Come Jan. 1, 2013, Ithaca will have a new Congressional representative.

The city’s current representative, U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, is retiring at the end of his term, meaning a new Congressperson would be taking over next year. The redistricting that took place following the census, however, means that Ithaca’s essentially getting a new district — the shifting lines mean the city is going from being on the western end of its current 22nd District to being on the eastern end of the new 23rd District.

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, the Republican congressman serving the current 29th District, has seen his territory shift as well after just one term in office into what will be the 23rd District. Challenging Reed is Tompkins County Legislator Nate Shinagawa, a Democrat, serving his second term in the county Legislature.

With Election Day less than two weeks away — it’s Tuesday, Nov. 6 (polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.; for more information about voting and polling places, see the Tompkins County Board of Elections website at — we asked the candidates about some of the issues facing the district, as well as the country as a whole.


Nate Shinagawa

Running on the Democratic, Working Families lines

Age: 29

Profession: Hospital administrator, Tompkins County legislator

Resides in: Ithaca



Ithaca Times: Why are you running for Congress?

Nathan Shinagawa: As a member of the Tompkins County Legislature for the past seven years, I know what it takes to come together in times of crisis to pass budgets and get things done for my district. For the past two years, I have seen a lack of leadership in a Congress that is increasingly unable to work together. The effects of this gridlock on our district have been showing more and more with factories closing and working families struggling to make ends meet. My opponent has bypassed the interests of community-minded people, replaced by his largest donors: multinational corporations and big business.

As a hospital administrator, I have been on the ground in a hospital for the past three years. I know how important it is to protect the Medicare guarantee and increase access to quality health care. When Tropical Storm Lee devastated parts of this district last year, Congressman Reed ignored the plea for disaster funding, and voted against giving more FEMA dollars. In the hospital, handing out bottles of water, and helping manage the crisis relief, I knew that Congressman Reed didn’t have this district’s best interests in mind.

I am running for Congress because I want to give every American, Republican, Independent and Democrat the chance they deserve to prosper when the government invests in its people and their future. We have an opportunity on Nov. 6 to bring effective leadership back to Congress. As a representative of the 23rd district, I will fight to make our district’s voice heard and to represent it fairly in Washington.

IT: You're facing U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, who is finishing his first term in Congress as the representative of the current 29th District. Given the shifted district lines, voters in the new 23rd District have had much more of an opportunity to see him in action. How much of a challenge is it to go up against him?

NS: Going up against an incumbent in a congressional race isn’t easy. Congressman Reed has had a cash advantage and good name recognition for a significant part of this new district. With redistricting, we’ve actually removed some of the gerrymandering that made Congressman Reed’s former 29th district Republican favored, giving an opportunity for a fairer contest. Despite these obstacles, we’ve created an extensive grassroots campaign from here all the way out to Chautauqua County, building up a volunteer and donor base that has led to our ability to get our message out, enough to make this race more competitive than many expected we could.

People from his former district, and those that are getting to know him in the new 23rd district have realized that the promises Congressman Reed made in 2010 haven’t been kept, and that he has a record of two years in Congress with nothing to show for it. These past two years have shown me that his plans don’t match the needs of the people of this district. Instead, they fall in line with the partisan policies that have caused Washington to fail middle class families and support the interests of multi-national corporations that fund his campaign. Congressman Reed is still running on a slogan of “Taking back Washington,” but has spent two years entrenching himself in the partisan politics, backdoor deceit and cronyism that he promised he would change.

Our message of working for middle and working class families is resonating with voters across the district, because people know that they can’t trust Tom Reed to be on their side when he has so much to lose when we’re all playing by the same set of rules. While there’s certainly more work to do, we can win this race and get government working again for the 23rd district.

IT: Much of the 23rd District is made up of more conservative-minded communities than Ithaca, where you've been working as a Tompkins County legislator. How are people in the more conservative areas of the district responding to your message?

NS: After spending the past six months traveling back and forth across this district, the thought that we’re divided between liberal and conservative areas has proven to me far from true. Fundamentally, most of the people in this district agree on the way our government should run, and what they want for the future of our country.

Whether talking to a Second Amendment Rights Group in Allegany, or a Democratic Committee member in Tompkins, we all agree that our main focus in the next two years will be providing more jobs and building up our local economy. I talk about a Congressman who has spent the past two years blocking any legislation to do just that, actually voting against a bill that gives small businesses tax credits. I talk about my plan to provide an even playing field, asking the wealthiest Americans to pitch in a little bit more to get us out of this recession and back on track to a time where the American Dream is still possible. That simple message, one that doesn’t divide, but brings us together, is the kind of attitude that everyone agrees needs to prevail.

IT: What is your plan to fix health care in the U.S.?

NS: For the past three years, I have worked as a hospital administrator for a hospital nationally recognized for its high quality and low costs. I know how important it is to protect traditional Medicare and ensure that seniors will get the guarantee they have been paying into for their entire lives, instead of having to maneuver through a voucher plan that would cost thousands more per year out of pocket. We also need to work on improving the Affordable Care Act. The bill is not perfect, and we need to continue to work to provide affordable and available health care options for families, rather than making decisions in the interests of big insurance companies.

IT: What will you do to improve the country's educational model that has created a "teach to the test" mentality?

NS: Our current educational model focuses on improving test scores rather than the quality of a child’s education. It is not effective for preparing our children to become the next generation of leaders in the new economy. We need to end programs such as No Child Left Behind and put less of an emphasis on ranking schools based on test scores. Instead, we must focus on rebuilding a system that takes a more comprehensive approach to education, relying on new research and technology to help children develop their skills to be successful in college by the time they graduate high school, setting them up to succeed in the 21st Century.

IT: Why should same sex marriage be allowed or not allowed?

NS: People should be allowed to enjoy the privileges and rights associated with marriage regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

IT: There has been a lot of discussion during this election season about a "war on women," with regard to actions such as attempts to stop funding for Planned Parenthood and new laws dealing with women's reproductive health. What role should government play in determining what women can and cannot do or have access to in terms of reproductive health care?

NS: The government has no role in dictating a woman’s medical decisions, and should only work to provide accessible and affordable healthcare options for women. As a member of the Tompkins County Legislature, I have been deeply committed to ensuring that primary and preventative medical care is accessible to everyone. My opponent, Congressman Reed, has voted to defund Planned Parenthood, voted against expanding the Violence Against Women Act, and his values of limited government do not translate when it comes to a woman’s healthcare decisions. The rights that women have fought for and gained over the past decades have made strides towards greater equality, though many would agree that there is more to do in terms of pay equity and job options. My opponent doesn’t see a future where women work and live on the same playing field as men.

IT: What needs to be done about U.S. energy consumption?

NS: We need to invest in common sense and comprehensive solutions that will help shift electricity production from oil, coal, and natural gas to renewable sources such as wind, solar, geo-thermal and bio-fuels. My opponent is an adamant supporter of hydro-fracking, and answers to his campaign’s largest donors: the oil and natural gas industries.

The threat that fracking poses, whether to our water, our land, or our local infrastructure and economy, is not worth the risk of an industry that cannot provide sustainable jobs and refuses to employ local labor. Focusing on jobs that we can rely on — long term, sustainable energy sector jobs that provide opportunities to regrow our manufacturing base — is what we need in this district, and we have the skilled labor to make it possible for us to lead the country in energy production.

IT: What is the top issue facing the 23rd District right now and what would you do to deal with it?

NS: The top issue facing the 23rd District is the economy and a lack of good-paying jobs. This issue is especially relevant considering the recent announcement of job losses at Sikorsky Aircraft in Big Flats. Many companies like Sikorsky have already announced job cuts, and others are also experiencing budget cuts or preparing for layoffs. Congress needs to take action to turn around our local economy. We need to reinvest in manufacturing and infrastructure jobs, which will directly support local businesses as well as bring more green energy and sustainable jobs, decreasing our dependence on foreign oil.

IT: Why should voters pick you on Election Day?

NS: I have been the champion of the issues important to middle class families. In my work as a hospital administrator and on the Tompkins County Legislature, I have worked hard to represent the voice of our district, and will continue to do so in Washington. It is time that we get people in office that have an attitude of working with the other side, will find compromises, and actually get things done. My background and record is about getting things done and working with others, and it’s that attitude that we need to see in Washington. That is why I am the best candidate for Congress in the 23rd District.


Tom Reed

Running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines

Age: 40

Profession: Congressman, New York’s 29th District

Resides in: Corning


Ithaca Times: Why are you running for re-election?

Tom Reed: When I ran for Congress in 2010, I ran because I was frustrated by a Congress which didn’t seem concerned about borrowing and spending trillions of dollars in the names of our children and grandchildren. 2012 is no different and I remain frustrated. We need to continue reducing government spending and fighting for a smaller, more limited government.

Through more than 75 town hall meetings and thousands of conversations with residents, I still hear concerns about spending, debt and our struggling economy. I hear that they want, and need, a supporter of small businesses in Washington and as someone who started and operated four small businesses I understand the environment we need to create to encourage private-sector growth.

We have much work ahead of us in order to get our economy on the right track: we need to remove onerous regulation, reform our 70,000-page tax code, tackle our debt and lower energy costs by utilizing all domestic energy resources. We need to get government out of the way of economic growth.

I remain frustrated with those in Washington who put their partisan politics ahead of productive legislation. In the House of Representatives, I have supported and helped pass more than 30 jobs-related bills that the Senate has refused to even take up for a vote. The taxpayers of the 23rd district deserve both a vote on these bills and a representative who is going to continue to fight for job creation in Congress and push the Senate and White House to do the same.

My family has called this region home for generations and I can’t think of a better place to raise my children. The victory in 2010 was just the beginning for us in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes. I believe if representatives in government at all levels focus on job creation and economic growth, we will all do better.

IT: You've been representing the 29th District for the past two years, but redistricting has altered the district you would represent, now the 23rd District. How have the demographics of the district changed with the newly-drawn lines?

TR: Redistricting altered the Congressional District substantially but communities within the new 23rd district share some very important similarities with the current 29th district. There is a commonality among the rural towns and the small cities from Lake Erie to Tioga County and the Finger Lakes.

Agriculture is still the district’s number one industry. Between family farms and large production agribusinesses, the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes are very active in the industry. We have very strong relationships with our local farm bureaus, my Agricultural Advisory Council and a number of agricultural organizations I am a part of including the Dairy Caucus, Northeast Agricultural Caucus and the Congressional Wine Caucus.

During my first 22 months in Congress, I have strengthened relationships with friends in the 29th district and have made countless new ones in the 23rd. The bottom line, regardless of the how the lines ended up, is that this area is my home — it always has been and always will be and we will continue working for the people of upstate.

IT: Your opponent is from Ithaca, which also is known as a bit of a liberally-thinking community. How do you think people from this area are responding to your message?

TR: We have spent a great deal of time in Ithaca and Tompkins County. Whether it be at the colleges, at businesses, or meeting with people in the towns, we have received a very warm welcome. The response to our message of job creation and smaller government is very positive. People have been quick to say that Tompkins County shouldn’t be labeled.

We have many volunteers from Tompkins County who are energized by the contrast between our message and our opponent’s. My opponent believes that additional spending, borrowing and taxing will solve our economic problems. That simply isn’t the case — that’s actually the same policy that helped get us into our current crises in the first place. We’ve added another $1.1 trillion to our $16 trillion national debt this year alone. We need to change the trajectory this country is on and our message is resonating with those who truly want long-term solutions to fixing our economy and encouraging job growth.

We cannot spend our way out of debt. After four years of failed stimulus spending and annual trillion-dollar deficits, we know that my opponent’s belief that additional government spending can pull us out of debt won’t work. His support of short-term policies that throw more money at the problem may resonate with some in Ithaca and the surrounding communities but long-term policies of fiscal responsibility are real solutions.

Of course, the financial health of our nation impacts those in Tompkins as much as it does everyone in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes.

IT: What is your plan to fix health care in the U.S.?

TR: Even months before full implementation of Obamacare, we are already seeing the president’s health care law cost much more than expected — at the expense of hardworking taxpayers. On the Ways and Means Committee, I am able to take an in-depth look at the negative impacts Obamacare is having on our state and our nation. The law is doing little to protect patients and hasn’t succeeded in making health care more affordable. It has a devastating impact on Medicare — including cutting hundreds of billions of dollars that would have otherwise been devoted to Medicare to pay for Obamacare. That is not fair or right for our seniors.

I worry not only about the impact Obamacare is having on access and cost of health care, but the effect it is having on job growth. The medical device tax under Obamacare — a 2.3 percent tax increase on medical devices like defibrillators and pace makers — will place an additional strain on small businesses. Another tax, the Health Insurance Tax (HIT) will increase insurance premiums, forcing employers to pay more for each employee and making it more difficult for them to take on additional employees. I was part of a bi-partisan group of co-sponsors to try and repeal these taxes to protect an estimated two million small businesses. Our small businesses are also refraining from exceeding 50 employees because they will be subject to harsher requirements.

As a country facing a $16 trillion national debt, we simply can’t afford the president’s health care law. We need to repeal Obamacare and replace it with legislation with patient-centered reforms including coverage for pre-existing conditions, allowing children up to age 26 to be carried on a parent’s policy and coverage for preventive health care services in a law that does not explode our nation’s deficit and forces additional borrowing. Obamacare fails to address the real problem: the ever-increasing cost of services in American health care. We can do better for our seniors and we can do better for our small businesses.

IT: What will you do to improve the country's educational model that has created a "teach to the test" mentality?

TR: A “one-size fits all” mandate from Washington is almost always a bad idea and education is a good example of an issue where local control is better. There is a reason why our schools are run by locally-elected school boards. What works to best educate students in Los Angeles or Oklahoma may not work best in Ithaca or Newfield.

I support empowering local school boards and administrators and teachers to decide how they can best prepare our students for the next step in their academic careers. More importantly, we need to prepare them for their lives once they leave the classroom — that includes vocational careers as well as higher education. I hear from manufacturer after manufacturer that even at a time of nine percent unemployment, they struggle to fill positions in the skilled trades.

IT: Why should same sex marriage be allowed or not allowed?

TR: First off, let me be clear that I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Having said that, I am also a strong supporter of the 10th Amendment — any powers not granted to the federal government are reserved to the states. I respect the right of the states to make that determination.

IT: There has been a lot of discussion during this election season about a "war on women," with regard to actions such as attempts to stop funding for Planned Parenthood and new laws dealing with women's reproductive health. What role should government play in determining what women can and cannot do or have access to in terms of reproductive health care?

TR: I find the “war on women” name-calling to be offensive. Such rhetoric is nothing but playing the politics of division and those who try to win by dividing us aren’t leaders. And there is no threat to care such as pap smears, pelvic exams, breast cancer screening, etc. I am pro-life and oppose abortion with some exceptions in cases of rape, incest and life of the mother. I do not support taxpayer funding of abortion. That does not mean that I do not support women having access to health care as is the common misrepresentation of votes on issues such as Planned Parenthood funding.

I also support freedom of religion and I do not believe that religious organizations should be forced to perform procedures or support practices that are contrary to their beliefs.

IT: What needs to be done about U.S. energy consumption?

TR: We need to support domestic energy that reduces our country’s dependence on oil sources in the Middle East. Domestic energy resources will provide an avenue for reducing our short-term dependence on Middle East oil and give a much-needed boost to our economy.

Expanding American energy production will lower energy costs while creating jobs. Long-term, we must develop a comprehensive, national plan that leads us towards energy independence and clean, renewable energy from domestic sources. I will remain a persistent advocate for an “all of the above” approach for utilizing domestic energy, including natural gas, wind, biomass, hydrogen and other alternative sources.

High utility costs are a huge factor in discouraging job creation. Manufacturing jobs can return if we harness these domestic resources to lower utility costs. Good-paying jobs and careers are directly tied to lowering production costs here at home.

IT: What is the top issue facing the 23rd District right now and what would you do to deal with it?

TR: Without a doubt, the top issue is our struggling economy. We’ve seen (after several rounds of government spending) our area’s unemployment rate remains above nine percent. We need to focus on supporting small businesses, which create two out of every three new jobs — they are the lifeblood of the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes and we must stand with them. Washington takes too much and we need to free small businesses to create new products, services and career opportunities.

The government cannot create and sustain jobs. In our office, we focus on four areas to help create a better environment for private-sector job growth. Our $16 trillion national debt, taxes, over-regulation and high utility costs are our biggest barriers to growth. We have sponsored or co-sponsored legislation such as the Small Business Tax Cut Act and the REINS Act to help small businesses.

In contrast, my opponent supports higher taxes to fund increased government spending. We can’t afford his approach and we cannot penalize those entrepreneurs who will create new careers for themselves and our neighbors.

We need to decrease government spending, reform and simplify our 70,000-page tax code, combat duplicative federal regulations and decrease utility costs by utilizing domestic energy. Certainty that we are dealing with our debts and certainty regarding tax rates will bring more investment into our economy.

IT: Why should voters pick you on Election Day?

TR: Simply put, we need representatives at every level of government who can get our fiscal house in order. I’ve spent the past 22 months fighting the spending and borrowing mentality in Washington. If the voters of the 23rd district choose to send me to Washington, I will continue fighting for these principles and work every day to ensure that our children and grandchildren will have career opportunities here in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes.

We do not face an easy task in solving our economic crises but we do have two clear paths in the November election. There is a stark contrast between the two paths. One continues down the path of out-of-control government spending, borrowing and taxing and the other reins in spending and promotes job growth. We represent less government, lower taxes, paying our debts and private-sector job creation.

I am an optimist and believe we can overcome our challenges by coming together for honest discussions to make the difficult decisions that we absolutely must make. We must again become a nation of personal accountability and I believe we can.

(1) comment

Scott Noren

Nate made a comment in Tompkins Weekly that he was against fracking but if it comes here we should do it safely. That might as well be a Republican statement, basically the same as Gillibrand. Watch my latest ad and see why Gillibrand is not right on this issue. She also has not been the author of any passed economic legislation in over a total of at least 5 years in Congress during her appointed and elected time. In regards to Nate, he is already acting like a career politician and Reed is likely to beat him anyway. I wish we had non pandering Democrats that don't sell out to lobby money. Here's my web site and ad

Welcome to the discussion.

This is a space for civil feedback and conversation. A few guidelines: 1. be kind and courteous. 2. no hate speech or bullying. 3. no promotions or spam. If necessary, we will ban members who do not abide by these standards.

Recommended for you