Former Assemblyman Paul Tonko’s victory in the Democratic primary last Tuesday to replace retiring Congressman Michael McNulty virtually assures him a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. His Republican opponent, James Buhrmaster, who has an affinity for speaking in the third person, has only a slight chance to pull off an upset.
Unfortunately, it will be one mediocre career politician replacing another mediocre career politician to represent New York’s 21st Congressional District.
Rep. McNulty achieved little of significance during his 20 years of service. There is no major legislation he advocated or authored. He did not distinguish himself in any national debate. He failed to find one single, solitary issue to make a difference.
I know because I saw him up-close as a press secretary for Republican members of Congress. McNulty’s legacy will never be difficult to summarize: He was a 10-term freshman member of Congress.
More of same
Expect more of the same from a Congressman Paul Tonko.
During his 24 years as a member of the Assembly, Tonko has been a reliable vote for the status quo policies that are driving New Yorkers out of our state for good — from tax hikes to excessive regulations to the explosive growth in state spending. In addition, he was a loyal yes-man for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has become the reviled symbol of Albany’s ineptitude and incompetence.
So how is Tonko rewarded by Schenectady and Albany County Democrats?
They’re sending him to Congress.
Excuse me, but where are all the so-called good government groups that have denounced Silver and his destructive, unethical leadership for years? Tonko came to office when Erastus Corning was still mayor of Albany. As a legislative super-lifer, how is he not possibly part of Albany’s dysfunction that has led to the stunning decay of our state?
Tonko’s signature issue is energy policy. According to his campaign Web site:
“Paul has gained a national reputation as an expert on energy and utility issues. From 1992 to June 2007, Paul has served as chairman of the New York Assembly Standing Committee on Energy.”
Given his “national reputation,” Tonko also explained his energy plan thusly: “Paul is proposing a comprehensive plan to reduce the price of gasoline and fuel by; [sic] a national 65 mph speed limit, a national carbon cap and trade program, a national scrap and replace program, a national renewable portfolio standard, and acceleration of the corporate average fuel economy standards.” What is a “scrap and replace program”? Or a “national renewable portfolio standard”? This is I’m-the-smartest-guy-in-the-room incoherence.
It’s because of elected officials like Tonko that America will be dependent on foreign oil for at least another generation. Beyond appealing to carbon-counting environmental fanatics with slogans that ordinary New Yorkers don’t get, he offers nothing of substance.
Paul Tonko and his Democrats are the reason the United States has not built a new oil refinery in 30 years. He opposes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as well as offshore drilling. In fact, there is probably not one square foot in the United States and our coastal waters where Tonko would drill for oil.
Tonko never advocates the excavation of coal, new natural gas pipelines and the construction of nuclear power plants. Rather, he lectures New Yorkers on how to create a “green collar workforce” (whatever that means). He also brags about “taking on the oil cartels,” class warfare rhetoric more appropriate for 1908, not 2008.
France’s energy grid is made up of nearly 80 percent nuclear power. We are the Saudi Arabia of coal and we are developing new technology for cleaner-emitting coal. In addition, we have vast untapped oil reserves not only in Alaska, and off our coasts, but in the Rocky Mountains.
Tonko acknowledges none of these facts. Ever. He was the head of the Assembly Energy Committee for 15 long years, and what do we have to show for it in New York? Nothing.
Unfit for office
Tonko is unfit for office because he refuses to champion the energy resources America so critically must develop. He’s a Luddite. New Yorkers would be rubbing two wooden sticks together to produce energy if it were up to him.
So here we have a machine politician with no record of reform in Albany, no idea how to create a workable national energy plan and no chance to rise above a thoroughly unimpressive career in public office that has lasted for over 30 years.
Congratulations, Capital Region Democrats. You really outdid yourselves last week.
Christopher Chichester lives in Albany and is a former spokesman for Gov. George E. Pataki, U.S. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe and Rep. Lamar S. Smith. The Gazette encourages readers to submit material on local issues for the Sunday Opinion section.