Republican and Democratic congressional campaign committees have served up a feast of spirited TV commercials this year working to label candidates for New York’s new 19th Congressional District as extremists.
One side has labeled Republican Chris Gibson as a right-leaning, Tea Party buddy, while the other has pegged Democrat Julian Schreibman as a left-wing Obama confidante looking to tax and spend.
But both candidates — who each share the general views of their respective parties — say their work if sent to Congress will mirror the wishes and needs of constituents in the sprawling district that includes Schoharie County, western Montgomery County and parts or all of Broome, Columbia, Delaware, Dutchess, Greene, Otsego, Rensselaer, Sullivan and Ulster counties.
Both career public servants bring strong resumes to the table.
Gibson, 48, spent 29 years in the military, including five years in the National Guard. He served seven deployments as an Army officer that included four combat tours in Iraq. He earned a Purple Heart after being hit by shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade in a 2005 battle in Mosul. Gibson retired as a colonel.
Schreibman, 40, now in private law practice, earned his law degree from Yale Law School. He served as a senior district attorney in Ulster County after working as a CIA lawyer and earning recognition from the U.S. Attorney General’s Office for work convicting terrorist bombers.
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Gibson, who with his wife is raising three children in his hometown of Kinderhook, says he’s the best candidate to represent voters in the 19th District because he’s made strides in his two years in office representing the 20th District. District lines were realigned this year based on census figures, and he now lives in — and is running to represent — the 19th District.
Gibson said he’s been able to guide legislation for the benefit of constituents by finding common ground with members of both parties in the House of Representatives.
He’s proud that the Washington Post ranked him the third most independent Republican.
“I bring people together regardless of party, to get things done,” Gibson said.
He went against the grain of his party to win amendments to a bill that sought to zero out funding for rural broadband development.
Gibson said he’s proud of the time he spent in Washington, working with legislators in other parties, to wrench funding out of the federal government to help the region rebuild in the wake of tropical storms Irene and Lee.
“I am there to serve the people of upstate New York. I treat everybody with dignity and respect, including the [congressional] leadership, but I have to represent the people. At the end of the day, I’m a representative for upstate New York, so that’s what drives my actions,” Gibson said.
Schreibman, who is raising three children with his wife in Stone Ridge, near Kingston, said voters should send him to Washington to represent the 19th District because he can amplify the voice of the middle class that is drowned out by powerful, monied lobbyists.
“To me, it’s about making sure that middle-class voices are heard there. To me, it’s about focusing on what makes this area special — small businesses, not giant corporations,” he said.
He said he wants to explore tax-deferred savings accounts for the agriculture industry while ensuring “millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share.”
If elected, Schreibman said he’d staff his local offices with “top notch” people able to listen and understand local issues to “make sure we are there standing up and being a loud voice for the middle class in Washington.”
He lists several issues he’d focus on if elected, including access to broadband Internet in rural areas, help for the agricultural industry and working to get the U.S. off of its “fiscal cliff.”
“What I think we need to do is first understand how we got into this mess so that we don’t make the wrong choices,” Schreibman said.
Gibson said his support for rural broadband is demonstrated, and he believes his position on the Agriculture Committee puts him in the right place to ensure the health of locally owned farms that are so numerous in the 19th District.
He said he has a plan to save money by refining the country’s use of force and bringing the military’s focus closer to home.
“We can be safer for less money. We’re spending too much on foreign aid,” Gibson said.
“Here’s the bottom line: I think we can continue to have the world’s best military and to protect America, but we can change the way we think and act so we can use more resources here,” he said.
“The country I want to rebuild is right here.”