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Gibson hopes to keep North Country district

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Congressman Chris Gibson says he loves representing the North Country, and he hopes redistricting lets him continue serving people in places like Warren, Washington and Essex counties.

But Gibson also knows the final decision is out of his hands. New York's 20th Congressional District, which he represents now, could look very different when redistricting finally wraps up.

Gibson sat down with Chris Morris recently and spoke for more than an hour about topics ranging from the chaos in Syria to the field of Republican presidential candidates, and of course, redistricting.

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Chris Morris
Tri-Lakes Correspondent

“I love my current district,” Gibson said. “And I’m very partial to it.”

The state Legislature has finally reached an agreement on new Assembly and Senate districts. Now, House members are waiting on new congressional maps, which will be set by a three-judge panel based on recommendations by a special master.

And those maps are likely to redistrict Gibson right out of the North Country.

Gibson says communities in the district have their own unique characteristics, but also share some commonalities – things like tourism, agriculture and manufacturing.

And while he’d like to see the district stay the same, he understands it’s not his call to make.

“It’s one of those moments where you really have to invoke the serenity prayer,” Gibson said. “Know the things you can change, the things you can’t, have the wisdom to know the difference between the two, and just continue to move forward. What I’m focused on right now is serving.”

A Gallup poll released in February shows Congress’ approval rating at 10 percent, that’s a historic low. Much of that is attributed to what is perceived as constant gridlock and partisan bickering.

But Gibson described himself as an optimist. He says he’s a “glass is always five-sixths full” kind of person.

“You turn on the news today, it doesn’t matter if you’re watching Fox or if you’re watching MSNBC, they’re running down Washington and they’re running down the country - why?” Gibson asked. “Well on Fox, they’re running down the country because they want to kick out the president. And on MSNBC, they’re running down the country because they want to kick out the House Republicans.

“To me, I don’t find that helpful. We may disagree on 13 things. Let’s find (those) seven things we agree on, and let’s move forward from here.”

When Gibson ran for office a year-and-a-half ago, one of his big talking points was the consolidation of federal agencies. He even called for major steps like putting the U.S. Department of Education back in with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Gibson is passionate about education. He says the country needs to place more of an emphasis on programs like those offered by the Board of Cooperative Educational Services. He says those programs have a direct impact on the economy because they feed trained workers into the manufacturing and construction sectors.

“We still need the world’s best plumbers, steamfitters, welders, mechanics – we need all that,” Gibson said, “even as we need the world’s best engineers at nanotechnology. But we can’t just be all one. We have to recognize the fact that we all come with our own unique characteristics, and we all have our own aspirations.”

When it comes to America’s overseas military presence, the retired Army colonel is cautious.

During a press conference last week, President Barack Obama was grilled about the ongoing violence in Syria. Asked how he would handle the situation, Gibson says America needs to be careful.

“I have seen firsthand what happens in war,” he said. “I can tell you that you can give a million descriptions of it, but at the end of the day ... you end up killing people and breaking things. You can call it any kind of effort you want, but you’ve got to recognize that it’s a very serious decision, one that should only be undertaken after a long discussion, the American people’s involvement and a vote in Congress. That’s why I brought forward the War Powers Reform Act.”

As Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul continue to slug it out for the Republican presidential nomination, Gibson says he’s not impressed with the field of candidates.

“I guess I have high expectations, but I haven’t heard any of the candidates communicate what I think would be the best approach to move forward our country in the 21st century,” Gibson said. “Now look, when it comes time, I’m sure that I’ll be supporting our candidate, but I’m not at this point endorsing anyone.”

Some of Gibson’s biggest fans have floated his name as a future presidential candidate. So would Gibson ever run?

“I hear it, folks mention it, but I’m very focused on serving right here in the 20th Congressional District,” he said. “I’ve term-limited myself; I’ll serve not one more than eight years. I envision a time when I will be back in academia, when I’ll be teaching and writing again.

“One of my tours in the Army, I taught at West Point. It was a great honor and a privilege. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don’t know if that means I’ll teach at the high school level or at the college level.”

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