As rich Republican congressmen go, Amo Houghton's not such a bad guy. The former CEO of Corning Glass, Inc., has served a sprawling district in the southern tier since 1987. Redistricting has added Pittsford and parts of Perinton and Brighton to his domain, so we wanted to get to know him a little bit.
Houghton signed the "Contract with America" back in 1994. He's supported funding the folly known as the Strategic Defense Initiative or SDI (a Star Wars-style missile defense system), too.
Yet Houghton is also pro-choice and has the endorsement of the Log Cabin Republicans, the nation's largest gay and lesbian Republican organization. He's voted in favor of improving fuel efficiency standards for cars, light trucks, and SUVs; in favor of implementing the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions; and against opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
On the other hand, he joined his fellow upstate Republicans in supporting the District of Columbia budget bill that prohibited the use of federal funds for needle exchange programs and stymied implementation of a DC ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for medicinal use. He cast a "yea" to use the military for drug interdiction efforts on our borders and supported W.'s massive tax cut.
However, again to his credit, Houghton voted against giving Bush the authority to invade Iraq at will. "I sadly will not stand with my President, a man I admire so much," the ex-Marine said in an October 10 statement following his "no" vote. "Yet as with literally the thousands of votes cast in this chamber, I've found that following one's instinct is the most honest, if not always the most politically popular, approach."
Indeed, it would have been neat to meet Houghton. But sadly, his staff never followed up on repeated requests for an interview.
We've found that following our instinct is the most honest, if not always the most politically popular, approach. So we're endorsing Green Party challenger Rachel Treichler.
A Democrat named Kisun Peters is also in the race, as is Right to Life party-line holder Wendy Johnson. But Peters failed to return calls seeking an interview, just as he seems to have failed to actually mount a campaign, and Johnson is also a more symbolic than substantive challenger.
This isn't to say Treichler thinks she can beat Houghton. As she said in an interview for a recent City cover story ("It's not easy being Green," October 9), she would consider it a victory if her candidacy just helped build the Green Party in New York State.
Treichler, a 51-year-old from Hammondsport, is a lawyer who also operates an online bookstore of ecologically minded titles.
Like Houghton, Treichler's pro-choice and supports gay rights. Also like Houghton, she opposes a preemptive strike against Iraq. She says there "might be circumstances" in which she'd support an invasion, "but not the present circumstances."
Asked how the US can promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians, she says, "One thing is to stop throwing arms to Israel. As long as we are giving Israel very substantial amounts of arms, I don't think that whatever we say encouraging them to negotiate with the Palestinians has a great deal of meaning. We need to put real pressure on Israel to seriously negotiate and to come to a resolution that recognizes Palestinian rights and gives the Palestinian right of return."
When it comes to issues like privatizing Social Security, covering prescription drug costs through Medicare, and reforming the tax code, Treichler is short on specifics. That's a shame, because she's certainly smart enough to think those issues through and come up with fresh, meaningful ideas.
For the record, she says, "There are certain ways in which certain aspects [of Social Security] might be privatized, but there need to be protections for low-income elderly."
If, as she'd like to see happen, the US sets up a system to provide universal health care, "one of the benefits might be to bring the cost of prescription drugs under greater control," she says.
And regarding taxes, she says, "Right now, the income tax system offers a lot of loopholes to larger taxpayers, and it would be more equitable to have a system that had fewer loopholes. The rate of corporate taxes has gone down substantially in the last 30 years. I think that corporations and large businesses should be paying more taxes than they currently do."