By Joe Mahoney The Daily Star
The Daily Star
---- — RICHFIELD SPRINGS - Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, criticized Democratic challenger Sean Eldridge on Monday for relocating into the district in a way that “smacks of opportunism” and seeking a congressional seat despite having “virtually no experience.”
For months, Gibson has been on the receiving end of a succession of attacks from the Eldridge camp.
Gibson, in an interview with The Daily Star following an appearance at Richfield Springs High School, took off the gloves, depicting Eldridge as an out-of-touch candidate “with absolutely no ties to the district.”
“The contrast is clear,” Gibson said. “You have someone who grew up here in a working class family who understands how hard it is to go through a winter like the one we just went through, saw our heating bills all go up and understands that when that happens it hurts our choices. I know first hand what that is like. But someone who is a billionaire doesn’t understand. Without having grown up here, he doesn’t fully understand what the needs of our communities are.”
Gibson also voiced confidence in his own campaign as it prepares for an aggressive fundraising effort by Eldridge, who has been activist in the cause for marriage equality rights for homosexuals and is married to the co-founder of Facebook, Chris Hughes.
“He (Eldridge) moved into the district after the last election for the purpose of running for Congress,” Gibson said. “When people find that out - regardless of party, whether it be Republican, Independent or Democrat - when people find that out I think we’re going to have strong support.”
It was the most strident criticism of Eldridge yet from Gibson, a decorated U.S. Army combat veteran who served in Iraq, Kosovo and Haiti.
Eldridge campaign spokesman Morgan Hook responded by saying that Eldridge “has the experience and the values to best represent families in NY-19.”
Eldridge is expected to face Gibson in the November election.
“Politician Chris Gibson wants voters in NY-19 to believe that he stands for their values, but the Real Chris Gibson is a member of the least productive Congress in history and his votes have harmed families in our region,” Hook said in an emailed statement. “While Sean Eldridge was partnering with small businesses and creating local jobs, Chris Gibson was voting to shut down our government, to block raising the minimum wage, and to cut taxes on companies that are sending jobs overseas.”
Eldridge is expected to face Gibson in the November election. Gibson is seeking a third term in Congress, and has represented New York’s 19th Congressional District - consisting of all or portions of 11 counties - since January 2013. For the previous two years, he had represented the 21st Congressional district whose lines were altered as a result of redistricting brought on as a result of New York shedding two congressional seats due to slow population growth.
Earlier this month, Gibson was one of a dozen House Republicans who voted against House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposed budget package.
“The Ryan budget was not the best budget,” Gibson said, noting he favors a bipartisan budget that would benefit upstate New York. “I made the right vote for our district.”
Gibson was the featured speaker Monday afternoon at an economic development brainstorming session organized by Richfield Town Supervisor Fran Enjem and Otsego County Industrial Development Agency Chief Executive Officer Alexander “Sandy” Mathess. State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, also participated.
The congressman said he would support grant applications aimed at garnering federal community block grant funding as well as rail trail funding and senior housing developments. He also said the recently passed Farm Bill could help fund local agricultural enterprises, pointing out some local craft brewers are now taking advantage of locally grown hops after that crop had been nearly blighted out of existence a century ago.
Citing the fact that nanotechnology manufacturers have a growing presence in upstate New York, Gibson also suggested that the Richfield area market itself as a community that is hospitable to high technology industries.
Jim Andela, operator of Andela Products, a machine shop, suggested that the region could benefit by having a producer of biomass pellets for heating. Andela also said the craft breweries could benefit if a malt house was opened locally.
Dan Sullivan, a retired teacher recently appointed to the Richfield town planning board, said it would behoove the town to develop its historical tourism potential.
He noted that the region was once home to Adam Helmer, a hero of the American Revolution who is credited with saving hundreds of lives by warning people of an impending raid by Native Americans loyal to British forces.