Friday, Capitol Hill and Republicans from Washington to Buffalo, New York were stunned by the news that Rep. Tom Reynolds (R.-NY) has decided not to seek re-election this fall. Five-termer Reynolds, a past chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, had raised more than $1 million for an anticipated re-election bid and his press secretary L.D. Platt had insisted to me that rumors of his boss’s exodus from Congress were “ridiculous.” But Tom Reynolds did indeed become the 29th Republican House Member to say he was calling it quits in ’08.
Surprised? You wouldn’t have been had you been reading HUMAN EVENTS. In our February 25th “Capital Briefs” feature, as we reported on the ongoing NRCC auditing scandal and the toll it has taken on GOP lawmakers, we also noted that “rumors were brewing that the next Republican retiree from Congress would be Rep. Tom Reynolds (N.Y.), who chaired the NRCC during the ’06 cycle when much of the misreporting of funds occurred. Reynolds’ spokesmen had not returned our calls at press time.” (Eventually spokesman Platt did reach me to disparage the retirement rumors; Washington “superlobbyist” Dan Mattoon, a close friend of Reynolds, also contacted me to say that, as far as he knew, the 57-year-old Reynolds was running again.)
Reynolds’ 26th District has had a rich history of Republican representation for 38 years. Jack Kemp put the district in the GOP column when he won his first term back in 1970. After Kemp relinquished the district to run for President in 1988, he was succeeded by fellow conservative Republican and State Assemblyman Bill Paxon. In his decade as congressman, Paxon became a national figure as NRCC chairman in the year Republicans took the House (1994) and for marrying fellow New York Republican Rep. and 1996 national convention keynoter Susan Molinari. In 1998, Paxon astonished pundits who saw him as a future House leader by announcing his retirement, and Reynolds — who had followed Paxon in the county and state legislatures — now followed him by winning his congressional seat.
But after a promising start by winning the NRCC chairmanship during the ’04 elections, Reynolds ran into rough waters as his party lost their House majority in ’06 (as he was completing his stint as chairman). More recently, he has been dogged by the scandal surrounding former NRCC Treasurer Christopher Ward and the estimated $1 million missing from the committee coffers.
With only three of the five remaining GOP House Members from the Empire State seeking re-election, the seat of Reynolds — like the Syracuse-area district of retiring Republican Rep. James Walsh — could easily go Democratic. Multimillionaire industrialist Jack Davis, who almost unseated Reynolds in ’06. is running again and expected to use his own wealth to secure the Democratic nomination. But teacher and Iraq War veteran Jon Powers "is supported" by 5 Democratic county committees in the district and, according to the Buffalo News, "and sources say he also has a good shot" with Erie County Democrats. Lawyer Alice Kryzan is also seeking the Democratic nomination .
The leading Republican contender is State Sen. George Maziarz, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee. Assemblyman James Hayes and former Assembly Minority Leader Charles Nesbitt, also Reynolds-style moderate-conservatives, are mulling the race.