Chastened by a 600-vote defeat in 2010, former Rep. Dan Maffei has regrouped and is ready to run again, even though some wonder if the 25th Congressional District will even exist in 2012. Census numbers dictate the number of representatives each state gets, and the state Legislature, along with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, determines how those districts will look.
Maffei has no doubt the 25th is safe. “I do think it will exist,” he said. “In a certain sense it has to exist. The region exists and it’s entitled to congressional representation. I do think there will be a Central New York district, but it could look quite a bit different than it looks now. We have a divided Legislature and a governor who wants nonpartisan redistricting. The chances of Syracuse being broken up— you’d have to break up the city itself into congressional districts, with one representative living far away from Syracuse.”
Maffei, 43, is in this position because in November 2010 he lost to Ann Marie Buerkle by a mere 648 votes. Many have analyzed the reasons the Democrat lost, and Maffei has done his share of reflection. Now he’s ready to roll.
“My plan is to start over. Making a comeback is one of the challenges in American politics: You’re not a fresh face and you don’t have the power of incum- bency. The ideas we ran on originally and continue to talk about are change ideas, and it takes a while to implement change, especially in a difficult economy and with a critical media—present company excluded, of course.”
So while it seems the Republicans in Congress are hell-bent on making President Obama a one-term executive, Maffei believes that’s all the more reason for people to stay the course. “The challenge that I have is to tell people not to give up and to give them a reason not to give up. The people in the middle, progressive but not revolutionary, still believe in our system but have not seen much that they like lately.”
Analysis after Maffei’s loss tended to point the finger at voters in rural, Republican Wayne County as the electorate that sunk his re-election bid. He doesn’t buy that. “The problem really was Webster,” he explained of the tony suburb, in many ways the Manlius of Rochester. “You never expect to do that well in Wayne; it’s one of the most Republican counties in the state.
I spent several months blaming myself for not getting 650 votes, but they voted against me because I had a ‘D’ next to my name and voted for her because she didn’t have a ‘D’ next to her name.
“A friend of mine has a bumper sticker that says, ‘Now Are You Ready to Vote for Maffei?’ You lose by such a small amount in a very challenging year, particularly with negative ads running the last few weeks, and there’s no real way to defend those.”
Until a decision is made about any redistricting, you will see Maffei out and about, keeping his hand in, attending meetings and talking with constituents. “I go to a lot of the same things I went to when I was a member of Congress,” he said, “but nobody cares. I’m around, I’m still a policy wonk. But back to the redistricting: However the district looks, the challenge is that they are different electorates in a presidential election year and a non-presidential election year. I can live with myself for not winning, but I can’t live with myself for not trying.”