With their race for congress in the newly apportioned seven-county 19th Congressional District approaching what appears to be a close finish, candidates Chris Gibson and Julian Schreibman are focusing on the only record available, Gibson’s two years as a member of the Republican majority.
Meanwhile, a Siena College poll this week shows Schreibman closing to five points, down from 16 points in mid-September. The release from Siena stated Schreibman has made gains among Democrats and independents, while Gibson has retained his large margin among Republicans.
“We feel very comfortable that we have a path to victory,” said Stephanie Valle, spokeswoman for Gibson, on Tuesday afternoon. Valle cited a poll by Public Opinion strategies that the campaign sponsored and was released last week showing Gibson with a 49-39 lead over Schreibman and noted that out of the four polls taken in the race, Gibson has led in all of them.
“I think we’re probably somewhere between the two polls — every poll that’s come out has shown our campaign ahead, said Valle. “I do think our opponent has run a very negative and nasty campaign that’s had some effect, particularly in areas that don’t know the congressman as well. … The congressman has made a very conscious choice that he’s not going to run the same kind of campaign that our opponent is running.”
But Jonathan Levy, campaign manager for Schreibman, released felt that it was swinging in his candidate’s direction. “Julian has all the momentum in this race. The more residents of the Hudson Valley/Catskills region learn about Julian’s vision for creating middle class jobs, growing our economy and protecting Medicare and a woman’s right to choose, the more they know Julian will represent them in Washington.”
As Schreibman was apparently surging, the Siena poll also showed president Barack Obama increasing his lead over Mitt Romney to eight points. Obama carried the district by four points in 2008.
Democrat Schreibman, since being nominated by his party in June, has characterized Gibson as a right-wing Tea-Party candidate out of touch with core values established over 20-year tenure by retiring incumbent Maurice Hinchey, a Democrat.
Gibson in turn speaks to his “moderate” record of attempting to address major issues in a bipartisan fashion in a sharply divided House of Representatives. Gibson voted with his party 74 percent of the time, according to one survey, while Hinchey voted with Democrats more than 90 percent of the time.
Of late, the Gibson campaign has taken a negative turn, with super-Pacs (political action groups) committed to retaining a Republican majority in Congress attacking Schreibman’s record as Ulster County Democratic chairman during an almost three-year period ending with his resignation in January to run for Congress.
Schreibman, a first-time candidate, considers himself the underdog in a district where Gibson already represents about 45 percent of constituents.
Schreibman rejects critics who accuse him of running a negative campaign. “These are issue-based [mailings],” he said. “I will speak out in direct terms to very critical issues. I have never criticized my opponent on a personal level.”
Schreibman says Gibson’s support for a voucher system to extend Medicare “actually shortens it.” But Gibson and Schreiebman agree that one way to extend the program for seniors is to negotiate for prescription drug prices. Gibson says his reforms would not apply to anyone currently on Medicare.
Schreibman, 39, a Kingston native and Marbletown resident, is a corporate attorney and a former federal and Ulster County prosecutor. Schreibman was the lead investigator on the Ulster County grand-jury probe of the county jail debacle in 2007-08.
Gibson, 48, a native of Kinderhook, where he still lives, is a retired army officer. He was also an instructor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, following several tours of combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Representation and misrepresentation
Both candidates believe small business will be the engine for economic recovery in the district. Both advocate government support and regulatory relief in that effort.
Schreibman says he’s “amazed” that “Gibson calls himself pro-choice,” given the incumbent’s opposition to Planned Parenthood. Gibson says he supports a woman’s right to choose, but does not support federal funding for it.
Gibson has accused Schreibman of misrepresenting his record. “My opponent has no plans. His has been a nasty, negative campaign with talking points supplied by Washington, D.C.,” Gibson said, in reference to the super-Pacs that support his opponent. Gibson super-Pacs have also fiercely attacked Schreibman.
“I care very much about facts. My campaign is based on facts,” the challenger responded.
Gibson portrays himself as an activist congressman who conducts his own in-depth research with the facts guiding his conclusions. While Schreibman describes Gibson as a lockstep Republican, Gibson said he was ranked “in the middle of the House” in 2011 by the National Journal.
Gibson plans if elected to establish a congressional office in Kingston in an abandoned bank on Broadway where mayor Shayne Gallo wants to site the city police station. He said he will work with Gallo to secure federal funding to support that project.
Schreibman charged that Gibson moved his district office from Hudson to Kinderhook, for his own convenience. He said district offices should be located “where people have access.”
The two differ little on foreign policy, though Gibson called for a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s intelligence apparatus.
Gibson has voted against what he considered unnecessary military appropriations. He does not take his $60,000 military pension, because, “I came here to try to contain spending.” Members of Congress are paid about $175,000 a year.