The big news in our corner of western New York is that Eric Massa is not going to run for re-election. Massa is the first term congressman who represents a sprawling district (as are all upstate districts), from the outskirts of Rochester down to Corning, Hornell, and Olean. I am not in his district, but I can’t ride more than a few blocks without entering it. Massa is a former naval officer, resident of Corning, who first ran in 2006 to replace the retiring Amo Houghton, the longtime moderate Republican congressman and scion of the Corning Glass fortune . (Houghton was one of the few Republicans to vote against the Iraq war authorization in 2003.) Massa was defeated by Randy Kuhl an utterly undistinguished state senator, and then, in 2008, Massa, riding the Obama surge, narrowly defeated Kuhl.
Massa has been a lively energetic representative, a left of center Democrat in a right of center district. He held about twenty town hall meetings this summer over health care, and then was one of a handful of Democrats to vote against the health care bill in House from the left, though we will see what happens this time around. He continues to be, under Obama, critical of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has been a general breath of fresh air around here. As part of an Israel pro-peace group, we met with his staff a few months ago, and then he called me a few weeks later, to see if I had any other concerns to discuss with him.
Yesterday, he announced he would not be seeking re-election. He said it was because he had terminal cancer. There are other reports that his decision is connected to a sexual harassment suit brought by a male staffer. Whatever the reason it is very sad. He has been an independent Democratic voice, vigorous and very much his own man, and I was looking forward to hearing him speak on matters of local, national, and international interest for many years to come. He will be missed.