- By Dan Veaner
Tompkins County Party Chair Irene Stein welcomed local Democrats to meet their candidates in the large pavilion in Stewart Park last Sunday. Speakers included candidates for national, state, and local races, including
"We are fighting the fight of our lives in this country," Stein said. "The right wing has hypnotized many in the nation into believing that dirty air is clean air. That polluted water is clean water. That reforming disgraceful business at financial practices is government meddling."
She said that Democrats are dispirited by the current climate, including the economic climate, and urged local democrats to do something about it rather than bewailing the changing political tide that seems to be favoring Republicans at the moment. That set the tone for speeches by U.S. Congressman Michael Arcuri, State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, challenger for the State Senate Ed O'Shea, Tompkins County Sheriff Peter Meskill, County Judge John Rowley, and City Judge Judy Rossiter.
Running for his third term in the U.S. Congress, Arcuri is being aggressively challenged for the second time by Utica businessman Richard Hanna. Before speaking Arcuri presented Stein with a plaque in appreciation of her 25 years of service to the Tompkins County Democratic Committee.
"On Wednesday night (Hanna) said 'The problem with America today is that we have too many people in the cart, and not enough people pulling the cart'," Arcuri said. I thought about that a lot. It was really troubling to me. On Friday I went to visit a friend who worked his entire life as an airplane mechanic, raised his family, stayed in shape, payed his taxes, paid his insurance. One day he had a stroke. His insurance ran out after six months and he went on Medicaid. I thought, he's one of the people who is in the cart. He is one of the people who we need to take care of. I am ready to tell (Hanna) that if you don't want to pull the cart then get out of the way and let someone who knows how to pull the cart do it, because that's what America is all about."
Lifton is being challenged by Newfield Republican Tom Reynolds. She talked about the issues she has been focusing on in Albany, including hydrofracking, legislative ethics, and reliable, secure voting machines.
"Needless to say it's been a tough and frustrating, painful year in Albany," she noted. "I'm here to confidently seek your support in my efforts to be reelected, because I know that I've been a strong and effective voice for you, and I know that I want to keep on doing that. If you read the news reports you would think that all that goes on in Albany is brawling and corruption. But in the midst of all the fights I have worked very hard to protect the things that you care about and I care about. Our children, our families, our communities, our environment, civil rights, and our democracy."
With State Senator George Winner retiring, Pam Mackesey, a former Common Council member and County Legislator, is running for his seat. She will face off with Republican State Assemblyman Tom O'Mara in the general election.
"We have so many important issues that we can win," she said. "Because we are on the side of everyday people. In the end what we have is the vote. This is not some small regional struggle. This is a struggle for our country and where we are going for our future."
Ed O'Shea, a SUNY Oswego English professor, is challenging State Senator Michael Nozzolio for his seat in Albany. Although his district only represents one town in Tompkins County (Lansing) he asked for campaign contributions from all Tompkins County Democrats.
"I'm running because my family and friends said to me, 'We don't want anything more to do with politics. We're so sick of what's happening in Albany'," he said. "I said we can't walk away from Albany. We can't walk away from Government. The question is, is it going to be good government and effective government, and a government that works for us?"
Judges Rowley and Rossiter are both running uncontested. Rowley talked about the increase in drug-related cases that come before him. Rossiter also lamented the increase of serious cases in city court, though she provided a moment of comic relief as she recounted a lobster larceny case that came before her last Friday.
Meskill was the last speaker. Meskill beat Democratic challenger Ken Lansing in Tuesday's primary, so will run on the Democratic ticket in November. No Republican is challenging him, but Lansing, who was attending a family emergency in Albany on Sunday, has said he would run on an independent line if he did not win the primary. Meskill expressed his concern for Lansing's family, and briefly spoke of his accomplishments as Sheriff over the past 12 years.
"I'm hoping you will realize the things I've done: kept within budget, led the department that really needed some leadership and professionalization twelve years ago. I worked to equip them and train them to be sure that they respond to you. This job is all about serving the public and providing public safety. That's what it all boils down to," he said.
Long lines of picnic tables were filled with Democrats, eating chicken provided by the McLean Fire Department. They took away yard signs and literature as the look toward the general election on November 2nd.