October 3, 2008

Challenger to Hinchey for Congress Seat Visits Cornell

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George Phillips had no idea that he wanted to go into politics until he started college. While at Villanova University, he took a variety of political science classes, and through the office of Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) worked on issues of human trafficking and refugee safety in Africa.
Now on unpaid leave from his job as a history teacher at Catholic Central High School in Binghamton, Phillips is running for a Congressional Seat in the 22nd District, which includes much of the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes Regions. A member of the Republican Party, he is running against eight-term incumbent Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.).
This election season marks the first time since 2004 that Hinchey has had an opponent.
During a meeting largely made up of Cornell administrators yesterday in the ILR Conference Center, Phillips discussed the goals of his candidacy. With speech consistently peppered with references to early United States History, Phillips asserted the benefits of a more conservative and less regulatory national government.
His views often did not align with those of President George Bush or Republican Presidential Nominee John McCain (R-Ariz.). He said that he was not in favor of the $700 billion bailout of the nation’s largest financial institutions.
“I am concerned that we should do something, but I’m not sure this is the right thing to do at the right time,” Phillips said. “We need to work on private sector solutions.”
His opposition to the bailout was part of a larger resistance to over-spending from the government.
“If elected, I’d work immediately to send a message that we need to be more economically restrained,” Phillips said, adding that the government needs substantial earmark reform that would stop potentially unnecessary projects.
The Congres­sional candidate also addressed the importance of working to help residents of 22nd District directly. One of his main goals, he said, would be to help curb the brain drain — the tendency of people who are educated in Upstate New York to seek jobs elsewhere.
“I think small business should be able to keep some of their profits tax free, to be able to invest the profits,” Phillips said about his plan to help jumpstart the Upstate economy by attracting small businesses.
In respect to energy, Phillips stated that the country needs a two-part solution — utilizing offshore drilling as an immediate solution to high gas prices and investing in sustainable energy that would eliminate the need for fossil fuels.
Phillips’s visit to Cornell was a part of a luncheon series run by the Office of Government and Community that brings political candidates that hope to represent Tompkins County to Cornell. Though over 80 administrators, faculty and students were invited to the discussion, only about 15 were in attendance.
“Every ‘local’ candidate is invited,” said Jacqueline Powers, director of federal relations in the office of government and community relations. “In this manner we hope to offer Cornell audiences an opportunity to see and speak with their candidates, but also minimize or eliminate unwanted workplace intrusions.”
Phillips also visited the University on Tuesday to meet with the Cornell College Republicans.
“The College Republicans were very receptive of Mr. Phillips. We appreciated that he drove a considerable distance from his home to meet with us,” said Ray Mensah, chairman of the College of Republicans. “We asked him questions on matters of the economy. We also asked him what he would do to help bring back jobs in the New York State region. I think that overall we were pleased with what he had to say.”
Mensah, who plans to vote for Phillips in November, said that he was most pleased with the candidate’s experience in the 22nd District.
“The best part of his platform, I felt, was that he is someone who has been dedicated to this area for many, many years. He is a teacher at a high school now, so he is involved with his community … That is a point that would remain if he were to be elected,” Mensah said. “I was pleased as well that Mr. Phillips proposed a cut in spending. He pointed out some of the sentiments of Senator McCain. I definitely think he is a proponent of Republican ideas — limited government, low taxes, low spending.”
Though the presidential election has been the primary focus this election season, Mensah pointed out that the record levels of interest in the presidential election would likely have a trickle-down effect in the voting booths. Thus, the College Republicans plan to start campaigning for Phillips soon.
“We are definitely going to hit the ground running after fall break,” Mensah said. “This race I definitely feel is going to be tight.”