Election candidates square off in Cortland forum

CORTLAND, N.Y. — Local residents gathered at the Cortland Elk Lodge Saturday morning to hear from candidates running in the November election.

Participating candidates were Joyce St. George, who is running for the New York State Senate on the Democratic and Women’s Equality parties; New York State Sen. James Seward, who represents the 51st Senate district. The forum also featured Republican Gary D. Finch, who is running for re-election in the New York State Assembly, and Keith Batman, a Cayuga County legislator who is seeking Finch’s seat.

The forum was hosted by the Women’s Coalition of Cortland County and moderated by Alison King, president of the Cortland County League of Women Voters.

When asked about what can be done about New York’s high tax rate, candidate Joyce St. George proposed that the state put agriculture and environmental science into the BOCES program.

“What we have here is a beautiful area that we can take advantage of,” St. George said. “We can do recreation. We can do tourism.”

Sen. Seward took a different approach, suggesting that the solution lies in tax cuts, reduced business regulations, and improvements in job training.

“I would like to establish a small business liaison in every state agency so that they can work with our small businesses and not only help them to survive, but to grow,” he said.

Candidates also broached the topic of healthcare, discussing the possibility of a single-payer health insurance system.

“Access to healthcare is a critical right that everyone should have from birth to death,” Keith Batman said, adding that a single-payer system would save the state money overall.

Assemblyman Finch argued that such a system would be too costly. “Single payer is so expensive that we can’t afford it,” he said.

When asked about the SAFE Act, New York’s controversial gun control law that was passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2013, most candidates shared a general consensus that that law has its flaws.

“In rural New York, we look at guns as tools,” said St. George, a Democrat. Candidate Batman echoed that sentiment, saying that many rural upstate residents carry weapons and “there should be nothing illegal about owning a gun.”

Cortland residents will have the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice on Tues., Nov. 6, 2018, in the general election.