On this week's edition of the Campbell Conversations, host Grant Reeher continues his conversations with candidates for New York's 22nd Congressional District seat, a seat made open by Rep. Richard Hanna's retirement. This week he talks with Kim Myers, the Democratic candidate. On a previous program, he spoke with Republican Claudia Tenney. Analysts have rated the race a toss-up, and it offers a contrast of positions and styles.
Grant Reeher (GR): Let me start with the same question that I used to begin my conversation with Claudia Tenney. Voters in the 22nd district have come to know the retiring Richard Hanna a bit. What would the main difference is that voters could expect about how you'd represent this district compared with the way that Richard Hanna has represented it?
Kim Myers (KM): That's a good question. I have spoken to Richard Hanna on a couple of occasions and I actually admire his ability to work across the aisle and his ability to stand up for what he believes not vote on party lines. So I would say as far as a difference that would not be a difference. You know I do have a difference in some of the Republican platform. But for the most part I really am looking at my platform that I think really represents the 22nd district. And that is…what are we going to do to create jobs to create a more affluent and more economic balance in the 22nd district. And I really think that especially this cycle, in both the national, local and the 22nd, that people are not looking at one side of the aisle, they're not looking at Democrat or Republican. They're really looking for solutions. They're tired as we've seen in all newspapers and media. They're tired of the gridlock, they're tired of people folding their arms, stomping their feet saying “I'm not going to budge unless it's my side versus your side”. So I really think the issue is not you know who are you going to be like but how are you going to be different and how are you going to be your own individual and work for all the people and that's what I plan to do.
(GR): And you mentioned the crossing of party lines is something that you would anticipate you would follow Richard Hanna a bit on. Can you give me some examples of what kinds of votes you might actually depart with the likely Democratic position in Congress if you were to be in Congress.
(KM): Well it seems like, you know, budgetary issues and any type of issue that comes up, you know, seems like it's one way or the other way and there's no way to compromise. And so that's what I would propose to do. I know a big issue coming up and has been is the trade agreement, the TPP. And although I don't agree with it the way it's written I think that's an exact perfect example of where we need compromise. Part of that is good for the economy and it is good for trade. But there's other parts, the unintended consequences are devastating for certain other areas of business. And that's where I think, you know, just along party lines or even just along the way it's written, we need to come to the table, look at a piece of legislation, get the people on board, get the people at the table that it really affects and look at whether there are any unintended consequences that we want to fix before we pass this. That would be one of them.
(GR): And you mentioned also that Richard Hanna being a Republican there would be some kind of overall difference in the thrust of what you'd be doing to represent the district. Can you give me some better idea of how that might be different? Is it going to be that you're going to take positions a little more to the left of his? Give me some sense of the overall difference there.
(KM): Well certainly on health care issues, I really believe that in this country it's not, um. You have a right and an obligation to have quality health care at affordable rates. So I think that, you know, the Affordable Health Care Act that is been under fire quite a bit that… I don't think throwing the baby out with the bathwater is the solution. But I do believe we need to come to the table and we have to see what works and what doesn't work. What are some, as I said before, the unintended consequences. For example, I don't believe that the consequence of, for example, our public schoolteachers…their health insurance in many districts would qualify as a Cadillac tax. And I don't believe that the intention of the Affordable Healthcare Act was to hit public school districts with a couple million dollar fine or tax which they certainly can't afford. So that's an example of where I wouldn't say that, yes, I'm all for Affordable Healthcare Act or no, I'm absolutely not for it. It's like where you have to come together and find out what's working, what's not working and let's fix it. I've heard, you know, on the Republican side, that they just want to abolish it just throw it out and I'm not sure that that's… I don't think that that's the right answer. Let's look at what's working, what's not and let's get to the table on both sides and fix it.
(GR): Now I want to turn to your opponents in this election. What are the most important differences between your positions and those of your Republican opponent Claudia Tenney?
(KM): Well, I definitely think that the government has no position of being in between a woman and her doctor and her health care decisions.
(GR): Ok, are there other ones other than the… I assume you're mostly referring to the abortion issue there when you say that.
(KM): And all women's health issues, you know, it doesn't matter what it is. You know, we need to allow women to have the freedom to make decisions with their health care provider and the government really should not be legislating that.
(GR): Certainly they have to legislate it at some point. Or are you saying you'd be in favor of more abortion rights than currently exist? Where would you position yourself?
(KM): Again, I think that amounts to we have the government stay out of those decisions. If a woman and her doctor making those decisions and they should have healthcare to provide for it they should be able to have access to it just the same as someone that does have insurance.
(GR): Well I don't want to spend too much time on this but presumably there is a role for some sort of public authority there. I mean what about eight and a half months into a pregnancy.
(KM): Well the law has already determined that that you know that at 20 weeks, and certainly I would not be in favor of that
(GR): So that is where you draw the line the government does have a role in that sense.
(KM): Well I think the Supreme Court has already ruled on that. They ruled you know at 20 weeks.
(GR): Ok, what are some other things that would be important differences between you and Claudia Tenney beyond the abortion question?
(KM): I think that the government does have a role in helping individuals and to create jobs and create opportunities. I think the government has a role in looking at things that are not working for the average person, for example student loans. You know we have the… I've been dumbfounded as to why student loans can't be renegotiated to lower interest rates. I've talked to people, I had a woman come up to me a couple of weeks ago and she said they will never be able to afford to pay off their children's student loans because they're at 9 percent. And why is it that can't be renegotiated to a lower rate just the same as when interest rates fall that you get to renegotiate your mortgage
(GR): What do you view as your most important accomplishment as a member of the Broome County Legislature?
(KM): I think my greatest accomplishment that I'm the most proud of is, and I don't mean to sound like a broken record, but is to be able to work with all sides. You know we had a couple of issues where my colleagues and I, we may not agree, but we can come together and look at it. And one of them was we had an issue that…something was going to be cut and merged, the social program that serves some of our disabled and mentally challenged people in our community. And it was their lifeline and there was a proposal to combine it with another one. And I listened to it and I looked at it and I went to the facility, I got a tour. I looked at all sides of it and I called some my fellow legislators I said “you really need to look into this. Please look into it.” And many of them did. They went up and they looked at it and even the County Executive, to her credit, she went and looked into it further and she pulled the resolution and so that program was saved. And that really was a lifeline for people who otherwise might be out on the street and actually in the end it would end up costing the county a lot more money.
(GR): You've mentioned creating jobs a couple of times and I wanted to ask you a question about that. That's been a theme of your campaign messaging and it's I think a message that's shared by all the campaigns. Hillary Clinton, who’s running of the top of your ticket, has set forth an economic plan that she says will create lots of jobs in places that have struggled like central New York and writing in the Wall Street Journal, however, economist John Cochrane criticized her plan as ”a thousand course smorgasbord of government expansions”. So can you put some overall coherency on Clinton's plan and tell me whether you think it will work, and also equally importantly whether it will get passed by Congress?
(KM): Well, as in anything I think the devil is in the details, and you know to figure out exactly what those details are and to look at how is the impact, what's the cost, what's the cost benefit for it. I know that, at least in the 22nd,to be able to create jobs you have to not look at what we used to have and not try to bring back what was, but to look towards the future, and to look at what we do we need and what do we have and what we have here is great universities and great higher education that we can partner with the jobs of the future such as nanotechnology, such as cybersecurity, such as research and development. The other thing that we have in the 22nd that is a great asset is rich agricultural land. And part of what Hillary Clinton is talking about is the infrastructure, which everybody is talking about infrastructure, and for good reason. We need to improve our infrastructure and to rebuild our roads, our bridges, and to also bring more transportation to the 22nd so that our products can get to market in a fast way. We have a generation of students that are growing up with the benefit of knowing healthier eating and healthier lifestyle which will reduce our health care costs as well as if we start getting people being lifelong healthier and to be able to grow organic products and get them to market faster by improving our infrastructure and our roads and maybe even, you know pie in the sky, high speed rail between upstate announced downstate. Those would create a huge economic boom for upstate as well as bringing plants and jobs that might process that food and other products, cash crops such as hops. One of the fastest growing areas is craft beers. We import all of our hops from across the country. If we can improve that make it cost effective. That's jobs. That's independent entrepreneurs. That's just a few examples.
(GR): Now in all likelihood if you win you'll be joining a Democratic minority in Congress that seems to be how the election is shaping in the House of Representatives. Can you tell me what your strategy will be in order to be effective there as a first termer in the minority party?
(KM): To be effective, I think you need to be genuine and you just need to be yourself. And that's who I’ll be. I'll bring information that I gather from my constituents to Washington and to look at everybody and look at those that are experienced and say “how can we accomplish this”? And I am the eternal optimist, and I really believe in this Congress there will be many people elected to the House, similar to myself, that across this country that constituents have said “I'm fed up. That's it. I'm not going to elect people who are just going to go and vote on party lines and nothing gets done”. So I'm I'm very optimistic that there will be a new crop of Representatives like myself who are there for the right reason and the only reason which is to do the right thing. And quite frankly for people who are not looking to be career politicians and are not going to be beholding or have their own personal agenda.
(GR): Now if Donald Trump should be elected president what issues could you imagine working with cooperatively with what the President Trump.
(KM): Whoever is in the White House if you're in the House of Representatives you have to work with whoever's there. That's what your job is. That's what you've been elected to. There are a number of things that, if the next president is Donald Trump, we've seen him try to shift a little bit. And although my dad always used to say you know can't change the stripes on a tiger, I'm hoping that that won't be the case and that there will be some reasonable common sense solutions that can come out of the next administration.
(GR): Could you give me some issues that you would anticipate you might find those on? Given what you've seen him say so far are there certain issues that you have in mind. I thought maybe trade might be something you might bring up.
(KM): Maybe trade. But I think the more egregious one would be immigration.
(GR): That’s something you WOULD work with him on?
(KM): You have to, because you can't we can't build a wall. And I know my opponent had supported that and said “yes he's going to build a wall and we support that”. We can't build a wall and that's not what this country is founded on. And I do think that we need common sense immigration reform and I think that that is able to be had if you have willing partners that are willing to come to the table and look at it. From what I understand, and I'm very new at this, the idea of building a wall would have to be funded by Congress. And I don't think that that would pass.
(GR): Well I want to push you harder on this because you've given me an example of what you're not going to work with him on. What I'm looking for is something where you see something in this candidate that you think “All right. This is President I could work with him on this.
(KM): And I think that's what I'm saying. Immigration that I think that would be a way to work together. There certainly is not a complete amnesty but there is not complete rounding up 11 million people and deporting them and building a wall. And I think that that would be someplace that we would be able to come together because it is realistic because the other side it's not realistic.