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Tom Reed's congressional seat may be less of a sure thing

Heading into election season, it seemed a safe bet Rep. Tom Reed would hold onto his 23rd Congressional District seat.

But recent signs suggest the eight-year Republican incumbent has a more serious fight on his hands from Democratic challenger Tracy Mitrano, who counts on support from Democratic and unaffiliated voters to unseat him.

The Cook Political Report has added the Reed-Mitrano race to its list of competitive races, changing its position from "solid" Republican to "likely" Republican.

"It can't be ignored that Democrat Tracy Mitrano, former Director of IT Policy at Cornell University, raised $855,000 in the third quarter and is on air attacking Reed for voting for a '$1.9 trillion tax giveaway for the wealthy,' " wrote David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report.

That amount is several hundred thousand more than Democratic challenger Nathan McMurray has raised in the third quarter in his bid to unseat Republican Congressman Chris Collins in the 27th District, who is under indictment for federal insider trading charges.

Reed has opted to spend heavily on TV advertising, including a wave of negative campaign ads against his opponent. And, Reed received another Twitter endorsement Monday from President Trump, who tweeted Reed "has done a great job."

Reed remains the favorite to win, though his campaign appears to be taking nothing for granted.

"At the end of the day, Reed can probably count on Trump's popularity and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's unpopularity to keep him secure," Wasserman wrote. "But it's worth watching."

Reed, a Trump supporter, has touted his co-chairmanship of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus to reform the House of Representatives. He has referred to his desire to address the national debt, immigration reform and improvements in district infrastructure, among other issues.

"The job is not done," Reed told The Buffalo News Editorial Board earlier this month. "There’s a lot more work to do."

Reed's TV commercials typically show the smiling congressman touting his family and down-home values, but he has opted to run negative campaign pieces calling Mitrano a "liberal Ithaca extremist" who supports government-controlled health care and "heroin injection sites."

Tracy Mitrano, candidate for the 23rd Congressional District, is opposing incumbent Rep. Tom Reed. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Mitrano called the negative ads by Reed misleading. And the Cook Political Report understated her third quarter fundraising by roughly $100,000, she said.

Mitrano said three-fourths of her contributions come from within the district, which extends across the Southern Tier from Jamestown to Ithaca.

"I think the message is out that Tom Reed has turned his back on this district and neglected his duties," she said.

Aside from enthusiastic Democrats, Mitrano added, she's also gaining support from politically unaffiliated voters who like her focus on education, affordable health care and student debt.

"He’s grasping at straws," she said. "He tries to paint me as someone who’s an extremist, who’s out of touch, and a risky choice. If there’s any extremist in this race, it’s him. He's the one who's out of touch."

Abbey Daugherty, a spokeswoman for Reed's campaign, said Reed's reputation of bringing people together and moving forward will ultimately resonate with voters on Election Day.

"Tom Reed is one of the most accessible members of Congress through more than 250 town hall meetings," she said Tuesday. "We aren’t concerned about what DC pundits say – we are focused on Western New York voters. Our record of common sense conservatism and bipartisan leadership is resonating across the district."

News staff reporter Robert McCarthy contributed to this story.

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