Calling Congress member Louise Slaughter a progressive is an understatement. She's one of the most liberal and loyal members of the Democratic Party, and a political rock star in her home district.
She's also a tenacious and scrappy fighter who has survived numerous Republican attempts to unseat her, probably few more qualified than her last opponent, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks.
This year, voters in New York's 25th District have to choose between Slaughter and her Republican challenger, Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini.
Slaughter, who is running for her 15th term, should keep her job.
The midterm election is critically important. The economy is finally on the mend, and there are serious hotspots around the globe; the last thing that the country needs right now is a Congress that would abdicate its responsibilities and passively permit the country to lapse into another decade of war.
And most important, a Republican-controlled House of Representatives — one of the most partisan in recent memory — makes progressive voices, particularly the voices of women, essential to the balance of ideas in Washington.
Slaughter's impressive list of achievements makes her the right choice for Congress. Much of her success is directly linked to years of experience building relationships and knowing how to navigate the labyrinth that is Washington, even when you're not in the majority party.
Slaughter has helped get funding to rebuild the Rochester area's economy: $16 million toward a new VA outpatient clinic; $15 million to fill the inner loop; and $15 million to build a new Amtrak train station.
She's also helped get money for research at local universities, and to support Rochester's photonics industry — repeatedly cited as one of the region's most promising industries for future job growth.
And over the years, Slaughter's been on the right side of some of the nation's most controversial issues.
She opposed the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, for example, and she was against electronic surveillance without a warrant.
Slaughter's support for women's reproductive rights is unwavering, and she has long worked to protect victims of domestic violence including LGBT partners, immigrants, Native Americans, and college students.
And she's also focused her attention on issues that are often not mainstream, but critically important. A microbiologist, Slaughter has long pushed the Food and Drug Administration to clamp down on the overuse of antibiotics in the animal farming industry, warning the public about the potential for antibiotic-resistant superbugs in humans.
Assini, who has been Gates town supervisor since 2010, says that he would be a voice of reason if he wins in November, and that Washington party politics would not dictate his decisions.
Every candidate says something like that when campaigning, of course, but their attitudes often change quickly once they're in office. Though Assini may be sincere, he would almost certainly have to fall in line with an extremely partisan Republican-controlled Congress. And he would have little influence with his party's leaders.
Assini is not a newcomer to politics. He knows that moderate Republicans who may be inclined to work with President Obama or a Democratic Senate tend to move further right out of fear of the Tea Party wing of the GOP.
Assini is extremely critical of Slaughter's support for high-speed rail. He says that he's against funding a high-speed rail system in this region because the tracks won't allow especially high speeds, and people won't use it. He's partly right. The system proposed for New York State would not reach the speeds seen in Japan or parts of Europe.
But Slaughter is also correct in saying that the US has fallen woefully behind on expanding its use of rail, and continues to be overly reliant on the automobile – which prolongs dependency on fossil fuels.
Assini says that one of his chief concerns is the region's crumbling infrastructure. Upgrading bridges and highways would also serve a dual purpose, he says, by creating jobs. And polls show that Americans generally support infrastructure spending, he says.
But Republicans haven't supported legislation to fund infrastructure bills.
Assini's biggest criticism of Slaughter is, not surprisingly, her strong support for the Affordable Care Act. Assini says that he hears complaints from his senior constituents almost daily about the potentially higher costs for Medicare Advantage plans.
Criticism of the ACA's changes to Medicare Advantage plans has long been one of the GOP's staples, which makes Assini's concerns kind of ironic. The reform was designed to reduce government overspending on the plans by letting the marketplace administer them.
Slaughter can hardly contain her scorn for how Republicans have spent inordinate amounts of time and resources to repeal the ACA. In typical Slaughter fashion, she makes no apologies for her support of the ACA, and she says that she'll continue to fight for a single-payer health care system.