Democrat Jack Davis launched his second campaign against Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds today, linking the Clarence Republican to an increasingly unpopular President Bush and labeling himself "a better man" than the incumbent.
During a 22-minute speech in the Protocol Restaurant in Amherst, the 73-year-old industrialist promised another effort aimed at rescinding all free-trade agreements, sealing the nation's borders and restoring American jobs lost to overseas competition.
And he set a tone for a campaign that is expected to prove one of New York State's most competitive and nastiest.
"When Reynolds took his congressional oath, he swore to support and defend the Constitution," Davis said. "Reynolds has broken his oath and betrayed the people he swore to support and defend.
"Reynolds cannot be trusted to defend your rights, your children's rights or your job or your farm or your industry," he added.
Davis became emotional twice during his speech, which was attended by about 60 supporters, including Erie County Democratic Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan, Niagara County Democratic Chairwoman Cindy Lenhart and representatives of several unions. He also latched on to what national polls are showing as a growing uneasiness with the Republican majority in the House over the war in Iraq and congressional scandals.
"In the court of public opinion, the standard of proof for political corruption is not getting caught in actual corruption, it is the association with the corruption," he said. "Reynolds is associated with what some call Washington's culture of corruption."
Davis, who has promised to equal or surpass his self-financed $1.2 million effort of 2004, worked hard to link his opponent to all the Washington buzz words and names -- lobbyists, Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay.
Though acknowledging no direct link between Reynolds and any Washington scandal, Davis said the incumbent is part of the culture.
"Reynolds' modus operandi and written remarks and quotes reveal his true intent," he said. "It is all about money, lust for power, getting re-elected and furthering his political career."
"Reynolds does not represent the people," he added. "I will."
Reynolds' surrogates have already begun shooting back. Niagara County Republican Chairman Henry F. Wojtaszek resurrected charges Wednesday that Davis has flaunted election law on several occasions and may be subject to still more penalties levied by the Federal Election Commission.
"Here's a guy with a ton of money who thinks he's above the law," said Wojtaszek, who ran for Congress in 2002.
He said Davis already has been fined more than $12,000 for federal campaign violations and faces a new round of investigations.
"Everybody's got to conform. I did," Wojtaszek said. "But this guy has done it not once, not twice, but multiple times."
Davis said the violations were minor problems that will not happen again.
He also said he will circulate petitions to appear on an independent line called the Save Jobs Party and hopes to snare the Independence nomination too.