It's been a struggle lately to be a Democrat in Chautauqua County. State and national news overshadows what our conservative wing of the national Democratic Party that resides in our county is often trying to accomplish. We "blue dog" Democrats of Chautauqua County usually have a progressive agenda when it comes to social issues and are quite often to the right of local Republicans, in my opinion, when it comes to the economic policies of running a government.
2013 was a wonderful year in that we as a party raised the flag and fielded capable candidates who ran strong campaigns for County Executive and County Clerk. Fredonia businessman Ron Johnson garnered nearly 45 percent of votes cast for the job of County Executive. This was a great showing considering that he had the weight of the voters' concern over the County Home anchored to his neck and this issue eventually sank Ron at the polls. The same can be said for Democratic County Clerk candidate Lori Cornell. While these two candidates were not successful, they represented our party well and served the electoral process in extraordinary fashion to give the voters a legitimate choice on Election Day. The voters of the county should be very appreciative of Ron and Lori. With so many uncontested elections these days, voters often have no choice and without choice there is no democracy.
Speaking of choice, 2014 finds two entrenched Republicans running for re-election for 150th New York Assembly and 57th New York State Senate. The Chautauqua County Democratic Committee is seeking two qualified candidates to oppose incumbent Republicans Assemblyman Andy Goodell and state Senator Catharine Young. The Democratic Party is looking for articulate candidate opponents who truly have "something to say about the issues of the day" and who meet state Constitution qualifications that Assembly and state Senate candidates need to have been residents of the state for five years and residents of the district for 12 months immediately preceding election. Prospective candidates can contact the Democratic Committee by email at email@example.com.
The line in the sand has been drawn for the 23rd Congressional District where Democrat Martha Robertson, the former Tompkins County chief executive officer/legislature chair, will be facing off against incumbent Republican Tom Reed. This race has already drawn national attention and is one the top Congressional races in the entire country. Chautauqua County is the largest county of the 23rd Congressional District with about 20 percent of all voters residing here from the 11 county district that stretches from Lake Erie to the suburbs of Binghamton. Jamestown is the district's largest city. We should expect lots of national name heavyweights visiting our county from both major political parties. This should be fun!
The federal Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, has been a tough rollout and the technical problems are hard to defend. It is without dispute that there has long been a past national problem with health care affordability and failing coverage for the working poor and preexisting medical conditions. I truly expect that by October 2014, we will come to the conclusion in our county that we are better off with Obamacare.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo is up for re-election this year and deserves our county electoral support for his handling of the Re-Powering of NRG Dunkirk. Additionally, Cuomo's START-UP NY program- using Jamestown Community College and Fredonia State University campuses as development zones to attract new and expanding business - has provided Chautauqua County with a unique opportunity available only to counties with state-chartered colleges. While Democrats and Republicans in the county seem to have similar opinions about the need to modify or ease NY SAFE Act provisions, the gun legislation should absolutely not overshadow the amazing good that Gov. Cuomo has accomplished for Chautauqua County.
As Chautauqua County Democratic Committee Chair, I will be encouraging our three statewide elected Democrats to visit our county during the upcoming 2014 election season. One out of every 150 state voters resides in our county and it makes sense to me that we deserve at least one out of 150 campaign stops from Gov. Cuomo, NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The entire county Democratic Committee will also be reorganizing this year. The county committee of a political party is the official organizers of party activities and are the voice of the party at the local level and collectively at the county level. Petitions will be circulated for Democratic committee member representatives from every county town and city election district in June and July. I urge all county Democrats interested in guiding our local and county party to consider joining us by becoming a member of the county committee.
In conclusion, the U.S. Census Bureau's 2010 count shows that nearly 23 percent of all Chautauqua County residents are today living below the national level of poverty rate. (This compares with a statewide 15 percent poverty level.) The Chautauqua County Democratic Committee must continue to fight poverty faced by one out of every five county citizens by seeking candidates who understand economics and understand what we need to do to bring and keep jobs in our county. Democrats absolutely wish the best for the newly elected Republican County Executive Vince Horrigan in the coming four years. Our sincere hope is for Mr. Horrigan to reverse the trend of 7,000 lost jobs under the previous eight years of Republican County Executive leadership.
Norman Green is the Chautauqua County Democratic Party chairman.