23rd Candidates

Eddie Sundquist (left), a Jamestown attorney, and Dr. Linda Andrei of Ithaca, the newest Democrat to declare her candidacy for the 23rd Congressional District nomination were among eight candidates to speak at a bipartisan forum in Salamanca Saturday.

Press photos by Rick Miller

SALAMANCA — Eight Democratic candidates who want to run next year against Rep. Tom Reed spoke at a bipartisan forum Saturday after a Reed town hall at the Salamanca Municipal Building.

Reed’s campaign manager, Nick Weinstein, also addressed the audience in the Salamana City Courtroom. He has spoke at previous forums organized by the nonpartisan group Citizens For A Better Southern Tier.

“Even if we do disagree, we do it in a way that is respectful,” he told the group, which had had diminished to about 70 people after Reed left. The earlier town hall drew about 100 people, many of whom braved wintry weather for the Citizens’ forum.

Each candidate had 3½ minutes for an opening statement. Afterward they broke up and the audience was free to seek out candidates to ask them questions.

Jamestown lawyer Eddie Sundquist was the leadoff Democrat speaker. He said the Republican tax plan was a scam and that an extra $1,000 a year for Southern Tier families wouldn’t guarantee more jobs won’t leave the area. “We need to bring young folks back and support the people,who are here.”

Rick Gallant, a Corning teacher, said the Republican tax cuts would hurt the middle class when they led to federal budget cuts to school programs and young people. “We should have everybody share the burden.” Gallant said as a New York State United Teachers representative and member of the state NYSUT board, he has people “who will put feet on the ground,” both in the primary and the General Election.

Max Della Pia, a retired Air Force officer from Owego, cited his experience from the first Gulf War and Afghanistan, as a Senate aide, working for a defense contractor and as an attorney.

Karl Warrington, a social worker for Ontario/Yates Hospice and Presbyterian minister, cited his passion for helping people enroll in the Affordable Care Act. “It’s been a life-saver for so many people.”

Ian Golden, an Ithaca businessman, said he is one of the people who would benefit under the Republican tax plan. With 45 percent of Cattaraugus County residents in some sort of financial trouble and 26 percent of children below the poverty line, there were better places to spend the tax cuts, he said. Deficits will lead to state budget cuts and will be used to justify cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. The tax cuts won’t create jobs either, he said.

Tracy Mitrano, a former university administrator from Penn Yan and owner of a cyber technology company, said “I believe I can bring economic opportunity and jobs back to the 23rd District.” She said the country needs universal health care and we need to address the addiction problem.

Charles Whalen, an economist from Geneva, said he could unite the district to defeat Republican Reed. He said he is standing up for “working people, retirees and their families.” The tax cuts won’t “pay for themselves,” he said. His job is to help businesses across the district grow.

The newest addition to the candidates seeking to run against Reed, Dr. Linda Andrei, spoke last. A retired Cardiologist from the Ithaca area, she emphasized her central issue was going to be health care. “It’s because of the social contract that I became a doctor,” she told the group. For the same reason, now she wanted to give back as a candidate for public office. “I think the Republican Party has an extremist ideology.”

Dorta Leland of Corning, who helped organize the forum for Citizens For A Better Southern Tier, said she was pleased with the number of attendees, especially in light of the wintry weather.

Democrat John Hertzler, the former Star Trek actor from the town of Ulysses, and independent candidate Brian Clasby from Enfield in Tompkins County were invited but did not attend.

Cattaraugus County Democratic Party Chairman Frank Puglisi, who attended the forum, said the elephant in the room remains a crowded field of candidates. The primary isn’t until June 2018.

“It’s hard to raise campaign funds with so many candidates,” Puglisi said. How to winnow the field to a top tier of candidates will be the question going into 2018, he added.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)