On the evening of Oct. 18, a crowd of about 60 area residents packed the Cazenovia Public Library Community Room to observe a candidate forum for the two politicians seeking a seat in the 121st Assembly District. The Cazenovia League of Women Voters hosted and moderated the forum, in which incumbent Assemblyman Bill Magee and newcomer Levi Spires participated.
The newly-drawn 121st District covers all of Madison County, much of Otsego County and a portion of Oneida County. Assembly members serve two-year terms.
Magee, who has held the seat of Assemblyman (originally for the 111th District, before the redrawing) since 1990, is running on the Democrat party line. He is a resident of Nelson and chair of the NYS Assembly Agriculture Committee. A longtime supporter of area farmers and the agricultural community, Magee said he hopes to see the industry continue to grow and find ways to get Central New York produce to downstate customers.
“I feel as if I’ve made a real difference in our communities and tried hard or represent all residents,” Magee said during the forum. “There are still things I can help with. I’d like the opportunity to go back to Albany for [another term] and further address some of the issues we’re seeing right now, such as consolidation and reduction of state [aid].”
A former captain of the United States Air Force, current Cazenovia resident and internet-marketing professional, Spires is running as a conservative Republican and has received endorsements from both the Madison and Otsego County Republican committees. Spires said he hopes to reduce the tax burden on area businesses and residents by facilitating job growth through adopting a strategy of fiscal prudence, simple government and entrepreneurship.
“Small things haven’t worked, the numbers manifest themselves. We’ve lost so much of our youth, there are only [about] 27 percent of people under the age of 35 living in the three counties I’d represent. We don’t have to manage the slow decline of our region,” Spires said. “I don’t blame Assembly Magee for any of this, it’s not his fault. We need major reform in New York state. I believe I have the education … experience … and enthusiasm to lead this effort.”
Over the course of the hour, the two men described their platforms to those in attendance and answered residents’ questions pertaining to the New York state government. Topics of discussion included unfunded mandates, the state budget and property tax cap, Medicaid, hydrofracking, government ethics violations, how to keep young people living and working in Central New York, partisanship in Albany, term limits, the importance of the arts, workman’s compensation, political campaign funding and taxing the Oneida Indian Nation.
While the two candidates agreed on many points, some of the issues on which they differed strongly were hydrofracking, tax breaks for some businesses and term limits.
Magee said he is not in favor of drilling for natural gas in this region, and has supported legislation in favor of passing moratoriums against the practice. Spires said he thinks it is a matter of time before New York state regulates hydrofracking, and while he wants to be absolutely sure it is safe for area residents, farmland and workers – thinks it could be an opportunity for job creation and economic growth.
Spires told audience members he is against tax breaks for certain companies while others go without governmental assistance, saying either all or none should receive occasional funding. Magee said he has supported giving special tax breaks to some businesses over others, because those companies have shown continued success and have the potential for large job growth.
Although all state Assembly members govern in two-year terms, they are allowed to continually to run for office each election. Magee said his time as an Assemblyman has afforded him the knowledge and experience to get things done in Albany, and listed some of his accomplishments, including the reopening of the Clark Street bridge and passage of bills supporting local farmers. Spires said he is in favor of limiting the number of terms a politician can serve, as many who have held a position for a large amount of time become too powerful and may change their views to appease fellow officials and continue to hold their seat.
As the hour drew to a close both candidates and Cazenovia League of Women Voters members thanked the standing-room only crowd for attending, and asked them to tell their friends and neighbors what they’ve learned. Elections will be held Tuesday, Nov. 6.
For more information on the 121st Assembly District, visit assembly.state.ny.us or madisoncounty.org/boe. Additional information on Spires can be found at leviforassembly.levispires.com. To learn more about Bill Magee, visit assembly.state.ny.us/mem/William-Magee.
Pierce Smith is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at 434-8889 ext. 338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.