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Herb MasserTompkins County is overwhelmingly Democratic, and nobody is more keenly aware of that fact than county Republicans.  Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton's career has mirrored the county's political predilection for nearly three decades.  She served as Chief of Staff to former Assemblyman Marty Luster for 14 years, and replaced him in the Assembly when he stepped down.  She has won seven elections -- at the end of her current term she will have matched Luster's 14 year tenure.

Republican Herb Masser thinks Lifton's seven terms in Albany is enough.  Masser, an Enfield resident, challenged Lifton in last year's election, but Lifton handily defeated him by winning more than two out of every three votes.  Although next year's election is  a good 14 months away, Masser is already gearing up to challenge her again.  This time he says he thinks he can win.

"Last time I built a base," Masser says.  "I had nothing to begin with.  Now I have a huge base on which we're going to build enough to overwhelm the numbers this time."

It will be an uphill battle.  Lifton defeated Republican Mike Sigler in 2002, winning just under 58% of the votes to Sigler's 40%.  She won against Republican Tom Reynolds in 2010, winning 62% of the vote.  In 2014 she was challenged by Masser and handily defeated him, winning 66.8% of the vote -- 21,335 votes for Lifton versus 10,581 for Masser.

That presents a big challenge for Masser.  To win next year's election he will have to more than triple his voter base.  But Masser says that he can beat her if he just gets the voters out.

"I have a list of -- I don't know how many Republicans who have not voted in the last three elections," he says.  If I could just get them to vote we could win this election.  That's part of my target, working with them.  I've got a year and a half to do it."

Herb MasserRepublican Herb Masser says he can defeat Barbara Lifton in 2016

Over the years Masser has been highly critical of Lifton.  In Masser's view Lifton is a political puppet with Albany's Democratic behemoth pulling her strings.  He refers to her as a professional politician who has spent most of her working life in Albany and characterizes himself as 'a self-made business person who understands the pain inflicted by higher taxes, business restrictions and Obamacare'.

"She's been there for about 30 years and she doesn't represent the 125th Assembly District.  She does what she's told.  In fact she said recently that if she wanted to have more power she'd play a very different game.  Well, what does that mean? She needs to learn how to work within the system to have power.  She doesn't know how to do that.  I do know how to do that, and when I get there I'll show her how to do it."

Masser and Lifton are certainly philosophically opposed.  He says the rich are paying their fair share of taxes, while Lifton fights to increase taxes for the wealthiest taxpayers.  Masser opposes the SAFE Act, and last year attended a Lansing Rod & Gun Club event to talk about that to voters.  He says the minimum wage was never intended to be a living wage, but instead a stepping stone as young people progress to better paying jobs.

Masser says Lifton is out of touch with her constituents, and says he will hold regular 'town hall' meetings if he is elected.  He claims that Cortland constituents have been ignored by Lifton and has a similar message for Lansing voters.

"I want to represent the people of the 125th Assembly District.  She wants to shut down the Lansing power plant.  That is nuts.  Look at the effect that that would have on the economy with the loss of jobs, the loss of money being spent in local stores, the reverberations throughout the entire county.  That would be an awful thing to do.  I want to work with the people to keep that open and running."

lrgss herbmasserMasser at last year's Lansing Rod & Gun Club Sportsman Show. Among his fundraising efforts, Masser hand crafts tables from stone slabs from local gorges to sell to supporters.

If Masser hopes to have a chance of defeating Lifton he has two major challenges.  First he must raise funding for the campaign.  Masser says he must start early because, he claims, Lifton is funded by Albany.

"I'm raising money now.  I have to raise money," he says.  "She can snap her fingers and the Democrats in Albany will give her all kinds of money, so she does what she is told by Albany.  She is just a vote for Albany so they want to do the best they can to keep her there.  I have to go grass-roots and raise money, so I'm starting quite early to raise money and I'm doing quite well."

The second challenge is much more important.  Masser will have to connect with voters and convince him that what he has to offer is what they want.  Ultimately it all comes down to numbers.  Republicans say they are hopeful about their chances in this year's local election and future elections as well.  The overarching theme of their annual dinner a few weeks ago was 'All Politics Is Local', and speakers stressed that it was about energizing registered Republican voters who have given up on voting.

"We're always optimistic," says Tompkins County Republican Committee Jamie Drader.  "We think that our policies are what would be best for Tompkins County.  Unfortunately the demographics of the County don't let us have much say.  With three great (Republican) legislative representatives on the County Legislature -- we've improved.  For a while we only had two, but we've got three now -- we're working on it.  Small baby steps."

"The problem we have in this district is that too many people have given up," Masser says.  "Too many people think that Republicans can't win.  I've got to wake those people up and let them know we can win.  We can win."

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