The hottest ticket in town is the congressional seat occupied by Amo Houghton.

            A cavalcade of Republican candidates is courting the 29th district seat, held by Houghton since 1987. Houghton, 77, is stepping down when his term ends this year.

            In the chase are MonroeCounty legislator Mark Assini; Rochester businessman Geoffrey Rosenberger; Bill Nojay, chair of the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority; and state Senator Randy Kuhl of Hammondsport. Contemplating a run are county legislator Bill Smith and former legislator Sean Hanna. Also considering a bid is state Assemblyman Brian Kolb of Canandaigua.

            Smith and Hanna didn't return calls for comment on this story. Kuhl didn't respond to questions submitted through a spokesman in time for publication.

            A press release issued by Kuhl's campaign says that the senator's candidacy "will be defined by proposals to bring... the district fully into step with an all-encompassing quest for greater security." That includes homeland security, job security, the security of an "accessible and affordable health care system," and the security of a "high-quality system of education."

The only Democrat who has expressed interest in the seat is Samara Barend of Corning.

            Assini describes himself as a "Ronald Reagan Republican." As a congressman, Assini says he will work to reduce taxes and fight to make permanent the Bush tax cuts and to repeal the estate tax. He wants to work with Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli on a plan to allow counties to control the cost of Medicaid.

            "They would, in essence, limit eligibility requirements if the county could not afford the program, because that is the number-one issue in this state," Assini says.

            Assini also supports policies "that reduce the cost of insurance for both employer and employee."

            Assini is anti-choice except in cases of rape, incest, and when life of the mother is in jeopardy. Asked if he supports the invasion and occupation of Iraq, he responded, "I supported the breaking of the Al-Qaeda network, yes." The Iraq action, he says, is part of that effort.

            Assini has been campaigning for a year which, he says, gives him an advantage over his competitors.

            "I've made significant inroads throughout the congressional district," he says. "I have a very strong organization in place in all the counties [in] the district."

Rosenberger is co-founder of Clover Capital Management in Pittsford. He ran an unsuccessful campaign against Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter in 1996.

            Rosenberger is "not big on labels," but calls himself a "traditionalist" who believes in traditional values.

            The number-one issue in the 29th district, he says, is jobs. Clover Capital Management employs 39 people.

            "My track record of creating jobs gives me a leg above everybody," he says. "I know what it means to leave a comfortable job and go out on your own and take risks."

As a business owner, Rosenberger says he knows how to deal with regulatory bodies and "governmental red tape."

            Rosenberger recently retired from Clover to concentrate on his congressional bid.

Tax increases are the second-biggest issue in the district, he says, putting the blame largely on unfunded mandates handed down from Albany. Since Kuhl is a state senator, Rosenberger says Kuhl shares the blame for those tax hikes.

            Rosenberger is anti-choice except in cases of rape, incest, and when life of the mother is in jeopardy. He is opposed to federal funding for abortion "and I believe that parents should be notified when their child is having a surgical procedure."

            Rosenberger supports the Iraq invasion.

            "I certainly believe that we have to do what is necessary to make America secure and I believe that the effort in Iraq is designed to do that."

RGRTA Chairman Bill Nojay describes himself as "a fiscal conservative and a deficit hawk."

            The top priority for the 29th district is jobs, Nojay says.

            "We've got a very difficult economy throughout Upstate New York," he says. "If you look at the underlying problems, it's job issues. Frankly, those issues also impact the city of Rochester. The reason we have the level of poverty that we have is because there are no jobs."

            Nojay would create jobs by lowering taxes "and reducing the regulatory burdens on businesses that try to do business in Upstate New York."

            Tax increases are job killers, Nojay says.

            How he feels about abortion is irrelevant, Nojay says, because the Supreme Court ruled on that issue 30 years ago --- making abortion legal in the landmark Roe vs. Wade case.

            "Now the issues in the abortion debate are going to be primarily in areas such as partial-birth abortion --- which I oppose --- and parental notification, which I support," he says.

            Nojay supports the Iraq invasion.

            "Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who threatened world security," he says. "He had to be removed or else he and his sons in the years to come would have further terrorized the world."

            Nojay is giving up leadership of his newly created political action committee --- We The People USA --- to run for Congress.

Kolb is a very conservative Republican on fiscal matters and "conservative to moderate" on social matters "depending on the issue," he says.

            It is his business background and job-creation record that sets him apart from the other candidates in the race, Kolb says.

            "My entire background is probably more diverse to reflect the types of issues that one would face in Washington," he says. "I've traveled internationally and done business internationally. And I think that --- in a global economy --- would be a huge asset."

            Kolb is co-founder of the North American Filter Corporation and former president of Refractron Technologies --- both technology-based businesses in Newark, WayneCounty.

            Kolb is anti-choice, except in cases of rape, incest, and when life of the mother is in jeopardy.

            He supports the invasion of Iraq.

            "It's a tough struggle because you have a very strong anti-change faction that exists in Iraq that does not want to have a free Iraqi people," he says. "If they're successful in terms of driving out the United States, there'll never be any hope in the Middle East to remove the terrorist regimes that have existed."

            The 29th Congressional Districtcovers parts of eight counties from CattaraugusCounty, along the Pennsylvania border to ChemungCounty and north to southern MonroeCounty.