October 18, 2021

Kelles, McIntyre vie in 125th Assembly race

A two-term Tompkins County legislator faces a production supervisor from McGraw in the race to succeed Barbara Lifton in representing the 125th Assembly District.

Anna Kelles, a Democrat from Trumansburg who serves on the Tompkins County Legislature and owns Kelles Nutrition and Wellness, is running against Matthew McIntyre, a Homer native running on the Libertarian and Republican lines, who works as a production supervisor for a manufacturing company in Seneca Falls.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district, 36,637 to 16,354, state Board of Elections data show. The district has 73,069 total active voters.

Here is what candidates said they would do:

AGRICULTURE

Matthew McIntyre: “I want to open agricultural businesses to more funding, treating them as the businesses they are,” said McIntyre, adding that farmers do not have access to some loan programs earmarked for businesses.

McIntyre also wants to help pass legislation that clears the way for farmers to sell their products directly to consumers.

Anna Kelles: Kelles said she would keep in contact with farmers to find out their needs. “It is very important for me to be available,” she said.

Kelles said she wants to preserve farmland to protect the agriculture industry and the environment, citing drought and climate change among the threats.

“It is critical that we retain agricultural land for agriculture,” she said.

She wants to expand the Nourish New York program, which was created in response to the coronavirus pandemic. New York buys food from upstate farmers and distributes it to food banks. “One of the things I would like to do is make that permanent.”

The program almost exclusively bought dairy products, Kelles said. “The program should be expanded to increase the diversity of products that are purchased to benefit a more diverse group of farmers.”

EDUCATION

McIntyre: McIntyre said he wants to push for increased opportunities for training in trades, making a college and high school education more relevant for more students.

“I want to redo the entire system,” McIntyre said. “We want to put an emphasis on trades. The average age of a tradesman (such as plumbers and electricians) is between 54 and 56 years old. A lot of them are getting ready to retire.”

McIntyre wants to create an option for students at the completion of 10th grade to pass a test to receive a high school diploma so they can more quickly advance to college or a trade school.

He wants to encourage more charter schools and allow home-schooled children to receive specialized services such as speech therapy from public schools and participate in after-school activities.

Kelles: Kelles said early childhood education is critical because studies have found that 85 percent of the brain is developed in the first three years of life and educational services need to be extended to these students.

“Early education is absolutely critical to be accessible for all and to have those jobs living wage, fair wage job,” Kelles said.

She noted foundation aid for public schools has been underfunded for years, despite a 2006 court order.

Making matters worse, state education aid was cut 20 percent this year.

“I will fight to have that money restored,” she said. “It is absolutely critical to have our education system funded.”

The state has failed to adequately fund the State University of New York, which includes SUNY Cortland and Tompkins Cortland Community College, Kelles said. The state has also not met its obligation to pay one third of the cost of community colleges for decades.

“The entire SUNY system must be adequately funded,” she said. “The funding for SUNY colleges, including community colleges, is a priority for me.”

She also criticized the state Excelsior college tuition program for not covering essential costs such as textbooks and housing. Kelles also said it should be expanded to part-time students, many of whom cannot afford to attend full-time. “It doesn’t meet the needs of those who are the most marginalized.”

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

McIntyre: McIntyre wants to eliminate many small-business regulations, especially on low-income business owners. He said taxes, licensing fees and certification costs make it financially difficult to begin and operate small businesses in the state.

He said he would oppose proposals to impose a penalty on business properties that are vacant for more than six months and tax student housing and other income property.

Kelles: Kelles said she has been exploring the creation of a business improvement district for downtown Cortland to seek state funding to leverage private investment.

Improvements downtown will have a ripple effect, said Kelles, who noted she has met with Mayor Brian Tobin and Cortland County Business Development Corp. Executive Director Garry VanGorder. “The economic benefit is greater than just the downtown area.”

Kelles said infrastructure would be a key part of economic development, and she wants to attract companies in the green energy field.

“There is no reason we can’t attract those kinds of jobs to the community,” she said.