Given the mess that is New York's state government, voters might wonder whether there's any point in voting in state races on November 5.
A representative democracy this is not. Republicans have a stronghold on the Senate, the Democrats on the Assembly, and leaders of both are not only content to keep things that way, they go out of their way to guarantee it. Legislative district lines are drawn up by party leaders to maintain the existing balance. Non-incumbents seldom have a chance at being elected. And the major decisions in Albany are made by the governor and the Senate and Assembly leaders, with ordinary elected representatives all but shut out.
Nonetheless, the people we send to Albany are our representatives. They look out for local interests. And as the country continues to tilt toward hard-core conservatism, it's important to support moderates and progressives at all levels of government.
Our endorsements, obviously, reflect this newspaper's progressive philosophy. You'll find the candidates' views starting on page 7 of this edition. (Endorsements for local Congressional races and the governorship will appear in next week's issue.)Senate, 56th District
For perhaps the most politically contentious seat up for grabs this year --- the 56th District in the Senate --- we endorse Democrat Harry Bronson, over recent Republican convert Joe Robach, to represent Brighton, Greece, Parma, and much of the city.
Bronson is a sharp, straight-forward, passionate person who's dedicated much of his professional life to helping others. A former president and CEO of the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley and member of the City Planning Commission, Bronson has the ability to fight for a broad constituency and work out technical details.
Robach casts himself as the people's candidate, unbeholden to partisan political interests. He boasts that as a member of the Republican majority in the Senate, he'd be well-positioned to deliver the goods for his constituents. But Robach's essentially embracing business-as-usual in Albany, where partisan interests routinely trump the public's. However well-intentioned, that's a crass approach to public service.
We believe Bronson will be more of a free-thinker. He should get the chance to serve.Assembly
For the 130th Assembly District (Henrietta, Mendon, and Pittsford), we endorse Democrat Christine Saltzberg over Republican incumbent Joe Errigo. Errigo declined the opportunity to present his positions to you, City's readers.
Saltzberg, who lost to Errigo in 2000, would be strong on health care issues, and her background in education would also be an asset. She doesn't seem to have given much thought to issues like reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws or ways to curb the violence plaguing Rochester's inner-city. But she'd add an intelligent, liberal voice to our Assembly delegation.
Independent Charles Eames is a tempting alternative, a blunt-spoken maverick who'd repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws and institute a progressive drug policy, one that would likely legalize marijuana for personal use and regulate other currently illegal drugs.
But Eames' Libertarian leanings go a bit too far. Asked if he supported gay rights or same-sex marriage, he said, "Keep the government out of everything." It's a little too late for that.
In the 131st District race (Chili, Riga, Rush, Wheatland, and parts of Rochester) we endorse incumbent Dem Susan John over Republican challenger Michael Slattery. Slattery's an earnest candidate who'd undoubtedly work hard for his constituents, but his conservatism is hard to swallow. We also believe John's extensive experience in the Assembly (she's running for her sixth term) will serve the community well.
Incumbent Dem Joe Morelle gets our endorsement to represent Irondequoit and Brighton in the 132nd District. His Republican-Conservative challenger, Dean Fero, has been a no-show in this campaign. Morelle has a firm grasp of the issues, and after a dozen years in Albany, he knows the system inside and out. He's also got plenty of fresh ideas, like an interest in the Auditorium Theatre's potential to become the new downtown performing arts center.
When Robach jumped parties to run for State Senate, it left his Assembly seat in the 134th District wide open. Two Monroe County Legislators, Republican Bill Reilich and Democrat Fred Amato, are competing for the chance to serve residents of Greece, Ogden, and Sweden. Those residents have our condolences.
Reilich, a major player in the County Legislative majority, did not return phone calls requesting an interview.
On the other hand, we wish Amato hadn't opened his mouth when we asked him about gay rights, a woman's right to choose, and reforming the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Amato's hard-line conservatism places him beyond the pale for our endorsement.
In the 135th District (Webster, Penfield, and Perinton), we endorse incumbent Democrat David Koon. Koon's been strong on criminal justice issues, votes with his conscience, and defends his beliefs, most of which we share. His opponent, Clyde Benoy, has a no-bull approach that we appreciate, but he's still in the dark on the details of most issues, and his right-wing ideology doesn't fly with us.