Opponents say he may not run again
By Tom Grace
Cooperstown News Bureau
Is U.S. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-New Hartford, running for re-election?
Based on the amount of money the congressman has raised, the answer might well be "no."
Boehlert, 69, will make an announcement in March, his spokesman, Sam Marchio, said Friday.
"I think he’ll announce his plans in the third week of March because that’s when Congress will be in recess," Marchio said.
First elected a representative in 1982, Boehlert, a self-styled moderate Republican, has cruised to victory in every general el
ection since then. But in 2002 and 2004, he faced strong primary challenges from conservative candidates in his party.
And in 2004, an underfunded Democratic candidate, Utica College Professor Jeff Miller, managed to win about a third of the vote with a campaign that raised less than $40,000.
In the same election cycle, Boehlert’s campaign spent more than $1.5 million, according to the Center For Responsive Politics.
Boehlert, chairman of the House Science Committee, has consistently raised more money than his opponents over the years. But money has not been pouring in at the usual rate this time. As of Sept. 30, Boehlert’s campaign had $166,220 on hand, according to the CFRP, which obtains its information from the Federal Elections Commission.
Asked why Boehlert, who has three challengers registered with FEC and others professing interest in the race, has not been more aggressively raising money, Marchio said, "I think he’s been more focused on policy than politics."
In about two weeks, the FEC will release figures on money raised in the last quarter of 2005. Marchio said these numbers "probably" will show Boehlert has raised less money at this stage of the 2006 election cycle than in recent elections.
"What you have to remember is he’s shown he can raise the money when he needs to," Marchio said.
But will he need to?
Democrat Les Roberts of German, who announced his candidacy for 24th District seat a few weeks ago, said Friday that the smaller-than-usual size of Boehlert’s war chest does make it appear the incumbent is getting ready to retire.
Also, although Boehlert has often voted with his party on budgets, alienating some liberal voters, he has also broken ranks on other issues, such as drilling for oil in Alaska, alienating some in House leadership, Roberts observed.
With the House dominated by conservative Republicans, Roberts said, Boehlert may not be given another committee chairmanship when his tenure as Science Committee chairman expires this year.
"That might be a reason to retire, too," he said.
Miller, who said Friday that he will announce his election plans Monday, said he, too, thinks the incumbent is getting ready to retire.
The first candidate to challenge Boehlert in this cycle was Republican Brad Jones, general manager of ITT Industries-Gould Pumps in Auburn and the former mayor of Seneca Falls.
Jones, whose campaign has raised nearly $86,000 so far, said he has heard the rumors that Boehlert will step down.
"It won’t really affect my campaign, because I’m running for the office no matter who else is running," Jones said.
Jones said he has heard that state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, and state Sen. Raymond Meier, R-Utica, are considering runs for the 24th congressional district seat.
Duncan Davie, Seward’s spokesman, said Friday that Seward is not considering a run for Congress at present.
"There is no vacancy in that district," Davie said.
However, if Boehlert were to announce his pending retirement this spring, Seward might consider running, Davie said.
In addition to Jones and Roberts, Oneida County District Attorney Michael Arcuri, a Democrat, has registered with the FEC.
Other candidates who have expressed interest include Utica lawyer Leon Koziol and former Cortland Mayor Bruce Tytler, both Democrats.