Judging the two candidates in terms of which one would do the best job for, and funnel the most federal support to, the 19th Congressional District in general and Ulster and Kingston in particular, we endorse the re-election of Chris Gibson.
In his first term representing Ulster County in a Congress with a near-abysmal record of getting things done, what Congress has gotten done that’s affected our area, Gibson’s had a hand in. A compiled list of his accomplishments is impressive. The Farm Bill had in it not only support for Rondout Valley farmers to provide fresh produce to local schools and permit schools to shop locally for food for its lunches, but a tweak in the population threshold which makes Kingston able to apply for help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Facilities Grant Program. Both the Irish Cultural Center downtown and, if it comes to pass, the move of police headquarters to Midtown have benefited/could benefit from this. He worked to triple the funding for the Farm Bill’s Farmers Market Local Food Promotion Program, which provides grants for enterprises like the food hub in Kingston. Another Farm Bill provision he advocated makes it easier for organic farmers to market their products.
Gibson was a prime mover behind legislation to make Lyme disease a higher priority for federal research resources. (We urge its passage in the Senate and signature by the president.) He in 2013 played a leading role with his Republican colleagues get the Violence Against Women Act through the House. VAWA brought over $56,000 in federal money to our local Washbourne House shelter for domestic violence victims and their families, as well as over $35,000 for Dutchess’ shelter, the Grace Smith House. He supported the Medicaid waiver for New York, important to our own hospitals here in the city. He helped get the veterans’ home in Kingston off the ground and successfully fought to keep the Social Security office here open at least part-time. He supported the city’s grant applications for help with rebuilding a levy along the Esopus in Uptown and flood remediation downtown. He supported RUPCO’s grant bid from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and worked with RUPCO to get utilities up and running at its Woodstock low-income housing site and with foreclosure help in Ellenville. He co-wrote a bill to allow students eligible for Pell Grants to utilize their grants for college credits earned through early college programs such as those run in the region by Bard and is working with Bard and the city to establish such a program here.
He got $500,000 in the budget for the Hudson Valley National Area Heritage Corridor, money that will support tourism and preservation of historic sites.
More generally speaking, he has since he started representing us been open to communicating with those not necessarily on his side, which has served him well in the liberal Democratic enclave that is Ulster County. He breaks from the usual GOP mold in his urge for circumspect military action in the Middle East and in supporting enhanced civil liberties. His endorsement by the Environmental Defense Action Fund — the only Republican the group is backing — for his stances on climate change (Gibson was the only GOP House member to vote against a measure that would prevent the EPA from studying climate change) and federal regulation of carbon emissions (Gibson was the only GOP House member to oppose the blocking of the EPA to tighten its emission rules.)
We echo his call for a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and appreciate his work, with Democratic House colleague Sean Patrick Maloney, on getting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to pull the plug on its new capacity zone rule which threatens hefty electricity rate increases for our area. In the many sit-downs we’ve had with him, we’ve found him to be a thoughtful, very informed and very intelligent legislator. Far from being a tea party-style anti-federal government type, Gibson relishes the details and ins-and-outs of legislation and how its crafted to an extent that would make any wonk proud, if not envious.
Which is not to say there are no points of disagreement. We wish he supported the bipartisan immigration reform bill, for instance, and we wish he had more strongly opposed the terribly wasteful and utterly pointless act of political and civic nihilism that was last year’s government shutdown. But overall, he’s charted a path that’s valued collaboration, listening to district residents and acting on constituent concerns over base-agitating partisanship and parroting national party talking points. With the possible exception of Kevin Cahill, it’s easier to get him on the phone than any other elected official.
We feel the need to comment on a few aspects of the campaign where we feel Gibson’s been hit unfairly. On fracking, it’s worth remembering that the decision on whether it actually happens in New York State is not going to be made on the federal level. It’s in the hands of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is taking his own sweet time with it. Gibson’s position of supporting fracking only within a strict regulatory framework and only if supported by the localities in which it takes place is one we may or may not agree with, but it does not shock our conscience. Another is same-sex marriage. We have always supported it on this page. Gibson disagrees, preferring the civil-union approach. But marriage equality, thanks to the Supreme Court, is looking to be the law of all 50 states before long, making what he thinks about it a moot point. Gibson supports existing law which limits abortion to 20 weeks, except for incest, rape or life of the mother. He is no radical on this issue, as his opponent has tried to establish.
We do not consider being a resident of a place for a short period of time an automatic bar to running for office. New York has a history of electing so-called carpetbaggers: both Hillary Clinton and Robert Kennedy moved to the state for the expressed purpose of running for Senate, and they both won. But they both came with world-class resumes — something Sean Eldridge doesn’t yet have.