By Mark Weiner
Dan Maffei launched a $50,000 advertising blitz against Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle on Tuesday, directly criticizing the congresswoman for the first time in their 2012 rematch election.
Maffei paid for commercials that claim Buerkle wants to "abolish" the U.S. Department of Education and "slash critical funding" for schools, college grants and scholarships.
The 30-second commercials will run all week on Syracuse broadcast and cable television stations, according to the Maffei campaign.
Buerkle, R-Onondaga Hill, immediately fought back, noting that Maffei, a Democrat from DeWitt, had become the first candidate to run "negative attack ads" this year.
In an interview, Buerkle said Maffei is distorting her position about federal funding for education. She favors closing the U.S. Department of Education, but only if federal tax dollars for education are sent back to the states, local communities and parents.
"Of course, they took it out of context," Buerkle said of Maffei's portrayal of her position on the Department of Education. "It's not a desire to cut education. It's really a desire to return control to the parents and local school districts and the state. The (U.S.) Department of Education is a huge bureaucracy that squanders the taxpayers' dollars."
Asked if she would send the federal money to the states through block grants, Buerkle said, "You have to figure out the best way to do it. Dan Maffei loves to spend money and he doesn't care about results."
Maffei said Buerkle's approach would hurt local schools and students by cutting out essential programs. He noted that Buerkle voted for a Republican budget plan that would have slashed federal education funding by about $115 billion, without redirecting the money to the states.
"Clearly this is yet another contrast in this race between myself and Ann Marie Buerkle," Maffei said in an interview. "I believe education is an important national priority and for the better of future generations. And on the other hand, you have Ann Marie Buerkle who wants to cut the Department of Education by $115 billion to give bigger tax breaks to millionaires."
Maffei said about 7 cents of every local education dollar comes from the federal government. "It is hard to fathom why one would think that is not a national priority," he said.