Friday, September 23, 2005

A Primary Fight for Slaughter?

I do not have a subscription to the Capital Hill news magazine, Roll Call. Doing so would seriously damage my credibility as an "outside-looking-in beltway-outsider who is a double-secret-outsider" kind of guy.

However, since I don't have access, I have to do this the hard way and quote a quote from a second-hand source. It appears Congresswoman Louise Slaughter of the NY-28th has a primary challenger from Buffalo.

From Roll Call (subscription required)

And in the 28th district, which extends from Buffalo to Rochester, Buffalo City Councilman Antoine Thompson (D) is expected to challenge Rep. Louise Slaughter in the Democratic primary.(...)
At 35, Thompson is less than half the Congresswoman's age; Slaughter turned 76 last month.

Thompson also is preparing to run at a time when black politicians in Buffalo are ascendant; state Sen. Byron Brown (D) is the frontrunner to become the city's first black mayor in November's open-seat race.

"I think we're in for a very spirited contest," said Joe Illuzzi, publisher of, a Web site and monthly magazine on politics in Western New York. "Louise will have her hands full. There's no question about it."

In a phone interview this week, Thompson would not confirm that he is running.

"We're thinking about it," he said. "We'll give it some careful consideration."

But sources said Thompson is putting together fundraisers for a Congressional run and is telling acquaintances that he plans to raise $500,000 for the primary. He is scheduled to attend the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's legislative conference in Washington, D.C., later this week, where he is expected to huddle with party leaders.

Eric Burns, a spokesman for Slaughter, said the Congresswoman is focusing on her official duties these days.

"We've certainly heard the rumor [about Thompson], but it's way too early to speculate about who's running and who isn't," he said. "The one thing we know is Rep. Slaughter is running for re-election and that she is going to be re-elected."

Slaughter, ranking member of the Rules Committee, was sitting on $390,000 in her campaign account as of June 30.

But while she has the advantages of 10 terms in Congress, Slaughter's base has always been Rochester, and she's still not terribly well known in the Buffalo portion of her district, which she picked up after redistricting in 2002. What's more, minorities make up 38 percent of the district and probably an even bigger share of the Democratic primary vote.

Whether Thompson is trying to gain a leg up on other potential successors to Slaughter is hard to say. Slaughter shows no signs of slowing down, and it is widely expected that she will seek to stay in office at least until the next round of redistricting, when the Buffalo area could lose one of its three House seats.

I'm not surprised. Ms. Slaughter has served for years and must be considering retirement. I believe (and I have NO inside information on this) that this will be her last election. For a few months I've been looking at the field trying to see what could be bubbling up. I was even planning a post that fingered Joe Morelle as positioning himself to run for the seat, a move that I could enthusiastically support. However, like someone looking so far ahead they don't see what they're about to step into, I overlooked someone running against her now to get a jump on name recognition.

That's because name recognition will be key for this seat. That's why I figured Assemblyman Morelle was eyeing the seat when he took double duty as the Monroe County Chair. You've got Rochester and Buffalo that will be going head-to-head for this seat. It's going to make the Amo Houghton primary in the NY-29th look like a Junior Varsity affair. I have heard a whisper or two that it is half-expected that Rochester will lose this seat to Buffalo. I don't know about that. Buffalo has its own problems, and two years is a long time. As it stands, the only two Rochesterians I can see having a shot for this seat is Assemblyman Morelle and Mayor Johnson.

Then again, I'm not really in the know, am I?

I'd be interested to hear what you all think.

One thing is for certain. I will miss Congresswoman Slaughter. She has represented the region well and has done us a service for a very long time. I imagine there is a stretch of road somewhere that will get named after her. Too bad she wasn't an astronaut. Then we could name a school after her.