LAKEWOOD - A former county legislator and minority leader running for state Assembly says health care reform will become a major issue in his campaign this election season.
And as a local physician, Rudy Mueller said he sees it firsthand how the health care system is broken.
The Lakewood resident recently announced his candidacy for the 150th Assembly District seat, currently held by former county executive Andy Goodell, R-Chautauqua County.
Mueller, a Democrat, served on the County Legislature from 2008 to 2011, helming the assistant majority leadership post before becoming the minority leader the following year.
He decided not to run for re-election in 2011 because he "pretty much did the things I wanted to do."
Asked why he wanted to get back into political office a year after leaving it on the county level, Mueller said, "Well, there are a lot of reasons I wanted to run. Looking at health care, the system is a mess.
"Too many people are left out. People are uninsured or underinsured. They have no voice in Albany; there hasn't been one in decades. I can bring that voice for the uninsured and underinsured."
If elected this November, Mueller would be a rarity in the State Capitol. The physician said aside from a few select, the medical field has virtually no representation in Albany. His wife, Diane, is also a physician.
But it's not just health care that Mueller will bank on during his campaign. He said government, in general, is "broken."
"As far as the government, it needs to be reformed," he said.
Mueller alluded to his time on the legislature, where he championed consolidation and redistricting reform. He noted a Republican redistricting plan that he helped throw out, pointing out its gerrymandering lines.
Mueller also helped push the elimination of taxpayer-funded health insurance for part-time legislators. In a news release last week, the Lakewood resident called for further cuts to health insurance benefits to part-time legislators on the state level.
"The fact is, most part-time employees in this state are not provided employer-funded health insurance coverage," he said in a statement. "Why should elected legislators receive comprehensive health insurance and treatment at lower costs than the people they represent?"
Also on his campaign platform: Medicaid mandate relief.
"There's like 31 different Medicaid programs," Mueller said. "It needs to be simplified." He added that using property tax dollars to fund state mandates has caused taxes to sky-rocket.
Mueller said he planned to sit down with officials from the county Democratic committee this weekend.
"I think I can work with both sides of the aisle," he said. "I'm more likely to be more effective in Albany than Mr. Goodell. ... I listen to the people. I do it everyday at the office. I want to represent all the people in Chautauqua County."
But if elected, don't expect Mueller to slow down his work as a physician. He said he would continue his work, but most likely on a reduced basis.