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NY-27 race shaping up as a war over words

GOP candidate for Congress Chris Collins reportedly has a history of saying things he maybe shouldn't, and his opponent in the race for the NY-27 has shown she's willing to use those statements against him in the campaign.

“All of us are human," Hochul said in an interview Thursday. "It’s important if you misspeak that you own it and say you made a mistake."

But, she added, “When there’s a pattern, then it’s trouble. If it’s an honest mistake that is a different category.”

As for criticizing Collins for saying people no longer die from cancer in an interview with The Batavian, Hochul said she thinks the comment raises legitimate policy concerns that should held up to scrutiny.

“He said it was out of context," Hochul said. "It looked like it read in context to me. He also said he misspoke, but either way, if you’re going to engage in this level of debate and criticize health policy that provides care to people with preexisting conditions, if you want to have these conversations, it’s important to state your position clearly."

Collins readily admits he makes statements that are easy targets for his political opponents, but he said that's just a byproduct of his straightforward style.

“Clearly, I’m not a politician," Collins said. "I come out of the private sector. I speak very directly. I actually answer questions. I’m not someone who filters, who is consistently filtering everything you say.”

As for the cancer comment, Collins thinks it's ridiculous that anybody would believe he thinks people no longer die from cancer.

Opponents concentrating on just one portion of his full quote miss the overall point he was making, Collins said.

Clearly what he said is there've been advances in health care, Collins said, and new treatments are more costly, above any increase in inflation, than what existed even just 10 yeas ago.

"The result is we live a lot longer and people today are surviving where they may not have a decade ago," Collins said. "Thanks for advances in cancer treatment that saved my sister’s life."

Over the course of Collins's several years of public life, the former Erie County executive has been criticized many times for public statements, most notably in 2009, when Collins compared Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to Hitler, and in 2010 when Collins was reported to have offered a woman a seat at an event in exchange for a lap dance.

“I will say, about the Shelly Silver comment, it was a poor attempt at a joke in front of a friendly audience," Collins said. "It didn’t come across and in hindsight, I should not have said that.

"As for the lap dance remark," Collins added. "It never happened. I can’t apologize for something I never said.”

During her year in Congress, Hochul has gotten into trouble for an apparent misstatement once.

Republicans jumped all over a statement by Hochul at a political forum in Erie County where she reportedly said, “Well, basically, we’re not looking to the Constitution on that aspect of it. Basically, the decision has been made by this Congress that American citizens are entitled to health care.”

Hochul thinks that the public is ready to forgive a politician a genuine mistake, but when they do say something inappropriate they should own the mistake.

"If you’re not adding anything positive to the policy debate, then you have to deal with the consequences," Hochul said.

In his interview published in The Batavian on June 24, Collins made other remarks that could be construed as politically sensitive misstatements, but Democrats have not pursued those comments as aggressievely as the cancer statement.

Most notably, Collins made statements that could lead one to conclude that the GOP nominee doesn't believe in civilian control of the military and that the president is commander-in-chief -- two concepts enshrined in the Constitution.

When asked if there was an opportunity to cut spending by cutting the military budget, Collins said, "It’s not my call. I would say you look to your military commanders, you say what is our mission and you look to the experts on how to achieve that mission in in the most cost-effective way, making sure they’ve got the tools they need to accomplish their mission."

Collins then added that President Barack Obama has been out of line in his handling of the military in Afghanistan.

"Whereas our current president has tried to micromanage the military," Collins said. "He’s replaced commanders in Afghanistan because they don’t agree with his policies."

In an interview Friday, Collins said he certainly supports civilian control of the military and understands the president is commander-in-chief.

“President Obama has politicized his position beyond what you would call a professional commander-in-chief," Collins said. "That’s just my opinion. Others may have a different opinion, but I know many people who share my opinion.

“The Constitution is the Constitution and he can do what he’s allowed to do, but that doesn't mean that what he does is right," Collins added.

From Hochul's point of view, Collins's remarks regarding the president's handling of Afghanistan is misplaced criticism.

"Regardless of party affiliation, the president of the United States remains the commander-in-chief," Hochul said. “When the president made a decision to take out Osama Bin Laden, some said that may have been too big a risk. I understand he overrode a lot of people when he made that decision, but I thank him on behalf of the people of this country that he did.”

Finally, as is often the case in taped interviews, the original statement from Collins on advances in health care was quite long and was trimmed to make for shorter reading. While we believe the quote as printed in the origional article fully explains the point Collins was attempting to make, for transparency's sake, below is his full statement. The part of the quote used in the original article is in bold.

"The fact of the matter is, healthcare today is different than healthcare was five, 10, 20 years ago. We didn’t have Lipitor, we didn’t have robotic surgery, we didn’t have what we have for prostrate cancer. People just died. People now don’t die from prostate cancer, breast cancer and some of the other things. The fact of the matter is, our healthcare today is so much better, we’re living so much longer, because of innovations in drug development, surgical procedures, stents, implantable cardiac defibrillators, neural stimulators -- they didn’t exist 10 years ago. The increase in cost is not because doctors are making a lot more money. It’s what you can get for healthcare, extending your life and curing diseases, and drugs that step in for high cholesterol and high blood pressure and everything else. Those are expensive, if anyone thinks that’s just free, we didn’t have them 20 years ago, so when people, I think, erroneously say, the increased cost of health care is more than inflation, they’re forgetting about, you’re getting a different product. Do you like the product you’re getting today or not? That’s decisions I think people have to make."

Justin Burger
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“Clearly, I’m not a politician,"

And clearly I'm not a big fat guy with a scruffy beard, the sky is Fluorescent green, and pogo sticks are the main source of transportation in Genesee County...clearly.

Lorie Longhany
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Google 'Chris Collins politician' and see what it renders.

wikipedia -- A politician, political leader, or political figure (from Greek "polis") is someone who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making. This includes people who hold decision-making positions in government, and people who seek those positions, whether by means of election, inheritance, coup d'état, appointment, electoral fraud, conquest, divine right, or other means. Politics is not limited to governance through public office. Political offices may also be held in corporations, and other entities that are governed by self-defined political processes.

John Roach
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The word 'politician' fits both Collins and Hochul.

Mark Brudz
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Both in a very big way John

Lorie Longhany
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Did Kathy make the statement that she wasn't a politician?
No, she didn't.

Mark Brudz
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No Laurie, she didn't and no one said that she did, we simply made a FACTUAL STATEMENT that they both are politicans.

Charlie Mallow
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And all the voters look at the shinny lights instead of the real issues. I'm positive this line of attack will work, the public loves this soap opera crap.

Lorie Longhany
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You're right Charlie. There are real issues and a real contrast between the two candidates in this election and voters deserve to see a substantive debate.

As people that read this know, I am partisan to a fault. With that said, everyone can choose to chalk up my observations on our current representative, Kathy Hochul, as just that. A partisan hack shilling for her candidate. Or just maybe some of you have noticed some of the same things that I have.

After a year of watching Kathy Hochul represent the people of our district, the word that best describes what I have witnessed is amazement. And it has nothing to do with the votes she has taken -- because I certainly don't always agree with her voting record. She is much more moderate than I am. It is much more about how she represents the people that live in this district. It is her amazing energy and enthusiasm and actual love for this area and determination to fight for a better life for all of us.

It is her pro active problem solving prowess. Her follow through and her determination to get something done. I saw it first hand in LeRoy when our community was under siege last winter. What she did have the power to rectify (unsightly barrels that needed to be properly disposed of) she got done. And she did it with no fan fare, working diligently behind the scenes. The representatives from LeRoy know this from both parties, because another gift that Kathy has is an ability to push partisan politics completely aside. One time I got a text from a staffer asking me to find a phone number of a republican representative in Genesee County. Kathy needed to follow up on something before boarding an airplane. I don't know what it was about, nor did I ask. I just know that it was Kathy working as she always does on an issue. And after I found the phone number, I was proud that this woman is so dedicated and proud that I could provide that phone number.

She literally does wake up every day determined to do what she thinks is best for the people that live here. And she does it with a vigor that we have probably never seen here from a representative. And she is so unbelievably visible in our communities.

So if we all peel away the "soap opera crap" that is part of the political silly season, what we will find with Kathy Hochul is the best representative this area has ever seen. And my suggestion to the voters is to keep her. Keep this work horse in congress. She'll give a thousand per cent everyday. That everyone can count on.

Phil Ricci
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Thanks for posting the whole comment, Howard!

So Mr Collins what is you answer to healthcare. I mean you and your entire party are against all of the Healthcare Act, so what is the answer to this?

You see, I'm sick of this empty party diatribe. Doctors salaries have increased steadily the past 10, 20 years plus. The average has become anywhere from $175k for a family practice to $650K plus for surgeons. So that line is worthless.

Yes the "product" has increased. Yes cost have gone up, but does Mr. Collins really think he is going to sell me on the notion that these "costs" are just that? Healthcare companies are making record profits! They are paying higher dividends now than ever before!

I wonder how much money he has in healthcare stock?

Blah, Blah, Blah "Obamacare" is bad. Blah, Blah, Blah

I want more than just regurgitated rhetoric. I want ideas. Telling me that we should just be happy with the out of control cost of this industry while people are dying, declaring bankruptcy and going without, meanwhile the rich get richer is a BS, thoughtless and an overly telling statement in my mind.

John Roach
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Phil,
Where did anyone say anything about doctor salaries? And, why would you care how much they make? If I need care and the doctor takes care of me, I don't worry how much he/she makes a year. Or do you think the government should set how much a doctor makes?

Where did anyone say they are happy with "out of control cost"? Lie or exaggeration?

And you repeat the lie that anyone who does not like Obama-care hates the whole plan. I am one who does not like the whole plan, but there are some good parts in it, so don't repeat the lie that we hate it all.

You do have a point on record profits, but then we are still denied the right to shop around for health insurance like we can for other types. And it is Obama who has guaranteed them higher profits now that everyone must buy insurance or pay a tax.

And then there is the waste. Example; I will be forced to take medicare soon, which I do not need or want. But if I do not take it, by law I lose my military health care. How stupid it that?

Phil Ricci
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He did John. That was one of his points.

I agree with you on both the lack of comp and freedom to buy, as well as the stupidity built into the system. But my point is a guy like Collins has no idea how to solve that problem just regurgitate what's already been said by people in his party. And I have no time for people like this anymore.

Mark Brudz
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Just curious Phil (And I do agree that Collins has no idea and is just reciting talking points) what makes you believe that Hochul is in anyway different?

Phil Ricci
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Oh Mark, please don't take my open criticism of Collins as on open endorsement of Hochul. I have no illusions there.

My comment was strictly based on Collins' full statement is all.

Mark Brudz
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That is good to hear Phil and why I asked you for clarification, there is a lot of factual inconsistency in that camp as well

Phil Ricci
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And John what lie?

Are you a part of the Republican party now? (If so, I did not know) My comment is based on their very open position to repeal "Obamacare" on day one of a Romney victory. That said, when party leaders are asked how to maintain parts of the bill that are beneficial and already in application, they dodge, deflect or spin back to the bill's overall defects.

My point is, it's not about "doing what's best", it's about winning a political battle. Please remember that these people will always have coverage provided for them, so they have no idea what suffering is.

NO ONE should ever lose all that they have because they get sick.

The Healthcare Act is not a great piece of legislation, but there are good parts, and until a Republican can show me an alternative once its repealed, then any and all who wish for its demise are doing nothing more than pandering.

John Roach
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Phil,
I talk with registered, and very active, republicans every day. You're flat out wrong when you say they all hate everything about Obama-care. Party leaders are one thing, members are another. I know Democrats that hate Obama care.

My point is you should be more accurate when trying to paint your 'all' picture

And are you saying all Republicans have health care and don't know what suffering is? Really?

Charlie Mallow
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John, with the way the Republican Party bashes Obamacare it would be very difficult to pickup on anything they believe positive about the bill. I know their talking points have fluctuated in the last few weeks but, that had not been the case prior. The battle cry has been outright opposition, not replacing the bill.

Maybe a couple years ago the Republicans should have counted the votes and been more willing to compromise, we might have had a better healthcare system. The fact is they decided it was better to make healthcare a political battle instead of working for the better good.

Just another reason to hate political parties.

John Roach
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Charlie,
My point was people like Phil trying to paint all members of a party as thinking the same way. Do you really think all Democrats support all of this Obama-care? That all Democrats support all the taxes?

Mark Brudz
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Charlie I have a lot of ties to the nedical comunity, both professionally and in my family. Most of them are very critical of Obama care as passed.

For all of the good things, and there are good things, there is very little, very little that address rising health care cost

It is easy to recite the mantra and blame insurance companies, but the fact is that insurance companies and doctors salaries are the least of the cost drivers.

Charlie Mallow
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John, I'm positive not all Democrats are happy with the entire bill. The problem is our system only works if all sides are willing to compromise. The bill could have been better had all sides worked together instead of turning healthcare into a political fight to the death. There are a lot of benefits in that bill and my sons being able to stay on my health plan is a big one. I think the change in the talking points is a direct result of understanding once the bill is fully implemented, it would be political suicide to take some of those parts away.

The problem is that our political parties don't really give a shit about making good law. They only want power and are willing to do or say anything to get it.

Dave Olsen
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Lorie wrote; "voters deserve to see a substantive debate". I agree, that would be great. Too bad it won't happen.

Rex Lampke
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Collins is just another hack thrown at us by Erie county and has no chance of beating Hochul. Its wonderful to live in a state where you get whatever the large citys want anyways. We have no say in our Federal goverment so why worrie about it? our state will go Obama Our Senators are elected by NYC and now we dont even get a say in the house.

Daniel Jones
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Hochul vs Bellavia would have been a substantial debate because both are passionate people but are capable of having a reasonable dialogue. Sadly, Chris Collins isn't. I expect that Collins will go full throttle soon with negative ads, and the bombardment of the Buffalo and Rochester media markets will begin.

Daniel Jones
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