The sprawling New Process Gear facility in East Syracuse has been winding down for several years. Once the home to thousands of well paying jobs, the plant is expected to be completely empty in a few months. On Thursday, Democratic Congressional candidate Dan Maffei said the plant wouldn't be in the process of closing if it weren't for free trade laws similar to the ones Republican Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle supported.
"Our workers can compete with anyone in the world if it's a fair playing field. that's not what we have with today's trade agreements," said Maffei.
Maffei didn't actually blame the specific free trade laws Buerkle voted for but compared them to previous free trade laws passed over the past 20 years. Buerkle's campaign manager called that comparison a stretch and said free trade laws have also helped Central New York export millions of dollars of products overseas.
"Our farmers need a place to export their crops and products. These trade agreements were passed in bipartisan fashion. They were supported by both republicans and democrats, they were signed into law by President Obama," said Buerkle campaign manager David Ray.
Buerkle's campaign said Maffei was trying to distract voters from the fact that he voted for a tax on medical equipment.Skaneateles based medical equipment company Welch Allyn has said that tax will cause them to cut 275 jobs. On Thursday, Maffei said he argued against the tax.
"I fought very hard, working directly with the company to fight that tax and to fight any negative impact it could have," said Maffei.
"He says he was against it but the truth is, he voted for it," said Ray.
The race between Ann Marie Buerkle and Dan Maffei is considered one of the most competitive congressional races in the country. Recent polls show the two candidates are in a virtual dead heat.