October 18, 2016

Comparing Candidates: Reed, Plumb Vie for N.Y. Congressional Seat

Print More

Although it is one of the country’s most liberal cities, Ithaca resides in the second most Republican-dominated district in New York, according to the Cook partisan voting index. Since 2010, Republican Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) has represented Ithaca in the House of Representatives, but this year, he faces a promising challenger in John Plumb (D-Jamestown), who has garnered endorsements from Mayor Svante Myrick ’09, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

Early in his Congressional tenure, Reed gained a prestigious seat on the Committee on Ways and Means, which oversees all federal tax bills. Currently, Reed also participates in the manufacturing, natural gas, private property and diabetes caucuses. Before he joined Congress, Reed was the mayor of Corning, where his family has lived since the early 1920s. Last spring, he was one of the first congressman to publicly endorse Republican nominee Donald Trump for president.

Commander Plumb, who holds a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder, spent six years on active duty in the U.S. Navy and served as director of defense policy and strategy at the National Security Council during the Obama administration. Before his work under President Obama, Plumb also worked as an aide to former Senator Ken Salazar (D-Colorado), served as the Pentagon’s principal director for nuclear and missile defense policy and was acting deputy assistant secretary for defense and space policy, according to The Buffalo News.

The Sun has broken down the two candidate’s views on six issues that are at the forefront of this year’s election cycle: the economy, education, gun policy, healthcare, immigration and national security.


Reed: Small businesses are the cornerstone of the American economy, according to Reed. In order to protect them, the congressman wants to remove “burdensome and unnecessary” federal regulations and taxes that increase the costs of business. He also warned against the potentially inflationary effects of hiked minimum wages that, in his view, would strain the middle class.

On trade, Reed opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a free trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim countries, saying that he “care[s] about protecting American jobs and workers.” Yet, Reed’s stance on trade is not a hard-line one; he has voted in favor of all three international trade agreements that have come before Congress since 2011, according to Politifact New York.

In 2015, Reed sponsored a resolution to adopt a National Strategic Agenda aimed at creating 25 million new jobs before 2025, balancing the federal budget by 2030, preserving Medicare and Social Security until 2090 and making the U.S. energy secure by 2024, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Plumb: Plumb’s economic priorities are somewhat similar to Reed’s. Promising to fight bad trade deals for workers, Plumb said he would stand with unions in their opposition to the TPP. Plumb voiced his desire to attract business to the district by upgrading infrastructure, cutting unnecessary regulations and promoting high-speed internet and cell phone coverage, according to the his campaign website. Plumb also commented on the excesses of the federal government, saying it needs to “get its spending under control” and must stop passing the buck of fiscal responsibility to future generations.

Like Reed, Plumb criticized unnecessary regulations that yield unfavorable business conditions, saying “government is not designed to and is not capable of fixing all of our problems.”


Reed: Reed visited Cornell last year where he discussed his own bill to address the rising costs of college tuition. The bill — the REDUCE Act — mandates that colleges and universities with endowments greater than one billion dollars must use 25 percent of its returns on the endowment for financial aid, The Sun previously reported. Reed defended the bill as a check against bloated universities who enjoy tax-free returns on endowment, but Cornell administrators — including former President Elizabeth Garrett — maintained the bill would not actually achieve the effects it seeks.

At lower educational levels, Reed supports local control and has denounced a federal “one size fits all” approach to education. Reed has also criticized “over-testing” and wants teachers to have more flexibility over their teaching methods.

Plumb: Affordable access to college and universal pre-schooling are two main prongs of Plumb’s educational vision. Plumb advocates for “making the cost of a degree” and student loans more affordable. One of Plumb’s proposals is to expand ways for college graduates to repay their debts by “serving our country at home.” Plumb also praised pre-school education and said he will fight for affordable, universal pre-school.

Gun Policy

Reed: With the National Rifle Association’s A rating and its endorsement, Reed has positioned himself as a supporter of gun rights. Reed criticized the NY SAFE Act, a gun law that bans ammunition sales over the internet and requires ammunition vendors to conduct background checks on all potential purchasers among other regulations. Reed also joined Republican efforts to block measures that would prevent people on a terror watch list from purchasing guns.

Plumb: Plumb, who is a hunter himself, said at the Tompkins County Public library last April that part of the problem is “people who own weapons don’t know how to talk to people who don’t, and people who don’t own weapons don’t know how to talk to people who do,” according to the Ithaca Times.

“I have an Ithaca shotgun, actually,” he said. “It’s a beautiful piece of machinery. And that might not make sense to someone who doesn’t have guns.”

However, Plumb criticized Reed for not working with House Democrats to prevent suspected terrorists from purchasing guns, saying that neither his hunting nor his gun ownership “make[s] me think someone on the terrorist watchlist should be able to buy an assault rifle,” according to The Leader.


Reed: The congressman has frequently supported Republican efforts to repeal key provisions of Obamacare, including the individual mandate, which requires most U.S. citizens to purchase health insurance, and the employer mandate, which requires employers to offer insurance.

In June, Reed tweeted his support for a Republican healthcare alternative that would repeal Obamacare. Reed also proposed a tax credit for previously uninsured people who purchase health insurance, an option for small businesses to pool their healthcare coverage together and a government-subsidized ‘high risk’ pool aimed to draw people with high insurance premiums out of the healthcare market.

On abortion, Reed is “unapologetically pro-life,” and he has fought to suspend federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Plumb: Plumb has said “every American” deserves “quality and affordable healthcare.” His platform emphasizes women’s health, specifically concerning access to contraception and calling for the government to stay out of a woman’s “deeply personal” decision to get an abortion.


Reed: Reed criticized Obama’s 2014 executive order that prevented deportation of undocumented immigrant parents who have lived in the United States for no less than five years and have children who are either U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. In his criticism of Obama’s order, Reed said he is against amnesty but supports “legal work status to those here illegally.”

Plumb: Plumb did not provide a stance on immigration.

National Security

Reed: Reed recently told Jamestown’s The Post-Journal that to defeat terrorism, “we have to start defining it and calling it what it is” — “radical Islamic terrorism.” In response to terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Reed supported legislation for heightened screening of anyone attempting to enter the United States who have also travelled to Iraq, Syria, Iran or Sudan since March 2011, according to Reed’s website. He also supported a bill that requires multiple government agencies to individually investigate and certify all Syrians and Iraqis seeking refugee status in the United States.

In 2011, Reed attempted to combat domestic terrorism by voting to extend the PATRIOT Act’s roving wiretaps.

Reed was also one of 348 representatives to override President Obama’s veto on a bill that allows U.S. courts to hold the Saudi Arabian government responsible for its alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

Plumb: Almost all of Plumb’s prior D.C. experience involves work on national security. Plumb considers a strong military “critical” in defending the country from security threats, provided that it is governed by “democratic institutions.” Plumb hopes to equip the military with the necessary equipment and resources to defend itself.

To combat ISIS, Plumb has set forth a five-point plan: protect the homeland, authorize use of military force, create an intelligence sharing and joint operational planning with other nations, cut off ISIS’ sources of money and confronting the ISIS cyber war. Elaborating on cyber warfare, Plumb wants to “apply our nation’s cyber capabilities to shut down extremist forums and recruiting methods that tempt young Muslims into radicalizing.”

While Plumb champions a diplomacy-before-force-approach, he also suggested “focusing our military efforts on identifying, hunting down and killing or capturing ISIS leadership wherever they are hiding.” Plumb also used the phrase “radical Islamic extremism” multiple times in a September press release.