Livingston County is home to sacred soil, bled into by men who fought under Washington and who first raised and defended the American flag.
It takes its name from a man who sat with four others, charged with drafting what became the Declaration of Independence. He is carved in stone at the memorial of his friend, Thomas Jefferson. George Washington placed his hand on Robert Livingston’s Bible as he swore him in as the nation’s first president.
From its founding, the men and women of Livingston County have stood for their country and its values and liberties. Its sons and daughters have fought and bled in every conflict the flag has known, and statues and memorials stand in nearly every one of its towns.
Livingston County is America, through and through. From its farms to its courthouse, its Main Streets to its river. It has known the feet and dreams of Seneca leaders and Shaker worshippers, escaped slaves and Irish immigrants. General Wadsworth and Captain Shays. Clara Barton and Mary Seymour Howell.
This has always been a home to patriots, quite often of the Cincinnatus sort. Like that long-forgotten Roman – the freeman who left his plow in its furrow when his nation’s freedom was threatened, but returned to it when peace had been secured – the men and women of Livingston County have always been defenders of liberty at home and in military service.
And at the ballot box.
From Wadsworth to Kemp, Livingston County has voted for members of Congress who made a difference, and who took with them unique abilities and histories, to serve not just the district, but the nation.
It’s time to do that again.
As the county and its congressional district reel from the disappointment of successive resignations of disgraced Republican congressmen – both millionaires named Chris – a new choice presents itself. As the last Erie County congressman is sentenced to federal prison, a special election will choose his successor and fill his vacant seat.
The Democratic Party has selected its candidate, the Republican Party must now do the same.
As it stands currently, the Erie County candidate – another millionaire named Chris – seems to have the support of the Erie and Monroe county Republican chairmen. Most other county chairmen seem to support a state senator from Niagara County – Rob Ortt.
Livingston County is reportedly up in the air, its Republicans and their chairman undeclared.
That’s significant, because – given the weighted voting used by chairmen to select the special-election candidate – the Livingston County decision would seemingly give a majority to one candidate or the other.
Which gets back to the history and nature of the county.
And the history and nature of the candidates.
Namely Rob Ortt.
Days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, as a 22-year-old college student, Rob Ortt enlisted in the New York Army National Guard – just as countless Livingston County men had mustered generations before in Geneseo, Dansville and Nunda when the Union needed them in the Civil War.
In Caledonia, the pivotal soldiers’ monument honors men who did exactly what Rob Ortt did – rally to the defense of freedom and the Constitution in a time of crisis and danger.
That’s who this guy is.
Bronze Star, Combat Infantry Badge, battle-tested executive officer.
He doesn’t have money, he doesn’t have family connections, he doesn’t have the approval of the Erie County bosses, but he’s got a DD-214. And in Livingston County, that ought to be trump.
As Livingston County Republicans counsel with their chairman over which way to push this nomination, being the deciding county for this soldier is nobler than being the me-too little brother of an Erie County political deal.
And it would be the nobler contribution to the national service.
As it turns out, the Congress already has a fair number of millionaires. Wheelers and dealers and big business guys have their place at the table.
Where the House is underrepresented is in the military ranks. There are plenty of flag wearers, but not too many who’ve carried the flag into battle. Plenty who know how to give orders to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, but not nearly enough who’ve ever had to follow those orders.
And when a body has the constitutional authority to send young Americans to war, maybe that decision could be better informed if that body included more people who’ve actually gone to war.
Like Rob Ortt.
Like the men and women memorialized in towns and villages all across Livingston County.
Erie County picked the last two Republican congressmen, and that didn’t turn out very well. It’s time for the rest of the district to have a voice. It’s time for this patriotic district to pick a congressman whose life is defined by his patriotism.
Livingston County can call Rob Ortt back to service.
Or hang its head in shame for failing to live up to its heritage.