ONEONTA _ Political commentators may see the 20th Congressional District race as a contest of national consequence, but Republican James Tedisco, 58, is focused closer to home.
``Rush Limbaugh is meaningless to me,'' Tedisco told the editorial board of The Daily Star on Thursday. ``The only constituency I'm worried about are the residents of the 20th Congressional District.''
Tedisco, the state minority Assembly leader, faces Democrat Scott Murphy in a special election to choose a successor to former Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed to the U.S. Senate earlier this year.
Voters will go to the polls March 31. Tedisco, 58, noted that the National Republican Congressional Committee and GOP National Committee Chairman Michael Steele are focused on this race, but he said he is calling his own shots, running his own campaign.
Murphy has had comparable help from Democrats, Tedisco said.
A month ago, his polling lead over Murphy, a venture capitalist from Glens Falls, was in double digits. Last week, according to a Siena Research Institute poll, his margin was down to four percentage points.
But Tedisco said he has since shaken up his campaign.
``I was out in the streets, shaking hands, trying to meet everybody,'' he said. ``I hadn't run a congressional race before, but I realized I had to get inside and take control of my message.''
He's done that now, he said, and the campaign is running much better.
For weeks, Murphy had been pummeling him about his lack of support for the Obama administration's $787 stimulus plan. But as anger has mounted about executive bonuses being paid by bailed-out insurer AIG, Tedisco struck back, announcing he opposes the stimulus because it didn't restrict those payments and is laden with ``$300 billion in earmarks.''
While some earmarks are infrastructure improvements, he said, they shouldn't have been tucked into that plan.
Tedisco said Murphy should have known better than to endorse the stimulus, and questioned whether his opponent had read the document.
In response to questions, Tedisco said he:
ä Favors universal health care. Unlike Murphy, he said, he would not let the public participate in the federal plan that covers representatives, because it goes ``above and beyond'' what is necessary. He said he would rather see representatives take a private insurance plan as is commonly offered by businesses. Any reformed system, he added, would have to control costs while offering people a choice of health care providers.
ä Believes marriage is a union of ``one man and one woman. I'm for traditional marriage.'' He supports civil unions for gay couples. ``I think they deserve the same rights as everyone else.''
ä Opposes abortion, including Roe v. Wade _ the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion _ although he does not believe the decision will be overturned.
ä Supports Obama's policies of reducing the U.S. troop presence in Iraq and increasing it in Afghanistan.
``I think the troop buildup worked in Iraq,'' he said.
ä Favors stem-cell research, but opposes embryonic stem-cell research.
ä Supports the state's Empire Zone program, which offers reduced taxes to businesses that locate in poorer areas as ``one of the good things we have in this state.''
Tedisco said New York has a ``terrible Legislature,'' but he has been an exceptional leader, fighting to cap property taxes, protect children from predators and standing up to former Gov. Eliot Spitzer's plan to issue drivers' licenses to illegal aliens.
Spitzer, who resigned after being caught in a prostitution sting, was followed by David Paterson, who has shut Republicans out of decision-making roles in recent weeks, Tedisco said.
If elected, Tedisco said, he would ask to serve on the House Agriculture Committee and strive to aid dairy farmers by ``helping with energy costs and helping with milk prices going up and down.''
According to the state Board of Elections, the 20th Congressional District is home to 196,118 Republicans, 125,486 Democrats and 118,364 unaffiliated voters. The district usually sends a Republican to Washington, but Gillibrand, a Democrat, won twice, beating incumbent John Sweeney in 2006 and former state GOP Chairman Sandy Treadwell in November.