ENFIELD, NY — Herbert Masser's first challenge to long-time Ithaca Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton fell short, but he's confident that the lessons he learned during his first campaign will propel him to a victory in 2016.
Democrat Barbara Lifton has held the 125th District seat in the New York State Assembly, the lower house of the state legislature, since 2002. She's seen only a few challengers during her long incumbency, perhaps in part due to the strong democratic base in Ithaca and Tompkins, which makes up most of the district (it also includes the City of Cortland and a few towns in Cortland County).
Herbert Masser, a Republican from Enfield, challenged Lifton in 2014 and is making another run for the office this year. The Ithaca Voice sat down with Masser to learn about his positions and why he thinks this campaign will be different.
Who is Herbert Masser, Jr.?
Masser is Licensed Clinicial Social Worker and Navy veteran who has lived in Tompkins County for 29 years. After starting his college career later in life, Masser got a Masters Degree in Social Work, as well as a Masters in Christian Counseling and a Doctorate in Biblical Counseling.
Masser says he was inspired to go into social work as a way to help others as part of his "Christian walk" after converting to the religion. While specialized in occupational social work, Masser says he's dealt with a wide variety of issues in his work, including substance abuse, martial problems, runaway youth, and senior citizens' issues.
Politically, Masser was on the Enfield town board in the late 1990s and serves on the executive board of the Tompkins County Repbulican Committee.
Taxes, Obamacare and the second amendment are at the top of Masser's list.
"It's been proven three times -- President Kennedy, President Reagan and President George W. Bush -- when you cut taxes, money starts moving. When money starts moving, more taxes get paid. When you raise taxes, money stops," Masser says on the tax issue.
Masser is fond of using an analogy based on a "widget factory":
Essentially, it goes like this. Imagine a business owner is making a nice profit selling widgets for $100 apiece. If the government then comes along and says that the business owners is making too much money and tries to apply a 20 percent tax
"Any time the government runs taxes on corporations they say is for the 'rich to pay their fair share', it just gets passed down to the consumer. They never pay a dime of that -- they never have and they never will," Masser says.
On government programs
On Obamacare and similar government social programs, Masser believes that the federal government is fundamentally incapable of running these programs and they are better left to the market to let competition create the best services. Having sold health insurance himself, Masser says that companies are under pressure to provide better and cheaper services than their competitors to be successful.
"With Obamacre, or single-payer, as <Barbara Lifton> wants, the opposite happens. I just had a client the other day who told me his co-pay went from $20 to $60 and all kinds of things like that are going to be happening in the next few years, because the good things came first -- and there were some good things -- but wait until the bad things come."
On the second amendment
On the second amendment, Masser believes that it is the most important part of the Bill of Rights and needs to preserved in order to ensure that the American people can protect themselves from government tyranny.
"The reason we have the second amendment is that the forefather's were wise enough to see that they had just overthrown a totalitarian dictator. They didn't want the federal gov't to become so powerful it could repress the people, Masser says. "The second amendment is to allow the people to defend themselves against a rogue government... It's been tried in the past, and because of the second amendment it's never succeeded."
Masser is also a strong opponent of New York's SAFE Act, which limits the amount of rounds that can be loaded in a firearm. Masser argues that the SAFE Act only punishes law-abiding gun-owners as criminals "by definition do not follow the law."
On his website, Masser argues offers for stronger sentences for gun crimes, including mandatory minimums of five years in prison for using a firearm while committing a crime, 15 years for discharging a firearm while committing a crime, and life in prison for killing or injuring someone with a firearm while committing a crime.
Masser says that during his last run in 2014, he learned important lessons about campaigning that have better prepared him for this election. One of those lessons, is knowing how much help to expect.
"One of the things that's interesting to me, at least on the Republican side, is that you're on your own when you're a challenger. The state Republican committee won't help you one iota, unless you can prove that you can win? And how do you prove that?," Masser says. He added that local Republican organizations are more helpful, but they have limited resources.
"I learned to pace myself better. I learned how to use my time, my energy and my resources wiser. I built a nice base last time, and I'm using that base," Masser said.
Masser says he hasn't been afraid to call the state-level Republican apparatus out on their lack of assistance. It's made him a bit of an "outsider" -- a label he acknowledges might make life more difficult for him if he makes it to Albany. But Masser isn't afraid of the label and does not appear to be party hardliner.
"When I was on the Enfield town board, and the democrats came up with a good idea, I worked with them to implement that idea. Because I'm here to represent the people, not the Republican Party," Masser says. He said that his own party ran a primary against him since he voted with the Democrats on certain policies that they disagreed with.
Masser also feels that while Ithaca and Tompkins have a heavily liberal slant, that there is a constituency of quiet conservatives who simply have given up on voting because they don't feel that they can win.
"There's a lot of people who are not so liberal, they just don't vote in Ithaca, because they think they're vote doesn't count. I just sent a letter to those people telling them, it does matter. If they get out and vote, then I would win. They feel repressed by the liberalism in the City of Ithaca."