Rep. Richard Hanna doesn’t have to worry about getting re-elected. He’s not running for a fourth term. So when he spoke Wednesday night — in the same room in which he gave his first political speech eight years ago — he didn’t have to worry about winning over voters, or pleasing Congressional caucuses or party bigwigs. He was just himself.
To a degree, his six-year tenure has been like that. The Barneveld Republican was elected in 2010, defeating incumbent Democrat Michael Arcuri, on a conservative platform. It was his second attempt at the seat.
He opposed the Affordable Care Act, but was the second Republican in Congress to support same-sex marriage. He voted for legislation to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from limiting greenhouse gases, but also refused to sign Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge requiring a promise of no new taxes.
Hanna, by his own admission Wednesday night, wasn’t always easy on his Republican colleagues. And if he wasn’t easy on Democrats, he was at least willing to reach consensus across party lines, an attitude he said has evaporated in Washington.
So here’s what Hanna had to say at a forum sponsored by the Cortland County League of Women Voters at a senior citizens apartment building at51 Port Watson St. in Cortland:
On how Congress works: “My regret is that there’s so much opportunity there and so little gets done. It’s ideologically partisan in ways that aren’t helpful. … There’s an unwillingness to work together.”
On gerrymandering: “Districts are so deeply safe for Republicans or Democrats that they talk to only certain people. It ain’t gonna change until we change how we draw districts.”
On how to break the gridlock on Capitol Hill: “More people need to show up and vote in primaries. … A majority of people (in office) work only for their base.”
On moderates in the House: “(Retired Rep.) Sherry Boehlert is a very close friend of mine. He could no more get a nomination today than fly. Jim Walsh left under the pressure of the far right, so did Sherry Boehlert. Sherry was just getting beat up by the extremes.”
On Republicans: “I think they’ve got some good ideas, but they can’t get off first base on social issues.”
On Democrats: “The Democrats have equal problems with different issues.”
On Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge: “How can you sign something like that? There’s a difference between expense and investment.”
On abortion: “We’re not only allowed to leave our religion at the door, we’re kind of required to. … Whatever happened to tolerance? When I grew up, I didn’t think I’d have domain over someone’s body.”
On preventing the need for abortion: “If you really opposed abortion, you would help Planned Parenthood deal with that with education and contraception. … We don’t talk about that. It’s kind of like a religious mission.”
On same-sex marriage: “I’m not here to tell people how to be happy.”
On Donald Trump and Hanna’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton: “There’s nothing about Donald Trump I respect. The reality is if you don’t want Trump, you’ve got to vote for Hillary. If you want Trump, vote for Trump.”
On Trump: “He represents at least a handful of the seven deadly sins.”
On the fallout of his endorsement of Clinton: “Claudia (Tenney) would have primaried me. But we have one of the highest approval ratings in the U.S. … If I didn’t come out against Trump, I couldn’t look at my kids again if he won.”
On picking a candidate based on personality: “Follow the vote. If you don’t like the way they vote, you probably shouldn’t like them.”
On his life after Congress: “I dunno. I’ve got a nice wife that I like. I’ve got two kids; my wife’s been raising them alone, which is probably why they’re so nice.”