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A Land of Opportunity for Democrats

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Dan Maffei orders decaf at 10:30 a.m., and that's probably a good thing. A youthful-looking 40, he seems to have nervous energy to burn, tapping his feet and fidgeting as he talks local politics and tells the tale of how he first decided to run for Congress.

Maffei met Capitol Briefing this morning at Freedom of Espresso, a funky-looking coffee shop in the trendy and cosmopolitan Armory Square neighborhood that was originally called Federal Espresso until Federal Express sued the owners over the name. The neighborhood is nice enough as it it, but Maffei thinks it could be even better with the right decisions and resources. That theme of untapped potential also runs through Maffei's explanation for why he ran for the House in 2006 and is running again this year.

Maffei says he started seriously considering a run after a reporter mentioned to him that the 25th district was the only one in the entire country where Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) won in the 2004 presidential race and Democrats didn't even have a congressional candidate on the ballot (Walsh was unopposed that year).

To Maffei, that fact encapsulated the problem that Democrats had in upstate New York and other regions of the Northeast; the Syracuse area was ripe for the party's picking at the local and congressional level, but Democrats weren't trying hard enough. In local towns like nearby DeWitt, voters would consistently back Democrats for president, Senate and sometimes governor, but they would still elect Republicans to the state legislature and local offices in odd-year elections.

Now that tide is starting to turn, as Democrats have captured more low-level offices in the last few years, including some in DeWitt in the 2007 elections. "Suddenly this once-Republican town is voting Democratic in off-years," Maffei said.

"Though the area is shifting to the Democrats, it's still a very moderate area," Maffei adds, making the case that the same is true elsewhere in the Northeast and around the country. "The difference has been where the national [Democratic] party has gone and to a certain extent the state parties."

Like the former reporter and press secretary he is, Maffei spits out facts and anecdotes quickly, and he rattled off a number of races in the region that showed political advantage tipping to Democrats over the last few years, including a key 2004 win in a state Senate race. But back in 2005 and 2006, challenging Walsh still looked like a foolish proposition, and Maffei makes the point that he was definitely not recruited by national Democrats to make his run. Instead, he recruited himself. "I'm a walk-on," he says.

Why did that 2006 race end up so close, given that Walsh is a local institution? Several local landmarks are the fruits of earmarks the incumbent has brought home over the years, and Walsh's picture hangs in a prominent spot on the wall of the Irish pub where Capitol Briefing had dinner last night. (The food was excellent, by the way.)

But in Maffei's telling, while Walsh remained personally popular and in line with the district on local issues, his aligntment with Republican policies on national issues helped erode his support. In particular, Maffei cited Walsh's support for trade agreements like CAFTA and for the Iraq war as points against the incumbent.

Those are still big topics of discussion as Maffei campaigns again this year, along with energy costs, high property taxes and, above all, the economy. The loss of manufacturing jobs has been difficult for the Syracuse region, even as new jobs have popped up at several large local hospitals and at Syracuse University. In fact, Maffei said, many local companies are hiring but are having trouble finding the skilled, educated employees they need because many young workers with college degrees are moving elsewhere. They should be staying here, he maintains, working at high-tech jobs and spending their money in Armory Square's ethnic restaurants and boutiques.

At one such local shop, a handmade jewelry store called Way Off the Beaten Path, Maffei asked the owner, Angelique Mango, what help she needed to improve her business. Mango didn't mention trade or taxes, but instead referenced classically local issues -- crime and parking.

"People don't feel safe coming down here," Mango said, complaining about the "vagrants and crackheads" in the neighborhood at night. "And the parking tickets! Who is the parking ticket Nazi here?"

Standing on a busy street corner after visiting with Mango, Maffei said that the problem Syracuse had was that there were several desirable neighborhoods, or "dots" on the map, like Armory Square. But the space in between them was often a "no-man's land" of parking lots and undeveloped property, just as parts of upstate New York are on the upswing while others have fallen behind.

"We've got to connect the dots," Maffei said. "It's a good analogy for the whole region."

By Ben Pershing  |  August 12, 2008; 3:50 PM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign  
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Next: Energy Issue Hits Home in Syracuse

Comments

Ben,Ben when will you and Silly Chrissie
the head WAPO Obama Shills ever wake up and
realize just like they always do,again here
in 2008 the dimwit dumbarse Liberal Democrats will snatch Defeat out of the
Jaws of Victory,by running Liberal Loser
Socialist Democrat Maxist Phony Empty Suit
Messiah Barack Hussein Obama,along with
Flip Flop Madame Speaker Nutso Goofy Liberal Madame Speaker Nancy Pelosi and
Hopeless Harry Reid? No Way Obama Ever!

Posted by: Sandy5274 | August 12, 2008 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Sandy5274 has exhausted his/her 6th grade vocabulary on a zero score for meaning. A personal best?

Posted by: TheFrog | August 13, 2008 2:44 AM | Report abuse

Ben - Make sure you check out Dinosaur BBQ before you leave Syracuse. Guaranteed best BBQ you've ever had!!

Posted by: anthony | August 13, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

So there is no way that with pathetic empty
suit Do Nothing Democrats in Congress and
their braindead misleadership of real losers like crazy Nancy Pelosi,Hopeless Harry Reid and the Worst Democratic DNC
Chairman in History Howard Dean,plus the
Biggest Liberal Socialist Democrat looney
toons for a Democrat Presidential Candidate
in Loser Barack Hussein Obama by election
day 2008 the dimwits will be lucky to be
able to elect a small one dog town dogcatcher. No Way Obama 2008 or Ever!

Independent Voters Against Obama & Pelosi

Posted by: Claudine 1000 | August 13, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Yes keep on voting for Republicans and expect all your money to move to Iraq. And forget any health care improvements because we will be broke. During the G. W. Bush administration, China never had to bomb us, they just bought us. Have a look at the paper China has and some day soon, they will say "Pay Up"!!! And they will own us without firing a shot or dropping one bomb. All that mess built up by Bush and his cronies even though he inherited a surplus from Clinton. Now a huge deficit by Bush.

Posted by: Mari | August 14, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

obama = the biggest tax increace in history wake up usa and review the obama recored commie to bone

Posted by: Anonymous | August 14, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe the American people have become so closed minded, mean and self-righteous. If we as individuals don't change our ways of thinking we are going to self destruct. It's hard to understand how we allowed a group of greedy, power-hungry old demagogs to so infiltrate our common-sense way of thinking that has kept this country in tact since it's beginning. Elections should be competitive but fun and sensible. I don't feel we need to elect a person who knows everything about everything...that is probably not going to happen. I feel what we need in a president is a person that can represent this country with honesty, dignity, intelligence and common sense. In this country the president should represent the needs and desires of the people our president is not a dictator. Our representatives in congress and the senate seem to have forgotton this. We must be careful that we never allow our country to be controlled in the manner that it is now ever again. I think whoever wins this election must remember that they represent all of the people in this country....not just a select few. Biden would be a good choice for vice president.

Posted by: AnnB | August 14, 2008 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Vote McCain and get ready for the draft.

Posted by: sally | August 17, 2008 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Of course, it helps as we've now learned that John McSame was not in the "Cone of Silence", but riding in a motorcade to the building where the "Forum" was being held, while Sen. Barack Obama was being questioned. And, during that period of time, there was nothing that prevented John McSame from hearing the questions being asked of Sen. Obama and Sen. Obama's answers thereto. Do I think John McSame "cheated", you bet I do.

Specifically, we learn from the NYT: Before an audience of more than 2,000 people at the church, the candidates answered questions about policy and social issues.

Mr. Warren, the pastor of Saddleback, had assured the audience while he was interviewing Mr. Obama that “we have safely placed Senator McCain in a cone of silence” and that he could not hear the questions.

After Mr. Obama’s interview, he was joined briefly by Mr. McCain, and the candidates shook hands and embraced.

Mr. Warren started by asking Mr. McCain, “Now, my first question: Was the cone of silence comfortable that you were in just now?”

Mr. McCain deadpanned, “I was trying to hear through the wall.”

Interviewed Sunday on CNN, Mr. Warren seemed surprised to learn that Mr. McCain was not in the building during the Obama interview.

See: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/18/us/politics/18mccain.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1219068751-He+zpR1dK+Su8nYdzmExoA

Posted by: caliguy55 | August 18, 2008 1:52 PM | Report abuse

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