COOPERSTOWN — Savoring a decisive re-election victory, Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, said Wednesday that it was his can-do approach to public service and work on behalf of his constituents that helped him survive a $4 million assault on his record by Democrats trying to replace him in Congress with failed challenger Julian Schreibman.
“These guys spent extensively on mailers that were negative about me, distorting my record, and yet we were able to withstand all that,” Gibson told The Daily Star. He ended up taking 54.4 percent of the machine votes to 46.6 percent for Schreibman, a former federal prosecutor.
If there was an Obama bounce that extended to some Democrats, the voting tallies suggest it did significantly boost Schreibman. The former Ulster County Democratic Party chairman was the beneficiary of television advertising paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee aimed at creating an image of Gibson as a far-Right conservative.
In Columbia County, where the congressman resides, Gibson defeated Schreibman, 56 percent to 44 percent. In the same county, President Barack Obama was preferred by 56 percent of voters to 44 percent for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Gibson said voters are aware of his efforts to promote legislation benefiting farmers and small businesses, improving broadband availablility in rural areas and providing better testing for tick-spread Lyme disease.
“These things transcend party lines, and between that and our very effective and aggressive constituent services, folks here know that I’m focused on serving them,” he said. “They understand that I have term-limited myself (by vowing not to serve more than four terms in Congress) and that I give my pension (earned as a career officer of the U.S. Army) back. They understand that I’m not looking to be a career politician.”
Because of slow population growth as documented by the 2010 Census, New York will lose two of its 29 seats in Congress at the end of this year. A redistricting process completed earlier this year will shift Gibson from the 20th Congressional District to the newly drawn 19th District. The new district includes all of Otsego, Delaware, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster counties, and runs no farther north than Rensselaer County.
Veteran political observer Hank Nicols of Cooperstown, who serves as Otsego County’s Democratic elections commissioner, suggested that Schreibman would have needed to make himself better known to voters in the district much earlier to have mounted a more viable challenge to an incumbent such as Gibson.
“If you want to be a candidate for any office, it’s important to be in the field well before the announced date of your run,” he said. “If it’s your first time out of the box, people need to know who you are and what you stand for well before the time that you declare yourself to be a candidate.”
In a statement released early Wednedsay, Schreibman congratulated Gibson and wished him “good health, energy and wisdom.”
He offered no hint of whether he’ll again seek public office, saying only: “It has been an incredible experience meeting so many wonderful people across the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, and I look forward to the next chapter in my life which, most immediately will mean spending more time with my wonderful family.”