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Hochul, in visit with Davis, voices anti-free trade stance

Four months ago, Jack Davis and Kathleen C. Hochul were slugging out a bitter campaign for the 26th Congressional District vacancy that cost millions of dollars and captured national attention.

But Friday, the two stood as new best friends at Davis' company in Newstead.

Hochul, the new Democratic congresswoman who defeated Davis and Republican Jane L. Corwin in a May 24 special election, now enthusiastically repeats Davis' anti-free trade mantra.

And as the two met reporters Friday morning, only one fleeting reference was made to their once bitter competition.

"Kathy kicked my butt," Davis said.

The rancor of that special election now seems behind them, possibly because Davis and his pledge to spend $3 million of his own money opened the door for Hochul's victory in a heavily Republican district.

And Hochul most likely remembers that, when Davis was posting healthy poll numbers as a third-party candidate early in the campaign, he created an opening that she desperately needed to raise campaign money and momentum.

Hochul said during the campaign that she would vote against new free-trade pacts, and she drove home that stand even more emphatically on Friday. She will not, she said, vote for new free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

"For too long, our policies have created incentives to ship our jobs overseas," she said. "This is something Jack and I see eye to eye on."

Her message sounded just fine to Davis, the wealthy industrialist who spent about $10 million of his money on four separate campaigns for the congressional seat.

"Kathy is my congresswoman, and we now work together," Davis said at his I Squared R Element Co. "America cannot be strong and prosperous if we rely on other countries to clothe us, feed us, and manufacture goods we use every day."

The stakes, however, are higher now for Hochul than when she was the Erie County clerk competing for the congressional position. Now free-trade pacts with South Korea, Colombia and Panama are part of the discussion surrounding President Obama's new jobs-creation bill. And though she said she supports the bulk of the ideas the president has proposed to stimulate the economy and create jobs, she will oppose him on new free-trade pacts.

"We saw what happened with NAFTA; the promises never materialized," she said of the North American Free Trade Agreement. "If I have to stand up to my on party on this, I'm willing to do so.

"Don't even worry about bringing the delegations around to persuade me; you're wasting your time," she added. "I will stand my ground on this one."

Davis has often recounted how he was rebuffed by aides to former Vice President Dick Cheney during a 2003 fundraiser in Buffalo as he sought to express his concerns on the dangers of free trade. He has said that spurred him to challenge former Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, for the first time in 2004.

But now he feels he has a voice representing his views in Washington.

"Now we have a congressman in Washington that will fight the free-trade agreements and get us out of the NAFTAs and CAFTAs [Central American Trade Agreement] and the WTO [World Trade Organization]," he said.

Davis later took the new congresswoman for a tour of his plant, which manufactures industrial heating elements and competes in global markets.

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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