WASHINGTON -- The man in charge of the Republican effort to win House seats this week gave, temporarily at least, a less-than-ringing endorsement of Chris Collins and David Bellavia, the GOP candidates who hope to face off against Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul in the fall.
At a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, Rep. Pete Sessions, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was asked if he was concerned that the GOP might now be putting forward the best possible candidate to face Hochul, given that both Collins and Bellavia have waged losing campaigns in recent years.
"I am not concerned about that yet," Sessions replied.
An NRCC spokesman later emailed an addendum to that quote, in which Sessions said: "We have a businessman and a veteran running and either one will be able to hold Kathy Hochul accountable for wanting to keep the $500 billion in cuts to Medicare in place to pay for Obama’s government takeover of health care that is increasing costs on families.”
Sessions was referring to Medicare savings in the health bill -- which Hochul successfully defended in her special election win a year ago, when she sharply criticized the far deeper Medicare cuts that Republicans have suggested in spending plans put forth by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
But perhaps it's telling that Sessions didn't leap forward to praise Collins, who lost his bid for re-election as Erie County executive last year, or Bellavia, whose previous bids for a congressional seat have gone nowhere.
Meanwhile, Sessions' Democratic counterpart, Rep. Steve Israel, D-Hauppage, sounded quite positive about Hochul's chances in the new, heavily Republican 27th Congressional District.
"There's no question there are more Republicans in the new district -- but they're Kathy Hochul Republicans," said Israel, noting that the district now includes Buffalo Southtowns that have long served as Hochul's political home base. "No one should underestimate Kathy Hochul."
Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, spoke at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Thursday.
He also issued a quick bon mot when asked if he was concerned about Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, running for re-election at the age of 82 with a broken leg.
Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, a Republican, is challenging Slaughter, but Brooks has been reluctant to spell out her positions on the issues so far, prompting Israel to say: "I'd rather have Louise Slaughter with a broken leg than Maggie Brooks with no spine."