The opening salvos in this year's local congressional campaign have been launched by David Bellavia, the Iraq War veteran who appears ready to paint Democratic incumbent Kathleen C. Hochul as a close ally of President Obama.
In an online fundraising video being sent today to an email list with about 400,000 names, Bellavia first lashes out at Obama's fiscal policies and then directly links them to the congresswoman.
"Every decision he's made has made it worse," Bellavia says about the president's handling of the economy. "Now we have a representative in Washington who agrees with practically everything President Obama does."
Bellavia says in the video that Obama's course has sent national debt "into the stratosphere" and then refers to "Obama-Hochul policies."
" 'Obama/Hochul' is a phrase you'll hear from now until Election Day," said Michael R. Caputo, an adviser to Bellavia.
The email also pictures Hochul and Obama together at the White House, and links both to rising prices, issues of religious liberty, "Obamacare" and the situation in Iran.
"These are very recent and salient issues of significance to conservative Republicans in her district," Caputo said. "Anyone who runs against her will pound these -- and several more -- home relentlessly."
Caputo said Bellavia has compiled his national email list from supporters and readers of a book he wrote about his combat experiences in Iraq, where as a staff sergeant he was awarded a Silver Star and a Bronze Star.
Bellavia's effort comes about as Republicans are quietly organizing to take on Hochul, who won a special election last May to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of Republican Chris Lee. But nobody has come close to declaring a candidacy, waiting until reapportionment defines the new district boundaries.
The State Legislature has taken no action on that front, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has threatened to veto any reapportionment plan he thinks stems from gerrymandering.
Other Republicans considering a challenge to Hochul include former County Executive Chris Collins and Amherst Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein. Both say they are awaiting district boundaries to be finalized before they make a decision.