December 8, 2021

Ex-legislators honored

At GOP picnic, Seward, Finch thanked for service

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Assemblyman John Lemondes, far left, former Assemblyman Gary Finch, fourth from left, former state Sen. James Seward, fifth from left, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, sixth from left, and state Sen. Peter Oberacker listen Sunday at the Lovell Field civic center in Marathon. Finch and Seward were honored during the first annual GOP Picnic while Zeldin sought support for his run for governor in 2022.

In thanking former state Sen. James Seward and Assemblyman Gary Finch for their service to Cortland County, former Cortlandville Town Attorney John Folmer shared three rules Sunday all politicians should follow.

Citing former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill of Massachusetts, Folmer said: First, always be civil. Second, politics is the art of compromise. Third, all politics is local.

“There is not a project, big or small, in these two gentlemen’s districts that their fingerprints are not on,” Folmer said about Finch (R-Springport) and Seward (R-Milford). “These two have demonstrated exactly what public service is all about and we say to the two of you, thank you.”

Folmer and others thanked Finch and Seward for their time representing the county during the first annual GOP Picnic at Lovell Field in Marathon on Sunday. The event, hosted by the Cortland County Republican Committee, also had Republican candidate for governor Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) as the featured guest speaker as he sought support for his campaign.

Finch and Seward’s successors — John Lemondes (R-Lafayette) and Peter Oberacker (R-Schenevus), respectively — also shared their thanks to Finch and Seward.

The idea for an event to thank the former legislators Sunday came as a formal event couldn’t be held in 2020 due to the pandemic, said Cortland County Republican Committee Chair Connie White.

Finch and Seward both did not run for re-election in 2020. Finch served for 20 years and Seward for 34 years.

Prior to speeches by Folmer, Zeldin and others, barbecue food was served inside the civic center while The Mathews Family Tradition bluegrass band played outside.

Dessa Bergen of Skaneateles tapped her foot and bobbed her head to the beat of the music while sitting near the band.

“I came up to see Lee Zeldin,” she said. “I think he’ll make a good governor. I’ve seen him on television. I think he’s a clear thinker and think he’ll execute the job well.”

Lowering taxes and limiting the size of government were two issues Bergen said she’s most focused on in the state.

Bergen also said that recently sworn-in Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) is “just more of” former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who resigned Aug. 24 following a report by the state’s Attorney General’s Office that alleged Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women.

“It doesn’t hurt to have some fresh blood in there,” Bergen said. Hochul previously served as Cuomo’s lieutenant governor.

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin speaks Sunday inside the civic center at Lovell Field in Marathon. Zeldin, a GOP candidate for New York governor, was the featured speaker.

In his speech, Zeldin, who is among a handful of GOP candidates who have announced their candidacies, said political change needs to come at the state and national levels as Democrats control both houses and hold the governorship in Albany and Democrats hold both houses and the presidency in Washington.

“We don’t want to hear the stories of families and friends having to flee New York to go elsewhere where when small businesses collapse and close down, they have to leave,” Zeldin said. “This is our moment. We can make history.”

The Long Island resident said that it will take the support of all local voters to elect Republican candidates at each level for that change to happen.

Phillip Rumsey, a retired state Supreme Court justice whose district included Cortland County, said he remembered how dedicated Finch was as Finch would attend all of Rumsey’s campaign events in Tioga County.

Seward was also loyal to the county, Rumsey said.

Finch said he owed all what he was able to accomplish to his wife, Marcia.

Seward said he was thankful for making so many friends over his 34 years serving the state’s 51st-District.

“It’s been a great ride together with all of you and the opportunity to represent you and to serve you in the state Senate for 34 years has been the honor of a lifetime,” Seward said.