October 21, 2021

New candidates square off in 126th contest

Two newcomers are looking to replace Republican incumbent Gary Finch in the 126 Assembly District seat as Finch announced in February that he would not be seeking re-election for an eleventh term.

Democrat Dia Carabajal is a professor of mathematics and computer science at Cayuga Community College, a former Auburn City Councilor and a former Auburn Enlarged City School District Board of Education member.

Her agenda focuses on working to help people and businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, protecting bodies of water and spurring economic growth through cultural and artistic avenues.

Republican John Lemondes of LaFayette is a retired Army colonel, 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.

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

His platform focuses on addressing public safety by working to get rid of bail reform, cutting taxes to slow the outmigration of workers and revitalizing the economy for recovery.

The district covers 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.

RURAL BROADBAND

Lemondes: Lemondes said that improving connectivity will require a bipartisan effort.

He said he is aware of the issue as his family’s internet connection was so bad that transactions couldn’t be made, so his wife, Martha, surveyed neighbors and business owners on their needs, brought this information to an internet provider and eventually were able to have better broadband.

Carabajal: Carabajal said that she would work to get the internet treated like a regulated utility.

Internet service providers — which don’t see rural areas as cost-effective places to wire — should have incentives to expand broadband connection.

ECONOMIC RECOVERY

Carabajal: Carabajal said she is open to a wide range of government-based funding to consumers and business owners to help spur economic growth.

These include such items as 0% interest on loans and providing stimulus money to consumers to get them to purchase items and raise sales tax revenue.

“Everything is on the table for this recovery,” she said.

To do that though will have to depend on what happens with stimulus funding at the federal level.

Lemondes: Lemondes said taxes, utility rates and the minimum wage must be reduced to create a more business-friendly state.

Lemondes said that this will need to be worked on while also providing businesses and families stimulus funding to help keep them economically afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

Additionally, he’ll work to create incentives to help keep recent high school and college graduates in the state.

SCHOOL FUNDING

Lemondes: “This all boils down to what are our priorities in our state,” Lemondes said.

Since money is limited right now, Lemondes said would require members of both parties to sit down and figure out where money can be allocated from.

Carabajal: To help school districts facing a freeze on state aid, Carabajal suggested reforming the state’s foundation aid formula, which is in part based on municipalities’ property value and thereby creates inequalities.

FOOD INSECURITY

Carabajal: Carabajal said she would work with non-profit organizations that provide information on food banks and food services, and school districts — a main source of food for low-income families — to improve access to food.

Lemondes: Lemondes said he would work with local and state officials to secure aid for programs that help provide food and would specifically support programs like the state’s Venison Donation Coalition, which allows hunters to donate deer to food banks.