Prospective New York State Senators and Assemblymen came to Cazenovia to discuss their views and plans for Albany at a candidates forum organized by the League of Women Voters held Oct. 12 at the Cazenovia village municipal building.
Joan Johnson, local president of the Syracuse Metro Area’s LWV, introduced the candidates.
At the event were Andrew Russo, a newcomer competing for a spot in the 49th Senate District, Andrew Russo and incumbent Dave Valesky; also speaking were newcomers Rick Bargabos and Shawn Skeele, vying for a seat in the 111th Assembly District, as well as incumbent William Magee.
After a four-minute-each introduction by the candidates, anonymous questions were posed to the candidates and each was given an opportunity answer. At the end of the night, the politicians were given an additional two minutes to summarize their views and encourage people to turn out and vote on November 2nd.
Andrew Russo spoke first, stressing his Central New York roots and lack of political background. Russo was proud of his inexperience in Albany.
“That’s a good thing,” he said.
He is eager to gain experience, he said. Russo said career politicians are to blame for problems in Albany. He criticized senators for being more concerned with keeping their seat than what they do with it, referring to this as a “crisis of courage.” If elected, he said, Russo plans to enact senate term limits, lower taxes for residents, and stop erroneous government spending.
Dave Valesky spoke next, proudly noting the completion of his third two-year term as a New York State Senator. He also boasted of his Central New York connection; Valesky was raised and still resides in Oneida with his family.
Also a Democrat, he said he has extensive plans for reform in Albany.
Valesky wishes to “fix the internal workings that prevent positive change” in New York. He wants to put a cap on property taxes, create and preserve jobs, and place a moratorium on unfunded mandates.
William Magee was the first Assembly candidate of the night. Elected as an Assemblyman in 1990, Magee has had much experience in the political realm as a Democrat, and said he has many plans if re-elected. He is the chair of the Agriculture Committee and also supports lowering taxes for residents.
He concluded by stating his “record of service goes back a long way, and I want to continue”.
Shawn Skeele followed Magee. Skeele will be running as a conservative. He has been endorsed by the Tea Party.
He described himself as a successful entrepreneur, and told voters there will be big changes ahead.
Skeele denounced career politicians and said, “I will pull up a few weeds in Albany, and plant seeds of common sense.”
Skeele wants to collect taxes from the Oneida Indian Nation, believing they have been exempt for too long. Like the other candidates, he said he wants to lower taxes and decrease spending, while balancing the budget and getting it passed it on time.
Rick Bargabos was the final Assembly candidate to speak. A farmer and advocate for agriculture for the past 30 years, he has been a resident of Madison County all his life. Running as a Republican, Bargabos described himself as an “ambassador for agriculture” serving on the Farmland Protection Board.
Bargabos said he would like to improve the Legislative process and repair the growing tax problems if elected to the 111th Assembly District of New York State. While he acknowledges he will be working in Albany, he said he will actually be working for the public.
The forum lasted just under two hours, giving listeners and politicians the opportunity for informal discussion as the crowd slowly filed outside.
Every candidate looked satisfied and confident as they reminded voters of the Nov. 2 election day, and the donation tabs on their websites.