With two weeks before the General Election, candidates are giving their last-second pitches.
Candidates for state Assembly and County Court Judge gathered for a debate at Prendergast Library held by the League of Women Voters of Chautauqua County Monday evening. The debate was moderated by Marcia Merrins and Lillian Ney, and was co-sponsored by the Jamestown chapter of the American Association of University Women.
State Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Chautauqua County, defended his term in Albany against challenger Rudy Mueller, a Lakewood Democrat and former county legislator.
For county judge, the two-term incumbent John T. Ward is facing opposition from attorney William F. Coughlin, who also has served time in the county District Attorney's Office and Public Defender's Office.
All four candidates in the Nov. 6 election were asked to identify the No. 1 "urgent problem" in the state Assembly and county court system respectively.
"My top priority is to focus on the economy," Goodell said.
Responded Mueller: "The most urgent problem is the economy. ... Many still don't have health care."
For Ward and Coughlin, the answer seemed less obvious.
"We do have some challenges," Ward, the Republican, said. "I have overseen a tremendous amount of cases that I have had to dispose of."
Coughlin turned to the number of reversals Ward has faced as county judge, noting that he brings experience from "both sides" in the courts system.
"I understand both sides," he said, pointing out Ward's lack of experience with defense counsel. "There are some people who actually are innocent."
As for state politics, Goodell and Mueller differed on a question regarding legislation in Albany on equal pay. Mueller in particular grilled Goodell for failure to back a Fair Pay Act in its entirety.
"You should be paid fairly for the work you do," the Democrat said.
Goodell shot back, noting that "equal pay for equal work has been on the books since 1963." He added that the legislation brought forward in the state Legislature called for equal pay for "entirely different work."
As for mandate relief, candidates for state Assembly alluded to Medicaid and its growing burden to local municipalities.
"Medicaid is the single largest mandate," Goodell said.
To stop job loss, and lessen the burden of welfare, Mueller said he would promote the county - taking a shot at Goodell for calling the state the "welfare capital of the world."
"I want to attract business here," he said. "I will not bad mouth this county."
For county judge, both candidates agreed that large case loads have become an issue. Ward and Coughlin said bringing in a second county judge to lessen the case load could be a possibility.
Ward, however, said due to the "current economic climate," it would be unlikely a second judge would be funded.
In his closing statement, Coughlin said after Ward's 20 years behind the bench it was time for a change in Mayville. Ward countered, and noted that Coughlin hasn't tried a felony case in years.
For the state Assembly race, Mueller said it was time to stop sending lawyers to Albany, and touched base on his time in the legislature as validation of getting results.
Goodell said he will look to cut spending and bring jobs to the county. He said current regulatory roadblocks have hampered job growth.
"I look forward to representing this county for another two terms," he said.
The League of Women Voters will hold a second debate featuring all four candidates on Thursday at the Fredonia Opera House at 7 p.m.