Income inequality and national security top agenda of Democrat challenging Tom Reed

GENEVA — Tracy Mitrano focused on her differences with opponent Tom Reed in the race for the 23rd Congressional District before a crowd in Geneva on Wednesday. Whether the issues is the approach to immigration or health care, taxes or tariffs, the gap between the two candidates is wide.

Mitrano, the Democratic nominee, and Reed, a Republican first elected to the seat in 2010, face off Nov. 6. The 11-county district spans the Southern Tier and much of the Finger Lakes including Yates County and part of Ontario County.

Mitrano is a graduate of University of Rochester and Cornell University, with a career in education, law, and cybersecurity. A Rochester native who lives in Penn Yan, Mitrano won the nomination in a five-way Democratic primary.

“I am sincerely pained by the direction this country is going. That’s why I am here,” Mitrano said of her motivation for running.

Mitrano talked to the crowd about the need to get the word out about her campaign and the choice voters have in the 23rd district. She said Reed has money and name recognition but that does not have to guarantee him re-election. She said she wants to go to Washington to be a voice for people now not being heard in the 23rd.

“I will represent working, middle class people better than Tom Reed,” she said.

The two-hour town hall event Mitrano hosted at the Cracker Factory in the city was filled largely with supporters, based on reaction that at times included clapping and cheers as she addressed issues and answered questions.

Here are what Mitrano said on major issues:

Health care and Social Security

Responding to questions about health care and the future of Social Security, Mitrano said the the $1.5 trillion deficit created by the tax bill puts “Medicare and Social Security at risk.” She would work to reverse fallout from the bill that gives a temporary tax break to the middle class and a permanent tax break to wealthiest Americans. The deficit requires spending cuts and it’s no secret this threatens programs that help the needy and working class Americans, she said.

Mitrano supports single-payer national health insurance — also known as “Medicare for all,” to cover all Americans for medically necessary services. Mitrano said the current system is “inefficient because nobody bargains or negotiates on your behalf. We have no one bargaining for us,” she said.

Taxes

Mitrano said she would work to reverse the tax law so that the middle class would be assured a permanent tax cut, while the tax cut for the wealthiest is temporary. She said it’s wrong that the working class pay for corporate tax breaks. She is not opposed to lowering the corporate tax rate, “but we need to tie it to the working class in this country,” she said, and not put the burden on the middle class while shareholders and investment bankers experience the greatest benefit.

“We now have the largest income inequality since the turn of the last century,” Mitrano said, emphasizing her commitment to change that.

Tariffs

Mitrano called the tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump “capricious” and “foolish.”

She criticized Reed for not standing up against the tariffs that hurt farmers and other workers. She specifically mentioned examples of soybeans and steel.

“Yes, there were some unfair trade policies,” she said. “But tariffs are not the way to deal with it.” She said you have to exercise leadership and “you have to work with your partners” in solving differences.

Security

Mitrano said the real dangers to national security are not solved by building a wall but by addressing cyber threats. The investigation into Russian interference and other cyber invasions should be fully exercised and supported to protect American democracy, she said. Mitrano accused Reed of “coddling the president” regarding Reed’s unwillingness to support the Russia investigation. Reed has said he thinks the Russia investigation has taken long enough and should wrap up.

Immigration

Mitrano talked about her strong opposition to separating children and their parents or guardians at the border. She supports a path to citizenship for Dreamers — people in the U.S. who were brought to the country at an early age without documentation and  have assimilated — as well as people who have been in the U.S. for more than a generation and have shown to be ideal citizens.

She talked about immigrants she knows and said she believes the overwhelming majority of immigrants are hard working people and good citizens. She talked about the “immigrant spirit” that built the nation.

“We have a president whose utterances show racism,” said Mitrano, adding this perpetuates racist attitudes. Mitrano said immigration laws need to be updated because the laws are “so out of sync.”

Economic development

Mitrano said she would push for additional support for training programs and for industries in hiring and retaining local workers. She gave the example of talking with Corning Inc. executives who said they can’t fill jobs with local workers due to failed drug tests and lack of skills necessary for the positions.

Along with health care for all that would contribute to healthier residents, Mitrano mentioned the need to ensure everyone in the district has access to reliable and high-speed internet. She said there is fiber optic infrastructure along I-86 but it’s not lit, so it is not accessible. But it can be, she noted: “We can do it,” she said. “It is a matter of political will.”