Rep. Michael Arcuri (D)
Elected: 2006, 2nd term.
Born: June 11, 1959, Utica .
Education: S.U.N.Y. Albany, B.A. 1981; NY Law Schl., J.D. 1984.
Family: Married (Sabrina); 3 children.
Elected office: Oneida Cnty. D.A., 1993-2006.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1984-93.
The congressman from the 24th District is Michael Arcuri, a Democrat elected in 2006. He grew up in Utica and went to college at the State University of New York at Albany, where he distinguished himself as a Division III football star. Arcuri (ar-CURE-ee) got his law degree at New York Law School in Manhattan and returned home to open a law practice. In 1993, he was elected Oneida County district attorney, the first Democrat elected to the position in 40 years. During his tenure, he boasted of a conviction rate above 90% and sometimes pursued unpopular prosecutions, including the convictions of a veteran local politician and an assistant fire chief. He ran for the House after 12-term Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, a leading Republican centrist, announced his retirement in 2006. Democrats united behind Arcuri while Republicans chose state Sen. Ray Meier. Although Republicans had nearly 40,000 more registered voters than Democrats, the district’s nearly 72,000 unaffiliated voters and Democratic voting trends made this a highly competitive race.
|Michael Arcuri (D-WF)||130,799||(52%)||($1,616,138)|
|Richard Hanna (R-Ind-C)||120,880||(48%)||($1,090,713)|
|Michael Arcuri (D-WF)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (54%)
Arcuri and Meier hewed to the ideological center, but Arcuri most closely reflected Boehlert’s viewpoints. “I’ve been calling myself, much to my opponent’s chagrin, a Boehlert Democrat,” Arcuri said during the campaign. Meier opposed abortion rights, while Arcuri supported them as Boehlert had. Meier had Boehlert’s endorsement, and said that although he was more conservative than Boehlert, he would stand up to his party and seek bipartisan compromises in Congress. Arcuri had no legislative record to defend, making it difficult for Republicans to argue that he was too liberal for the district. Both veterans of Oneida County politics, Arcuri and Meier remained relatively civil for much of the campaign, even as the national parties spent millions attacking the candidates. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sponsored one direct-mail piece, titled “Spending like a Drunken Sailor,” that showed Meier holding a champagne bottle. The National Republican Congressional Committee ran a racy ad featuring the silhouette of a dancing woman that accused Arcuri of charging the county for calls to a phone sex line. The allegation was later discredited. Both national parties spent about $2 million apiece on the contest. In a strongly Democratic year in New York, Arcuri won decisively, 54%-45%, helped by landslide victories for Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In the House, Arcuri’s voting record was among the most conservative among New York Democrats. He won a seat on the influential Rules Committee, a prominent posting for a freshman on the leadership-driven committee that sets the ground rules for legislation on the floor. He voted with his party on most issues, but backed tougher border security during the debate over illegal immigration in the 110th Congress (2007-08). He joined the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition. In February 2009, Arcuri and a group of Blue Dogs met with Obama to try to convince him to consider deep spending cuts and other belt-tightening measures. On local issues, Arcuri was involved in efforts to stop a proposed New York Regional Interconnect high-voltage power line from going through his district. The line is designed to deliver excess energy from upstate markets to power-starved New York City. He also tried to prevent the Interior Department from approving a request by the Oneida Indians to place 17,370 acres of nonreservation land into a federal Indian trust. Local governments in the area object to the plan.
The district remains winnable territory for the right Republican candidate. In 2008, Arcuri failed to respond to attack ads from GOP challenger Richard Hanna and did not take the threat from the self-funding multimillionaire as seriously as he should have, as he later acknowledged. Hanna, the owner of a construction company, spent $1.1 million against Arcuri, campaigned as a moderate, and criticized Arcuri for some of his votes with House Democrats. The two candidates agreed on their support for abortion rights and opposition to gun control. Arcuri was re-elected narrowly, 52%-48%, two weeks after the election when the results of absentee ballots came in. He carried all but Herkimer, Broome, and Tioga counties. In April 2009, the National Republican Congressional Committee ran ads in the district criticizing Arcuri’s support for the Democratic budget, a sign he will be a target again in 2010.
Upstate New York will likely lose at least one seat in redistricting after the 2010 census, and Arcuri could find his district squeezed by more-urban-based Democrats.