non-partisan proposal to tax the companies that profit from greenhouse gases and pass those tax dollars directly back to consumers. He raises thoughtful questions about how this “carbon tax” would work but suggests no comprehensive alternative.

Ms. Teachout supports the tax as one part of a comprehensive approach to slow the forces heating the only atmosphere we’ve got. Her emphasis rests on approaches that don’t start by burdening middle class taxpayers.

The Social Security Trust Fund needs more revenue to meet its future obligations. The simplest approach is to significantly increase the cap on earnings subject to the tax. Why should the wealthiest wage earners pay what amounts to a lower rate tax than the rest of us? Mr. Faso says raising the cap would hurt employers, who must match the contribution. But how many firms in this district have loads of workers earning more than $127,000 a year? And how many of them would feel the pain if the tax cap was shifted upward?

These are only a few of the issues that give Ms. Teachout the edge over Mr. Faso. The differences extend to healthcare, campaign financing, trade and foreign policy. Mr. Faso cares about the district but the solutions he proposes seem like echoes of plans that haven’t worked or have been rejected in the past.

Ms. Teachout has the strength and the knowledge to serve this district well. She summarizes her approach to politics as “always engage… always reach out.” That’s the way she challenged Governor Cuomo, the way she’s conducting her campaign and the way she will serve the district in the House of Representatives. She brings new ideas and matches them with energy, enthusiasm and intelligence. I urge you to vote for Zephyr Teachout Tuesday, November 8.

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