"Redshirt sophomore" Maffei ready to return to Congress

Dec 31, 2012

Members of the 113th Congress will be sworn in January 3 -- and part of the new Congress will be a familiar face returning to Washington to represent the Syracuse area in a redistricted seat.

He calls himself a redshirt sophomore. Dan Maffei, 44, a Democrat from DeWitt, is going back to Congress after a two-year break. He was elected to the 25th congressional district representing the Syracuse area in 2008, lost that seat in 2010, and is now going back to Washington to represent the newly-drawn 24th Congressional District. He says his earlier stint in Congress will help him this time around.

"Mostly it's useful because of what I've learned. And obviously I've made some mistakes and I've learned from those mistakes, so moving forward we're going to try and set up a really responsive office in central New York," said Maffei.

There's more than the district number that's changed for Maffei, however. Last time he was in the House of Representatives, the Democrats were in charge -- now Republicans have the majority.  

"My concern is not that my party is in the minority in the House of Representatives. But that there has been so little agreement and discussion between the two major parties at all," said Maffei.

So where does that put Maffei in the political scheme of things?

"I sort of see my role as trying to bring some pragmatism to the House of Representatives," said Maffei. "Sort of that central New York common sense and I'm hoping to work with Richard Hanna and other people in New York state on both sides of the aisle, who can also bring that upstate New York common sense."

The new district brings him new constituents most notably in Cayuga and Oswego Counties.

"I spent a lot of time as a kid in Auburn and a lot of time in Oswego where my mother was on the faculty of SUNY Oswego, so these are areas I know and that I've known since I was a kid."

Maffei has been assigned to the House Armed Services Committee, where he'll deal with issues ranging from defense policy to defense spending. As for other issues that he wants to tackle early on, there's corralling the cost of higher education.

"This is an area where I think we can find some bipartisan consensus -- because it's costing so much.  We need to make sure that research dollars are flowing to places like Syracuse University, LeMoyne and SUNY Oswego, so they don't have to depend on student tuition to do research that's going to create economic growth anyway, and we need to make sure that student loan interest, including their parents, is lower."

One of Maffei's other legislative passions is transportation, saying things seem to be headed in the wrong direction on that front in central New York.

"Less flights from Hancock airport and still rail service that is very sporadic," said Maffei. "That's one of the areas I'm going to be working on hard it's a little longer term, but those investments are investments,and you're buying an asset that will pay off in the long run."

Maffei's describes himself as a moderate pragmatist as he heads to Washington, and he's hoping that this new class of 2013 will be a Congress that gets things done.

"The new members of Congress both Republicans and Democrats I think are thinking of things in a different way. And it's not to say more center than right or left. The people with very passionate opinions. They want to get things done and they want to work with others to do so.  And they'll think outside the box in order to do so."