Section: Perspective,  Page: B4

Date: Sunday, March 29, 2009

Voters in the 20th Congressional District have defied the pundits in recent years, refusing to be pinned down by party labels. This seemingly Republican district elected a centrist Democrat, Kirsten Gillibrand, two times for Congress, and last fall supported Barack Obama and his progressive agenda.

On Tuesday, in a race being watched around the nation as a bellwether of next year's midterm elections, the district's voters will choose between a candidate who would work with Mr. Obama to achieve his goals, and one who would continue Washington's partisan divide.

We believe voters should support Democrat Scott Murphy.

At a time when this nation desperately needs politicians in Washington to work together, the Republican Party, searching for a new identity, is defining itself largely by what it is against, namely, Mr. Obama and his policies. Its leaders line up behind radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who openly declares his hope that Mr. Obama's agenda fails.

Yes, disagreement is part of democracy. But they -- and Mr. Murphy's opponent, Assemblyman James Tedisco -- fail to offer an alternative vision, other than a mantra of tax cuts, that recognizes the complexity of the nation's issues. They put the triumph of partisan ideology ahead of the nation's economic security.

We watched with interest, for more than a month, as Mr. Tedisco failed to take a position on the federal stimulus bill until the AIG bonus scandal erupted. Mr. Tedisco says he was taking the time to read the bill. Perhaps. Or perhaps he was waiting to see which way the political winds were blowing, and for a good excuse to oppose a measure that Mr. Murphy rightly supported for the billions it put into the nation's aging infrastructure, education, health care, green energy and, yes, taxpayers' pockets.

The nation does not have time to dither and play games like this. Unfortunately, that is the kind of politics Mr. Tedisco knows all too well how to practice.

We appreciate Mr. Tedisco's years of service in the Assembly, and, as minority leader, his flair for getting media attention. As minority leaders go, he has filled the role better than most. But given the 26 years he has had to build a record, there are few significant accomplishments to point to, other than Buster's Law and his successful opposition to former Gov. Eliot Spitzer's plan to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. He does deserve credit, to be sure, for being one of many voices in favor of a cap on school property tax increases and the STAR school tax rebate program.

Mr. Murphy, admittedly, has no political experience. But he has shown his ability in this election to go toe-to-toe with a seasoned politician.

He is not like some other businessmen we have seen running for office on vague platitudes about operating government like a business, asking us to take it on faith that they'll eventually get up to speed in Washington. He is fluent on the issues. And we are confident that he would join a Democratic majority that would work with Mr. Obama on what voters in the 20th Congressional District elected him to achieve: a comprehensive economic recovery strategy that includes improving and spending wisely on education, health care, technology and energy.

We urge the voters of the 20th Congressional District to show their independence once again, and send Mr. Murphy to Washington.


The issue:

Tuesday marks a special election for the 20th Congressional District.

The Stakes:

The choice is between progress or partisanship.

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