The more things change, the more things stay the same. That phrase comes to mind when looking over our county's new Congressional district.
After a decade of being teamed with Erie County, Chautauqua County returns to familiar territory in joining 10 other Southern Tier counties as part of the 23rd Congressional District. It stretches east from here to Tioga County - about 180 miles - and closely resembles the one dutifully overseen by Amo Houghton for so many years.
As part of the change, our area will be receiving new representation. Out is U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, who is seeking re-election in his redesigned Erie County district, as voters here will decide on either Nate Shinagawa or current U.S. Rep. Tom Reed.
Reed, a Republican, believes there is far too much regulation by the federal government on businesses, which is holding back the U.S. economy. He also sees a need for New York state to tap into its natural gas resources and backs the NRG Dunkirk plant conversion from coal to natural gas, calling it the most important issue for the county. Before serving his first term in Congress, he was mayor of Corning and served on many community boards while running a small business there as well.
Challenger Shinagawa is energetic, enthusiastic and a capable candidate. In not following the Democratic party's views, he supports the use of coal-powered plants - NRG in Dunkirk and in AES Cayugua in Tompkins County - due to the importance of the facilities for jobs and tax bases in their respected regions. Shinagawa also has served, with a bipartisan spirit we might add, for six years on the Tompkins County Legislature and the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency and the Economic Development Corp.
But while the federal deficit and increased spending draw the ire of Reed, Shinagawa is a bit more forgiving. He believes the federal government, with a $16 trillion debt, needs to increase taxes on those with high incomes. Reed, however, wants the tax burden - for all - to decrease, believing that lower taxes will increase jobs on the homefront and bring a needed boost to America's economy and will be a major factor in lowering the deficit.
Both men have run fair and respectable campaigns. We also see Shinagawa as a rising star in the region for years to come. In this race, however, we give a slight edge to Reed.