Christmas cards aren’t a partisan venture for Republican Assemblyman James Tedisco.
Even people he disagrees with might get one of the almost 1,500 cards he sends out each holiday season. “I want to let people know that what we do isn’t personal,” said Tedisco, R-Glenville.
As evidence of this policy, he noted that the top leadership of the New York State Thruway Authority, who have been criticized repeatedly by Tedisco for a proposed toll hike, are on his list.
Tedisco is one of many state and national legislators who tap their campaign war chests to send a little holiday cheer to constituents, supporters, contributors, members of the media and other elected officials. Depending on how many cards are mailed out, which usually depends on the size of the district, a legislator can spend anywhere between a few hundred dollars and $10,000.
State Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, said his list of recipients has been trimmed to about 2,500 this year. In the past he sent out more, but the growing cost of cards and mailing expenses has forced him to cut back.
The expenditure is worth it, he says, as people enjoy getting the card.
“I think it’s a nice thing,” Farley said, noting that he likes it when legislators send him a card. “I enjoy hearing from them.”
Some of his cards in the past have been of his family but this year he is going back to a picture of the state Capitol, a recurring choice among state legislators. “I noticed that [Senate Majority Leader Dean] Skelos’s card looks a lot like mine,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, tries to pick a theme that unites the area he represents, whether during his time in the Assembly or now in his redrawn congressional district. Previously his cards have featured stained glass windows, clocks and fireplaces.
This year’s card hasn’t gone out yet, so Tonko didn’t want to reveal what the approximately 7,500 households could expect. “There is high anticipation,” he said.
Tonko’s list of recipients has grown because he doesn’t ignore former constituents — those cut out by redistricting.
This was a message echoed by Tedisco, who said it would be hard to cut people off the list. He lost Saratoga Springs and the city of Schenectady because of redistricting, but he said, “We’re not going to relinquish those friendships.”
Those recipients will see a familiar face this season, as Tedisco’s card will feature his extended family, including his 97-year-old mother. The main comment people say about his card, he said, is, “I love seeing your mom.”
The content of the Christmas card is even something one generation of legislators advises the next on, as retiring Assemblyman Bob Reilly, D-Colonie, had recommendations last week for successor Phil Steck, D-Colonie. He told him to include any of his dogs on the card, because people like to comment on the cards.
Tonko’s campaign spends about a $1 per card, when considering costs to design, print and mail. In 2010 they spent about $8,000 of campaign contributions and expect to spend a little more this year.
This dwarfed the approximately $255 that Tedisco spent on his cards in 2011.