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Nan Hayworth Is Not a New York Republican, and the Tea Party Is in the Details

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Nan Hayworth is presenting herself as a moderate Republican -- a good idea, since her district, where I live, is as purple as they come, voting for Democrats and Republicans alike.

But also a falsehood. Nan Hayworth is not a Hudson Valley Republican. She's a Tea Partier through and through. She's a stealth candidate who is more in tune with, and dependent on, national extremists than on local moderates.

How do we know? Because of how she voted. This isn't a matter of opinion; it's a matter of congressional record. By way of evidence, I'm going to focus not on the big ticket items -- ObamaCare, tax cuts for the rich -- but on four lesser-known votes. Why? Because during presidential election years, we usually don't hear about these votes, even though they're the bread and butter of what Congress actually does. Underneath all the spin and rhetoric, these kinds of policy decisions are where the rubber hits the road.

So let's take a look.

1. Defunding Legal Services. Unless you're a multi-millionaire like Nan Hayworth (estimates of her family fortune run from nine to 20 million dollars), you know that the cost of hiring a lawyer is often prohibitive, even if you really need one. I should know -- I'm a former lawyer myself. This has real life consequences for people in real need. For example, when the girlfriend of Hayworth's ticket-mate, State Senator Greg Ball, wanted to get a temporary restraining order because he was stalking her, she got a lawyer and got the TRO. But what about poor people whose ex-boyfriends, ex-husbands or current husbands threaten them with violence? What are they supposed to do? Legal Services is the only answer there is. Staffed by underpaid attorneys working long hours for difficult clients, Legal Services is one of the leanest, most effective government-funded agencies in the world. They do more good for less money than any other agency I know. Yet Hayworth voted for HR1, which would defund Legal Services, because that's what the Tea Party Express told her to do. Is that a moderate position?

2. Defunding Amtrak. Here in the Hudson Valley, we rely on Metro North and Amtrak to get to work every day, to get to Boston and D.C. and Philadelphia, and to get upstate on weekends. Fortunately, like every country in the civilized world, our government supports the railroads, just as we support automobile travel by paving roads and building bridges. Multimillionaires like Hayworth have no use for trains, however, which is why the corporate-funded Tea Party Express wants to shut down Amtrak because mass transit is socialism. Nan Hayworth voted to cut Amtrak's funding in half, which observers said would kill Amtrak entirely. Is that a position in line with the needs of the Hudson Valley? Or is it extreme Tea Party ideology?

3. Supporting Unlimited Oil & Gas Drilling. Folks in New York are rightly concerned about "fracking," the new technology to exploit natural gas reserves, which has the unfortunate side-effect of poisoning drinking water. Yet Nan Hayworth voted for HR 1229, which would open up vast new oil and gas fields to government-subsidized drilling. Indeed, she voted to expand offshore drilling right after the BP disaster in the Gulf. This is exactly the wrong vote for her own district. Why did she cast it, then? Well, maybe because the Tea Party Express, Club for Growth, and other out-of-state conservative organizations told her to. No wonder the Koch Brothers (who, by the way, make their money from oil and gas exploration) have donated tens of thousands of dollars to her campaign.

4. Ending the Regulation of Big Business. This was one of the Tea Party's sneak attacks: requiring congressional approval of every major health, safety and environmental regulation. Ideologues call it the REINS Act (HR 10), but let's call this the "Fox News Guarding the Henhouse" bill. What Hayworth voted for was to put the same members of Congress who are currently in the thrall of the oil and gas industry -- in charge of oil and gas regulation. Not the scientists, not the regulators whose job it is to keep these industries in check, but the politicians who owe them their careers. Does that make any sense? Not if your goal is clean water and healthy food. But if what you want is to get re-elected thanks to millions of industry and Super-PAC dollars, sure. Once again: wrong for the Hudson Valley, right for Hayworth's big donors.

I've chosen these four issues because I know they won't be talked about at a presidential debate. They don't fit on a bumper sticker. And they're not cheap political slogans. These kinds of votes -- and there are dozens more that I could describe -- are the evidence that shows a pattern of extremist votes not in the interest of the 18th congressional district.

Let's face it: all politicians sound the same. They all say they're for truth, justice and the American way; for small business and family farms; for more jobs and lower taxes; yada yada yada. The only way you can tell truth from spin is by getting into the details like the ones I've just gone into.

The good part is, you don't have to take my word for it. Check out Hayworth's voting record. If you like, you can even go to a right wing source, like the Club for Growth -- here's their list of her votes. And here's the list from the American Conservative Union. What you'll find is what I found. Nan Hayworth may be from New York, but she's not a New York Republican.