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Tom Reed's re-election bid went from sleepy to one to watch

Tom Reed's re-election bid to the House of Representatives was largely overlooked for weeks. After all, as an eight-year incumbent in a Republican-leaning Southern Tier district, the affable, moderate-speaking-but-Trump-friendly lawmaker was expected to be a cinch for re-election.

But then Reed's campaign, apparently concerned about the "blue wave" of energized Democrats in his district, starting running sustained attack ads against Democratic challenger Tracy Mitrano weeks before Election Day.

They had reason to be concerned. So much money started pouring into Mitrano's campaign in the third quarter that the Cook Political Report added the Reed-Mitrano race to its list of competitive races, changing its position from "solid" Republican to "likely" Republican, though Reed was always favored to win.

The race could not be called by press time.

Reed went on the offensive early in his bid to keep the 23rd District seat and help maintain the Republican edge in the House of Representatives. The eight-year incumbent ran a sustained series of attack ads to brand Mitrano as an "extreme Ithaca liberal," though she lives miles away in Yates County.

Mitrano, a cybersecurity expert, pushed back by calling Reed a Trump guy who has ignored the Southern Tier district and been satisfied with the status quo.

Mitrano's successful fundraising effort led many to consider the race a competitive one in a district that crosses 11 counties, from Jamestown to Ithaca. While the district has a Republican edge, Democrats have been elected to the seat before. That includes Reed's predecessor, Eric Massa, who resigned in 2010.

In 2012, Reed kept his seat with a 3.6-point edge against Democrat Nate Shinagawa.

Reed has sought to brand himself as a moderate who supports President Trump but also supports bipartisan collaboration and more open debate on the House floor. He's held hundreds of town hall meetings throughout his district and made it a point in this year's campaign to talk about how he reached out to those who agree with him, as well as those who disagree.

Mitrano built her own brand as an energetic reformer. Mitrano courted not only Democrats but also unaffiliated voters, who comprise 21 percent of district voters. With both candidates running strong, well-funded campaigns, voter turnout was expected to be a key driver of the outcome.

Reed, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, promoted his desire to reform the House of Representatives into a more democratic body that encourages problem solving and compromise. He said he supports Trump's tax reforms and business deregulation but opposed Trump's budget proposal for its "unsustainable" levels of federal spending.

He had focused on immigration and health care reform, infrastructure improvements and addressing the national debt crisis. He pointed to his support of advanced manufacturing centers, investment in the cleanup of the West Valley nuclear fuel reprocessing site, and support of wind and solar energy tax credits.

Mitrano focused her campaign on district-specific issues such as expanding broadband access to rural areas. She also pledged to champion issues of single-payer health care and lowering student debt – issues she said Reed has voted against or ignored.

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