There been some speculation about whether or not I will run for Congress. My name is floating out there, along with several others. The media has reached out. Some I was happy to speak with, others I tried to avoid.
Well, this is the last piece I will write before the new year, and maybe the last piece before I make that decision. Up until about two weeks ago, the only thing I was really focused on is how I will be able to work with the new Town Board to make Grand Island better. But now there is this opportunity, and I’m inclined to try.
So, I thought I would share my thoughts on a congressional run.
Grand Island is not some huge stepping stone
Since I first ran for Town Supervisor I have been accused of using this post as a “stepping stone.” Most of the people who have reached out to me since the speculation began regarding a congressional run have been positive. A few have said to me, however, “Go. I knew you were using us.”
I can say to with all sincerity that had that been my intention—to use Grand Island to start a political career—I would have been a mad man. What a route to take: run as a Democrat, an outsider, in a highly Republican town against an established incumbent. Democrats just do not win on Grand Island, especially ones without strong family connections. When I first decided to run, a woman at the bank spit her water out when I mentioned it. “You will never win,” she said. “Nobody knows you here. Do you know how popular your opponent is?”
Well, I won. And now more people have a chance to run, with the term limits we put in place. Some of the same characters are around, but things will never be the same. Grand Island is better. And that’s why I got into this messy business of politics in the first place—to make things better, not to start a career. I already had a career. A good one.
Fool’s errand or a fighter’s chance
If I run, the man I would face—if I was lucky enough to even get the nomination—is a tough fellow. He’s rich. Really rich. He won without even breaking a sweat last time. Even if I decide to run, this may be a fool’s errand. But maybe, just maybe, I have a chance. I did it once, albeit on a much smaller scale. Maybe I can do it again.
Because here’s the thing: I know I’m qualified and prepared to represent Western New York. I have a record. Beyond that, I have skills. Real skills. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I cringe when I see some of our leaders talk about international affairs. They are so certain, so sure. But how? Have they studied our enemies? Have they visited our allies? It’s like they are going to a football game sure of their strategy without ever watching a second of film. We need leadership who not only understands the challenges we face, but has faced them before.
But what about politics and not wanting a career?
Let me tell you why I hate politics. Politics is fake. It’s nonsense. Euphemisms and fear replace logic and common sense. They all smile in front of you, and tell you what you want to hear, while they sell you out to their donors and friends and stab you in the back. I don’t do that. I never did as your Supervisor and I would not as your Congressman. If I think you're wrong, I’ll tell you. I won’t hide. I’m up for a debate, and not beyond being convinced I’m wrong.
In politics there is actually a reverse incentive: to do nothing. No matter what you do, someone will not like it. Even something as seemingly positive painting an old chipped wall (with available paint) can turn into a series of complaints. Even when there is a clear answer, people often fear change.
I’m very confident that I can get things done—whether it’s in Congress or right here on Grand Island as the sole Democrat on the Town Board. But if I run for Congress, or run for Supervisor again, I will do it honestly, on a record of achievement and fearlessness. No baby kissing and sweaty handshakes for me. I’m reminded of Congressman John LaFalce’s old slogan—young tough and tested. I especially like the tough and tested part. We need leaders like that—not just cardboard cutouts with plastered smiles and perfect hair.
My family will help me decide
If I’m so confident, why don't I just run? Well, I love Grand Island. And I am thankful to all those who reached out to me who instead of saying “good riddance” said, “don’t go.” Don’t worry. This is the most precious place to me in the world. It’s the only home my children have ever known. I’m not afraid of failure or hard work. I’m afraid of having to leave someplace I love so much if I win. I have given my heart and soul to Grand Island. We have done things and changed things that will begin to show real benefits soon, but greater benefits in the years to come. I want to see it happen, and properly pass the torch to the next Supervisor.
But who knows. These districts change and twist like a snake. And the 27th District is about to be carved up yet again. Maybe I won’t have to leave. But maybe—because of what I feel in my heart about where our country is going—I must run.