Defeated Democratic candidates in Finger Lakes congressional districts not skipping a beat

The 2018 election flipped the House of Representatives from red to blue. The “Blue Wave” didn’t include Democratic congressional candidates Tracy Mitrano and Nate McMurray, but their loss in contested races against Republican incumbents didn’t dampen their drive.

On to 2020. That’s when a presidential race will drive voters to the polls in droves — and once again, House seats will be up for grabs. The two Democrats who ran in districts representing much of the Finger Lakes, including Ontario County, aren’t skipping a beat.

On Thursday night, McMurray held a free thank-you party for supporters, with some 500 people expected to attend. The Grand Island town supervisor conceded the race for the 27th District to Rep. Chris Collins after trailing by just 1,300 votes. Thursday’s event at McMurray’s campaign headquarters in Erie County, among other things, called for “a little insight into 2019 events” for the candidate’s “Fight Like Hell” campaign.

Mitrano lost to Rep. Tom Reed of Corning, who took 55 percent of the vote in the 23rd District. In a press release Thursday, Mitrano, a cybersecurity expert and former director of information technology policy at Cornell University, weighed in on the just-passed 2018 Farm Bill. The federal Farm Bill, which every five years reauthorizes farm and nutrition programs across the country, had lapsed after congressional leaders let the bill expire on Sept. 30. While both Democrats and Republican lauded final passage of the bill, the delay had left farmers hanging. “Farmers need to know what they can count on in planning for next year,” New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said last week.

Taking the House and Reed to task for the nearly three-month delay and other points, Mitrano stated the late agreement “came too late for many dairy farmers in upstate New York.” She said 271 farmers in the 23rd district went out of business this year.

“Not only would I have pressed to pass this bill on time, I would have fought harder to obtain more immediate help for our struggling farm community,” Mitrano said.

She also pointed to the issue of mandating additional work requirements for SNAP, the program commonly known as food stamps. Reed pushed for putting additional work requirements into the final Farm Bill. Mitrano argued the added rules “were just designed to throw two to three million people off food stamps on administrative technicalities, not taking into account food insecurity.”

“Studies have shown that food insecurity — lacking reliable access to affordable, nutritious food — affects one in six Americans,” said Mitrano, adding the ratio could be as much as one in four in the 23rd District.

“Food bank staff tell me that people still aren’t getting enough affordable, nutritious food,” Mitrano said. “Almost half the children in our district receive free and reduced-price lunches, and as many as 25 percent more are eligible but aren’t getting them. The changes Reed sought would have affected us adversely when we are already suffering greatly.”

On high-speed Internet access, Mitrano also faulted the Farm Bill for not doing enough to help bring more rural areas up to speed.

“Yes, it’s good there are allocations for broadband deployment, but they are insufficient,” she said. “The total allocation isn’t even adequate to address Internet connectivity in our region for one year, but it’s supposed to meet the need for the next 10 years, for the entire United States. Small farmers do not have 10 years to wait for connectivity to the degree and kind that they need to survive the tough times that they currently face.”

Since the election, Reed has been keeping up a swift pace of social media posts and continuing his weekly media calls, and is known for his ongoing schedule of town hall meetings throughout the district. The congressman has also ramped up his appearances on national media, appearing regularly since the election on CNN and other outlets.

Claudia Wheatley, a campaign volunteer for Mitrano, said Reed’s ramped-up exposure hasn’t gone unnoticed. “He’s been everywhere,” she said.

Mitrano is working on the same. Wheatley said support is going strong for her candidate.

“We want to keep the pot boiling,” she said.