A soldier’s case for election told in his own words
The Republican component of the contest for the 27th Congressional District has boiled down to two candidates: Batavian and decorated Iraqi War veteran David Bellavia, and former Erie County Executive Chris Collins.
The pair will be facing off in the June 26 Republican Primary — with the winner facing incumbent Democrat Kathy Hochul in November.
The new 27th district includes all of Niagara, Livingston, Wyoming, Genesee and Ontario counties, eastern and southern Erie County, eastern Ontario County, and the southmost towns of Monroe County.
The County News will provide intensive campaign coverage of all three candidates.
During his six years in the U.S. Army, 1999 to 2005, David Bellavia saw combat action in Kosovo and Iraq.
On Nov. 10, 2004, Bellavia’s 29th birthday, he lead a 12 building search on the streets of Fallujah, ferreting out insurgents who had been firing at U.S. troops. In the process Bellavia and his men faced constant mortal danger. After Bellavia had killed three of the enemy and wounded two, he tallied a fourth death in a vicious hand-to-hand encounter.
The episode was described in a Time Magazine cover story by videographer and reporter Michael Ware, who was imbedded with Operation Phantom Fury.
It later became the centerpiece of Bellavia’s 2007 best selling book, ‘House to House, An Epic Memoir of War’ — and now will be the subject of a major Hollywood production by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Rich Middlemas.
Returning home to western New York, Bellavia (who was raised in Lyndonville, the son of a dentist) has maintained an unfailing interest in politics. As a 32-year-old, he lost the Republican Party congressional nomination to Chris Lee in 2008, and again made a congressional bid in 2011, in the contest which ultimately saw Kathy Hochul defeat Jane Corwin.
Bellavia is the founder Vets for Freedom, a nonpartisan group of U.S. military veterans who know from first hand experience how demoralizing political interference in combat strategies can be, and who lobby accordingly in the interests of the men and women serving today.
Bellavia is knowledgeable and opinionated in his views of U.S. foreign and domestic policy. Herein we have some glimpses of his ideas as he presented them to us during an in-person interview last week.
“War is an act of politics. A government has made a conscious decision to go to war.
Pull us out if you want, but other than that, conservative or liberal “guidance” has no place on the battlefield.
I served with Democrats. I served with people from all walks of life. I don’t care who it is with a machine gun, just as long as they can shoot straight and keep us alive.”
A policy that fuels war
“Islamists are being fueled by the very dollars we are spending on imported fuel, including the petroleum coming from Venezuela.
The best way to nullify and pacify the Middle East is to come up with an energy policy that cuts our purchasing of foreign fuel. This isn’t ‘drill, baby, drill’ — or the pipeline — but it is about more volume. We could put all our enemies in check by making domestic volume production important to us.
Natural gas conversion may be one way. A government that can pay cash for clunkers could well afford to subsidize a plan to bring petroleum-consuming vehicles to natural gas, and still keep a balance on the side of the environment.”
A new political generation
“It comes down to temperament and disposition: your ability to work with the other side. As a generation, I think we are more able to listen to multiple sides of a debate.
I don’t believe any founding fathers wanted one person in congress for 30 years. The longer you stay, the more you will become “one of them.”
You’re talking to a kid from Lyndonville, NY. He’s not a senator’s son. He doesn’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars.
My public relations are run by a 20 year old who was president of University of Buffalo’s Young Republicans.
I want to surround myself with young people who don’t want to be defined by anything other than their talent and their potential.
It’s about putting faith and trust into the individual as opposed to having government solutions for the problems that government has created.”
On Veterans for Freedom
“The important part about Vets for Freedom is that this is our turn, the veterans’ turn, to play a role in determining foreign policy, and in fixing the mess which is our fiscal policy. You asked us to fix things with rifles, now let us fix things in office.
We have gotten into the legislative process. We are actually writing and pushing legislation. There are already 13 members of congress whose elections we have assisted.
The U.S. decision to deploy more troops in the 2007 surge came directly from men and women on the ground, and it worked.
Before we implement policy, we need to grasp what’s there:
In Iraq, we’ve fought four wars, not just one.
They have a tribal culture there. A European parliament system doesn’t work. At any given time an election can be called — and it happens much too frequently.”
Socialism and democracy
“The U.S. military is a socialist organization with no individualism. It’s the same haircut and uniform with everyone treated the same way. It works when the objective is totalitarian. Defeat, destroy, envelope, fix and kill is what the military does.
That isn’t what government is supposed to do. Socialism isn’t a good model for government.
You can’t ignore segments of the population. They do that in Muslim counties with 51 percent, their women.
Republicans can’t ignore Democrats. If we’re going to drive the bus, we still need people in the bus, even when they sometimes tells us to take a left rather than a right.”
Don’t muddy the Constitution
As a Christian I oppose gay marriage, but I’m not against gay people.
The idea should not infringe on other people’s rights. Government should not legislate lifestyle.
The definition of marriage has already been established by the Supreme Court. In ruling against plural marriage in the early 1900s, marriage was defined as a union of one man and one woman.
Marriage as a concept is very important to Judeo-Christians. “Marriage” is their term. People should not be forced to go against their belief structure for a social agenda.
So gay “marriage” is not something that should be legislated, even when in New York there is 60 percent support.
Still, I don’t believe you use the courts to undermine the people, as in California. The federal government shouldn’t be getting involved in states’ rights. Decisions by the people of a state should not be trumped by the federal government.
If a federal court comes out with a decision we disagree with, legislatively we should push that to the next level, but I don’t think it should work the other way around.
The constitution should not be involved in state’s issue. The 10th (States Rights) and 13th (end of slavery) amendments then get overridden by other amendments establishing a balanced budget or gay marriage or health insurance.
Just balance the budget, and fix health insurance, but don’t muddy the constitution.
It will be a great moment for our country when abortion and gay marriage are the only issues on the plate, when no other problems or threats exist, when we aren’t burying kids coming back from war, when we see a bright economic future.
It’s got to stop here
“Baseline budgeting is kitchen table politics for the federal government. It somehow “saves” money when it manages to not buy. Everything in the budget today — foreign policy, energy policy — is a weak ‘walk-the-tight-rope’ along the political spectrum.
A constitutional balanced budget amendment wouldn’t work. One side would obstruct the other until the 11th hour, then lazily raise taxes.
But a [legislated] 60 percent supermajority required to raise taxes eliminates a whole lot of nonsense. Now you’re on the record.
We’ve been kicking a can, not just down a road, but down a mountain. If we love our children and care about our grandchildren, it’s got to stop here.
I think what combat has taught me is decisiveness.”
“I’ve learned that ordinary people have a grasp on these problems. They wonder why Geico and State Farm can’t sell health insurance; why we can’t purchase “collision insurance” on our bodies, or any other ala carte insurance selection. It comes down to the 10th and 13th amendments.
Get rid of federal-level rules restricting insurance. With people paying a larger amount of routine medical costs out-of-pocket, with states competing with each other, consumers will demand lower prices for those routine costs and the prices are going to fall fast.
An employer should not control your destiny. What if you have insurance, and when you go to an employer, if he likes you, he decides to cover it as long as you work for him? That’s the American way of doing things.
It’s gotten to be about getting our way instead of working with the aggregate of the people.
We have to grandfather the grandfathers, but Medicare has to change starting with my generation. People have to know the deal they are getting when they start, not at age 60.”
“By no means is the primary the election.
Representative Hochul is one of the most gifted and talented politicians we’ve seen in our area for a very long time. She knows the game; she’s very good at coming into an area, letting the people know what they want to hear and then going back to Washington and having to vote for her party.
No one can expect to beat her without getting out and walking the streets and meeting people. You can’t expect to beat her with robo-calling and telephone town halls meetings.
If we are going to compete with her, we are going to have to know the issues like a sitting member of congress does, and we are going to have to respect her as a sitting member of Congress.
I intend to keep my powder dry and stay positive. I know the attacks are coming: the character assassination and negative politics.
But I’m just not going to play it. I’m running a campaign on principles of honor and integrity.
The Republican Party gets a bad rap as the party of the rich, Caucasian white men. But we ask for it whenever we run that candidate model.
I want this primary to be about issues. There are eight counties in the district. What matters in Erie may not matter in Livingston, and neither are concerned about Lake Ontario water levels, as they are in Orleans. I have asked for eight debates.”
“Remember that our dollar is a reserve note based solely on the reputation of our country.
A strong dollar will bring down oil prices.
And it’s a back door tariff. China will have to pay more to dump its product on our market, if the dollar is stronger.
Milton Friedman would have told us to pull back on our circulation of dollars.”
Yogurt and the local economy
“I don’t care who brings the jobs in, Democrat or Republican, that’s 650 people that can feed their families. God bless them!
But still, New York State has a bad habit of playing a shell game with jobs, bringing 650 here and taking away 250 there.
It’s “accessible to the Thruway,” so New York loves that, but now there are going to be four dairy manufacturers drawing from one pool of milk producers. Where is the milk going to come from?
The new yogurt manufacturer will start to undercut Upstate. Then we’ll have to get our milk from northern Pennsylvania or eastern Ohio. We’ll be paying $3.50 a gallon.
And the plant is going to need a sewage evacuation system. It’s going to be a very big project.
Aseptic manufacturing is very scientific and difficult, like the ethanol plant in Median, which [among its workers] has hired chemical engineers from Dartmouth. But what we need to do in Medina is replace Fisher-Price, a place where you didn’t need a chemical engineering degree to qualify for a job.
Show me the [prototype] windmill that can actually put money into our pocket before you build it; or the engines that can run on green algae, before you ask the government for the $250 million for development.
And we need some common sense loosening of regulations.
There was an EPA bill that would have classified dust from farm operations as illegal under the Clean Air Act.
And there’s a Canandaigua contractor who needs to be sanctioned by 29 government agencies before he can begin a job. Both of those are outrageous. I know that because I grew up here and I’m running against a Buffalo millionaire who doesn’t have a clue about it.”