WASHINGTON – The committee charged with electing more Democrats to the House this week once again named Rep. Tom Reed as one of its top targets.
And a Democratic candidate has emerged to oppose Reed.
Rick Gallant, a longtime teacher and union activist from the Corning area, announced that he will challenge Reed next year in New York's 23rd Congressional District, which covers much of the Southern Tier and part of the Finger Lakes.
"Toward the beginning of the year, I saw that Tom Reed was saying one thing and doing another, and I came to think that the people of the Southern Tier and central upstate want someone representing them with their true interests at heart," said Gallant, 59.
This will be the third consecutive election in which the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted Reed, who won by wide margins both times nevertheless.
After trying an experienced Tompkins County politician in Martha Robertson in 2014 and a former Obama administration official and longtime Navy veteran, John Plumb, last year, Democrats are now turning to a teacher who has never run for public office.
Gallant has been a teacher in the Corning-Painted Post School District for 17 years. He's taught elementary and middle school and currently serves suspended students, expelled students and students out with long-term medical issues. He has also coached junior varsity and varsity basketball.
In addition, Gallant has been elected twice to serve on the New York State United Teachers Board of Directors, representing districts that stretch from Waverly to Westfield – encompassing much of the congressional district he wants to serve. In that role, he serves teachers and other unionized school employees for about 150 school districts.
Residents of Painted Post, just outside of Corning, Rick and his wife have two grown daughters.
In his new role as congressional candidate, Gallant said he plans to stress that he will serve his district in a much different way that Reed, who prides himself on constituent service and holding town hall meetings while rising on the House Ways and Means Committee.
"I will be more of a serve-the-district type of guy, whereas he wants to be a big-wigger down there in Washington," Gallant said. "He makes appearances in his district, but that's not serving the district. Serving is listening to the people, taking their concerns to Washington and working your tail off."
Gallant cited Reed's support for repealing and replacing Obamacare as a key issue in the coming campaign. Reed has taken plenty of heat from constituents on that issue at recent town hall meetings, and Gallant stressed he would take a very different approach to the issue, working to improve, but not repeal, the landmark health legislation.
In addition, Gallant said he plans to work hard on agriculture issues, which are hugely important in the largely rural district.
Asked about gun control – another issue important in the district – he said: "I am all for responsible gun ownership."
Part of that, though, would be legislation keeping guns out of the hands of the seriously mentally ill, he added.
The DCCC included Reed in its second round of targeted races, which it announced Monday. The Democratic group earlier announced that it would target Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence. No Democrat has yet emerged to challenge Collins in the 27th District, which is much more heavily Republican than Reed's district is.
Reed's campaign manager, Nick Weinstein, didn't seem overly concerned that Democrats were targeting Reed for a third election in a row.
“Tom Reed for Congress is off to its strongest start ever, with record breaking fundraising and grassroots engagement, following two straight double digit victories where the DCCC targeted our race,” Weinstein said. “Our campaign is already up and running and we are confident that our record of caring, common sense conservative leadership and accessibility will continue to resonate with voters across the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes and Western New York.”