• Law, Policy -- and IT?

    Tracy Mitrano explores the intersection where higher education, the internet and the world meet (and sometimes collide).


Should I Run for Congress?

New York State 23rd District.



June 16, 2017

I have a sincere question for my readers whose thoughts I request to help me think through what has been on my mind of late: Should I run for the 23rd New York State Congressional District?

It is not actually the first time I have considered this seat. In 2009, the leaders of the Democratic Party in the counties of that district interviewed me for a potential special election(it was then the 29th District), but did not choose me. Governor Patterson also decided not to call that election.Republican Tom Reed has held that seat since 2010. The next election is in November of 2018.

In some ways, I feel as if I have been preparing for this possibility my entire adult life. Anyone who knew me back in college would have thought I would go into politics.  I was very involved in student politics both of the advocacy type as well as elected office. With my father’s downtown restaurant, and at a college in the city where I grew up, I felt very much a part of the lifeblood of the community. In part, I did not because I fell in love with history. In part, because I identified as bisexual, and in the year 1981 that seemed to be an automatic out. And in part, because of the transformative experience I had in college, I decided to dedicate my career life to academia. I have only gratitude about those choices, no regrets.

But in the autumn of my career life, I am beginning to wonder if it might not be the right next step. First, same sex marriage is legal now, so while not completely a non-issue among all voters, my sexuality should not be a complete show-stopper. Second, I have done my homework with two post graduate degrees in fields of particular significance to politics (American history and law). Third, I have lived 35 years in the area of that district, beginning with graduate school at Binghamton University in 1981. It might not be Rochester, but it is long enough to be a part of and care genuinely about it.  Fourth, in the last 15 years, I have developed an expertise in an area of immediate relevance: Internet law and policy, cybersecurity and information management.  Fifth, I truly feel blessed to have had these opportunities. With my younger son about to enter his senior year of college, it is time for me to give back. 

What might I contribute? The expertise is, I believe, of considerable account. With a national election influenced by Internet-related events, it seems to me that as a member of Congress I can help the House sort through the issues that this country must address. Readers of this blog in general, and of last week’s post in particular, recognize that I have an expansive interpretation of Internet policy.  There is also an interesting irony about me and this work.  Fifteen years ago, when I was teaching social policy, the word “technology” could not be found on my resume when I applied for the director of IT policy at Cornell.  Now, when people learn of what I do, that is all they see. One way I can give back is to share what I have always striven to do: explore internet issues using a wide-angle lens, and to view social and political matters in light of how information and technologies greatly influence those matters at this historical moment.  It will also not surprise readers that I have plenty of opinions on concerns not directly related to the internet.  Looking back through some of my posts I noted tax, health care, education (lots, of course), the economy, intellectual property, legislative reform, criminal law and privacy among the concerns. That’s a pretty big swath.  

On what ticket? I am a registered Democrat, but am thinking of running as an Independent. The Democratic Party already chose someone else over me once, so I am not sure I can count on their support. (That decision might have been over my sentiments about abortion, which I believe should be legal and available, but I am not a super-enthusiast about abortion rights.) I voted for Clinton, and I admire her, but I am not a big fan of the way that she and her husband have locked the Democratic Party up for so long now, there would not be too much love lost on that point.  Also, I might share an interest with a lot of other people in wanting something fresh in politics.  I am not sure that the Independent party is the answer; I don’t even know all that much about it.  But it might be enough of a platform to get away from the terrible divide in our party politics and into more meaningful conversations about what we really want out of government.

Finally, do I have a shot?  The odds are not great. Registered Republicans hold a 5/1 advantage over Democrats. The independent party idea probably makes those odds even worse.  Funny thing about me, however, I seem to like a challenge. And so on that note, I open the floor to your thoughts …


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