November 30, 2021

126th District race hopefuls tout their leadership, experience

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Experience and leadership will be some of the main points candidates for the state’s 126th Assembly District nominations will try to make ahead of the June 23 primary.

Incumbent Gary Finch (RSpringport) announced in February he would not seek re-election for an eleventh term representing parts of Cortland, Cayuga, Onondaga and Chenango counties. Republicans outnumber Democrats 31,626 to 26,685, state Board of Elections data show. The district has 90,877 active voters.

Two Republicans seek to take the seat — Danny Fitzpatrick and John Lemondes — and one Democrat, — Dia Carabajal.

Danny Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick, LaFayette’s town supervisor and the government relations director for the Onondaga County Water Authority, said his experience working in government, including working under former Assembly Member Don Miller (R-Clay), set him apart from Lemondes.

“I am the person that has experience working in Albany getting things done,” he said.

The biggest issues for Fitzpatrick’s campaign:

  • Allowing elective surgeries at hospitals, especially smaller, cash-strapped ones.
  • Getting the economy reopened.
  • Repealing the state’s bail reform.
  • Protecting a section of Interstate 81 that runs through Syracuse.

Fitzpatrick said Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive orders closing businesses initially was a good precautionary measure to keep people safe, but now that it has been nearly three months since the orders went into place, it’s time for businesses to start opening up.

“We need to get our upstate economy going,” he said. “It’s time to hand power back over to our local elected officials and get things open in a timely manner.”

While he hasn’t been able to meet and talk to voters in person, Fitzpatrick said he has and will continue reaching as many voters as he can through Zoom, email and phone calls. He has also hosted tele-town hall style meetings each week on his Facebook page.

“It’s been something of an education campaign to get people aware that, ‘hey, there’s a campaign going on here,’” he said.

John Lemondes

Lemondes, also from LaFayette, said what sets him apart from Fitzpatrick is diversity of work experience.

He served in the Army for 27 years, retiring as a colonel in 2014. He is president of the Farmer Veteran Coalition of New York and is a member on the board of directors for the Onondaga Soil and Water Conservation District and the New York Farm Bureau.

Lemondes owns Elly’s Acres Farm, a sheep farm in Jamesville.

“I am the only one that has risked everything for them,” he said referring to his time in the Army.

Lemondes said he wants to target high taxes that have made New York an expensive place to live and has driven residents to more affordable states.

“People have to feel like they have a future for themselves and their family,” he said.

Like Fitzpatrick, Lemondes said closing businesses because of the coronavirus pandemic, especially small businesses, will hurt.

In the weeks leading to the primary, Lemondes said he will reach out to voters any way he can “within the bounds of acceptability” and that it will take their recognition of his leadership roles, trust and confidence to win the nomination.

“I want to be part of the team building the new New York,” he said.

Dia Carabajal

The only Democrat running for the seat, Carabajal is a professor of mathematics and computer science at Cayuga Community College.

She is also a former Auburn City Council member and member the Auburn Enlarged City School District board.

Her top priorities include:

  • Supporting working families.
  • Seeking social justice and equity for all.
  • Supporting economic development through the arts and culture.
  • Encouraging and supporting women to run for government office positions.

“Having been in city government and been on the school board, I understand how the people of the 126th are affected by the decisions or the indecisions of Albany,” she said.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, she said that while she understands the need to get businesses and economies back and running, safety should be the top priority.

“We just can’t put anybody at risk,” she said, adding that a safe but slow path to recovery would be best.

Carabajal faces the challenge of running for a district where registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats by nearly 5,000 voters, although another 21,683 unaffiliated voters are registered, state data show.

“I’m not going to shy away from things that are hard,” she said, noting her career as a math professor. Additionally, she said party affiliation in the district doesn’t always match how they vote.

“I think the people of the 126th are smart and going to make good decisions regardless of party line so I need to get out there and meet people,” she said.

Carabajal plans to reach out and speak with voters through Zoom meetings and phone calls to hear their concerns, she said.