November 28, 2021

County Legislature hopefuls field questions at forum

6 candidates square off

Travis Dunn/Staff Reporter

Democrat Richard Stock (D), at right, fields a question Saturday morning at a county Legislature candidate forum, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, at the Elks Lodge 748 at 9 Groton Ave. The other candidates (from left to right): For District 2, Thomas Larson (R) and Beau Harbin (D); for District 5, Laurie Comfort (R,I) and Susan Wilson (D); and for District 6, Paul Lorenzo (R) and Stock.

Six candidates for the Cortland County Legislature fielded audience-generated questions for nearly two hours Saturday morning at a forum, organized by the non-partisan League of Women Voters, at the Cortland Elks Lodge 748 at 9 Groton Ave.

The forum featured candidates from three contested Legislature races, all representing parts of Cortland:

  • District 2: Incumbent Democrat Beau Harbin and Republican Thomas Larson.
  • District 5: Republican and Voice of the People nominee Laurie Comfort and Democrat Susan Wilson.
  • District 6: Incumbent Democrat Richard Stock and Republican Paul Lorenzo.

The county budget loomed large behind the debate; while most of the questions addressed other subjects, all of the candidates stressed their credentials in managing financial affairs.

Larson, for instance, said he was inspired to run because he felt “overwhelmed with taxes” as a resident and touted his financial experience in overseeing the finances of a nonprofit organization for more than 30 years.

Harbin, the incumbent in District 2, pointed to his experience as a legislator and emphasized the key problems he said must be tackled: the budget, the lack of a county administrator, protecting the jail reserve funds and increasing transparency in county government.

In district 5, Comfort, who defeated incumbent Chad Poli in the Republican primary, talked of her lifelong experience working for a bank — starting out as a teller and working her way up to assistant manager of the Homer office of the First National Bank of Dryden.

Larson also spoke strongly in favor of working in a bipartisan fashion to solve the county’s problems.

Wilson, her Democratic opponent, an associate professor in the recreation, parks and leisure studies department at SUNY Cortland, stressed the need for planning and management based on “reason and data and information.”

“The status quo is no longer an option,” she said.

Lorenzo, who worked for more than 45 years as an accountant, said the county Legislature badly needs financial expertise, and he was running to provide it.

“I feel that the county needs some help in the budget area,” he said.

Stock, who was appointed to his post following the resignation of Mary Ann Discenza earlier this year, touted his military background and “can do” attitude, as well as his own business background, including running a trucking business, which gave him experience with budgeting, he said.

Roughly 40 people attended the forum, in which audience members wrote questions on index cards that were then addressed to the candidates by Laura Dunbar.

Questions covered a number of issues, including solar panels at the county land fill, municipal consolidation, party loyalty vs. bipartisanship, the county jail, communication with residents, four-year terms, a reduced number of legislature districts, child care and funding for Tompkins Cortland Community College.

The forum was the first of two; the second will be Oct. 19 in at Homer Town Hall.