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Audio Feature: WGXC Congressional Report

Feb 05, 2022 12:03 am

Here is this week's WGXC Congressional Report, tracking the votes, statements, positions, and campaigns of the representatives and candidates for the 19th and 20th Congressional seats in New York. Current Democrat Reps. Antonio Delgado and Paul Tonko vote with the positions of President Joe Biden 100 percent of the time, according to the fivethirtyeight.com website. Click here to listen to this report.

The world is in its third year of a deadly virus that has taxed healthcare workers like no others. At the same time, some members of Congress, including Paul Tonko locally, have signed on to a letter to get the federal government to cap nurses pay. HealthAffairs.org reports that, "An unprecedented number of nurses are retiring early and exiting the workforce or quitting their hospital employment to return as employees of staffing agencies." Tonko and the other representatives see rising wages for nurses as a problem. "We are writing because of our concerns that certain nurse-staffing agencies are taking advantage of these difficult circumstances to increase their profits at the expense of patients and the hospitals that treat them," the letter to White House COVID-19 Response Team Coordinator Jeffrey Zients says. The almost 200 Congressional representatives signing on to the letter are a mixed lot, with far-right figures such as Elise Stefanik, conservative Republican Liz Cheney, centrist Democrat Tonko, and liberal Ilhan Omar all in favor. Nurses, however, mostly do not want their salaries capped. There is evidence that nursing wages are up, like in many other fields with high demand for workers. The American Health Care Association last year sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, urging the FTC to protect consumers from anti-competitive and unfair practices regarding agency staffing. Tonko, who represents all of Albany County and other parts of the Capital District, was not joined by Hudson Valley Democrats Antonio Delgado nor Sean Maloney in signing the letter.

Rep. Antonio Delgado on Jan. 30 joined those calling for a ban on members of Congress trading stocks while in office. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat from Virginia, and Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican from Texas, last year introduced a measure to ban members of Congress from trading stocks after revelations that several Republicans used insider knowledge during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to buy stocks in companies likely to do well through the outbreak. The bill got little traction until Democrat Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, came out against the proposal. That incited support, from both sides of the aisle. There is now a similar bill in the Senate, and momentum to pass something. The bills would require members of Congress, their spouses and dependent children, to place their stocks in a blind trust while the member is in office. Lawmakers often have access to privileged information, and these bills would attempt to quash efforts to make money on that insider knowledge. "This is a bipartisan, bicameral effort that I am proud to be a part of. Members of Congress should work to represent their communities, not to turn a profit," Delgado said in a Jan. 30 Tweet.

Colby Itkowitz and Adrian Blanco report in the Washington Post that New York Democrats unveiled the redistricting maps for Congress on Jan. 30, and the proposal boosts the chances of Democrat Antonio Delgado in the 19th Congressional District. Democrats could win an additional three seats in Congress if the plan is voted on and signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul later this week as expected. Delgado's 19th Congressional District adds Binghamton and Utica under the plan, moving the district from one that President Joe Biden won by 1.5 percent, to one where Biden won by 10 points. That comes at a bit at the expense of Democrat Paul Tonko's 20th Congressional District, which moves from a Biden plus-20.5 district to one where Biden won by 17.3 points, as parts of Albany County switch to the 19th District. New York lost one Congressional seat in the latest Census count. A 10-member, supposedly independent commission where eight members were appointed by partisan legislative leaders, could not reach a decision on district lines, so the legislature has taken over the process. “This is not a good night for New York Republicans,” said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, which opposes partisan gerrymandering from either party. Democrats and Republicans had differing opinions on the redistricting proposals. “I’m thrilled with the maps that have come down, they listened to the public input the commission received, and I think that’s reflected in these maps,” said David Imamura, the Democratic chairman of the redistricting advisory commission. Nick Langworthy, chairman of the New York state Republican committee, said, “These maps are the most brazen and outrageous attempt at rigging the election to keep Nancy Pelosi as Speaker.” Read more about this story in the Washington Post.

More information continues to come out about the proposal for Congressional redistricting from the New York legislature, including maps of what could be the new districts. The biggest changes locally include in Rensselaer County, which was previously entirely in the 19th Congressional District, but would now be split in half, with the everything above North Greenbush, Sand Lake, and Berlin switching to the 21st Congressional District, currently represented by Republican Elise Stefanik. Albany County was previously all in the 20th Congressional District, now represented by Democrat Paul Tonko. The new proposal moves Albany County towns Coeymans and Bethlehem from the 20th District, to the 19th District, currently represented by Antonio Delgado. Schoharie County moves entirely from the 19th to the 21st Congressional District under the proposal. And only the northwest corner of Dutchess County remains in the 19th Congressional District, with the rest of Dutchess County moving to the 18th Congressional District, now represented by Sean Maloney. Redistricting occurs every ten years after the Census, and an independent redistricting commission was supposed to do that work. But that body was designed by the legislature to be toothless, so when they failed to agree on new district maps, the legislature took over, proposing these maps. Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who is running in the 19th Congressional election this year, called the the redistricting process led by Democratic state lawmakers "a scam to begin with.... The Democrats in the Legislature wanted to control the outcome," he told reporters Jan. 31. "At the end of the day, I'm hopeful the courts will step in because this is a blatant effort to gerrymander for no other purpose." The New York state constitution states, “Districts shall not be drawn to discourage competition or for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring incumbents or other particular candidates or political parties.” But the courts have never turned down a map approved by the Legislature. "The state courts are really going to be really reluctant to overturn a state legislatively enacted plan," said Jeffrey Wice, who heads the New York Census and Redistricting Institute. But even if the courts agree to the new maps, that does not mean they are fair. "The lines are so heavily gerrymandered they will be non-competitive," Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY, said in a statement. "It's a major disservice to the voters, who were first denied any hope of a truly independent process ten years ago when the so-called Independent Commission was conceived." The legislature plans to vote on the proposal later this week.

The Daily Freeman reports that Rep. Antonio Delgado had $5 million more in campaign funds then Republican challenger Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, in their 19th Congressional District election. Molinaro must defeat Republican Brandon Buccola in a June primary to face off against Delgado, who so far does not have any challengers from his party. Delgado ended the year with $5,480,936.71 in cash on hand, according to the Federal Election Commission. Molinaro, who began his campaign in September, had $423,619.64. Delgado is completing his second term after beating Republican John Faso in 2018. Both candidates live in Dutchess County, with Delgado in Rhinebeck and Molinaro in Red Hook while serving his third four-year term as Dutchess County Executive. Read more about this story in the Daily Freeman.

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