• State Senate •

Send newcomers O’Shea, Russo to Albany

In his 18 years representing the state's 54th Senate District, Sen. Michael Nozzolio has been tremendously responsive to the needs of Auburn and Cayuga County. But, given the problems we see with state government these days, his high marks for constituent service have to be weighed against his effect in important statewide issues. He says he wants a state spending cap and a property tax cap, but we’ve been waiting years to see any progress, including plenty when his party controlled the Senate and the executive branch. He remains unapologetic for taking part in the Senate coup debacle that paralyzed state government in the summer of 2009, and changed his tune on the unfair distribution of member-item cash after Democrats took control of the Senate. After so many years in the Legislature, Nozzolio — and almost every incumbent in the Legislature — can’t be seen as part of the solution to Albany's dysfunction, so we must conclude that he is part of the problem. At the end of the year, we would like to thank him for his service, but we believe the time has come to go in a new direction.

SUNY Oswego English teacher Ed O'Shea hasn’t been afraid to criticize Senate Democrats. He would get feedback from the community on pork projects to get a consensus about where people want money spent, rather than just handing out checks when money becomes available. He wants to increase the cohesiveness of the state rather than continuing to push the upstate/downstate divide. He's against empowering SUNY schools to make more of their own choices, like raising tuition, even though that stance is at odds with his party. He doesn't want to see massive state layoffs but wants to identify waste and duplication of services within state agencies as a way to help balance the budget. He understands the importance of tourism in this region and would work to find the overlooked opportunities to promote it.

 Voters have previously supported Democrat Sen. David Valesky in the state's 49th Senate District based largely on his platforms of reform. Openness and transparency, he has said, will be key to changing the culture in the Legislature. As his third term winds down, however, we need to measure his accomplishments against his promises. Valesky for years had railed against the unfair distribution of member items in the Senate, but when the Democrats finally took control of that house the formula is still a far cry from the equitable split he had asked for in the past.

And having risen to a leadership position in his conference, he needs to be held accountable for the deal that made turncoat Sen. Pedro Espada Senate Majority Leader, which was essentially a monetary payoff for Espada's vote.

Newcomer Andrew Russo is a strong voice for term limits for state offices. He insists that he has no desire to seek any office higher than state Legislature.

He says he'll stick his neck out and vote against his party if asked to vote against his conscience. He wants to completely restructure the member-item process to allow communities, not politicians, to decide where any money gets directed locally. He has specific plans to reform Medicaid through fraud enforcement, residency requirements and cutting the number of non-emergency services to bring it in line with the average worker covered by private insurance. Russo wants the state to set the tone for government consolidation and would like to start by identifying the duplicative nature of the state's many public authorities.

With too little of substance being accomplished in Albany in recent years, we're willing to give Russo the same chance voters gave Valesky.

The Citizen endorses Ed O’Shea and Andrew Russo for state Senate.




• u.s. House of Representatives •

Hanna, Maffei bring practicality to the House

If you’ve relied solely on television advertisements to inform your decision for the 24th Congressional District race, you’re probably not feeling too hopeful about either candidate.

What’s truly shameful about the attack-style ads that U.S. Rep. Michael Arcuri and challenger Richard Hanna have launched at each other is that they’ve made both look petty and bitterly partisan.

But the truth is that when you sit down to speak with these gentlemen, or listen to them in a debate, or even dig into some of their websites, we have two thoughtful candidates who care deeply about their district.

Hanna, the Republican candidate, surprised most political experts when he narrowly lost to Democrat Arcuri two years ago. Most expected Arcuri to win easily. We expect a close race again, and for good reason. These are two solid candidates.

In the end, though, we lean toward Hanna this time around. The self-made construction company owner understands the challenges employers face in today’s economy as well as anyone. Most importantly, Hanna has shown he’s not afraid to speak out against his own party. Unlike so many GOP challengers who call for outright repeal of a health-care bill that has some truly needed reforms, Hanna wants to work first to try to fix it.

It’s just one example of how Hanna is not the type of Republican who will vote simply to see the Democrats fail.

Arcuri, who did do a better job these last two years getting to know his Cayuga County constituents, has concerned us with some of his inconsistent voting patterns, particularly related to health-care and cap-and-trade legislation. We wonder if some of his more recent votes have been merely job-saving efforts for himself.

In the other local race, Democrat incumbent Dan Maffei is the candidate who has demonstrated the most common sense and the most effective approaches to solving some of this country’s biggest problems.

Republican challenger Ann Marie Buerkle has called for the abolishment of the federal Department of Education in order to reform education, and she’s calling for outright repeal of health-care legislation, and a freeze on all unspent stimulus funds.

These ideas are not practical solutions; they’re merely partisan rhetoric that does little to help this country move forward.

The Citizen endorses Richard Hanna and Dan Maffei for the U.S. House of Representatives.



• U.S. Senate •

Schumer, DioGuardi put New Yorkers first

In newspaper newsrooms, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is often the subject of jokes related to his penchant for trying to make news.

He has to be among the most prolific issuers of press releases in Congress, and there’s not a week that goes by without a Schumer press conference.

Make no mistake, the man and his staff push their agenda hard, both in New York and in Washington.

But while Schumer certainly deserves some chiding for his affinity for the camera, this enthusiasm has always translated into results for the people he serves. And Schumer clearly views serving his New York constituents as his top priority, even as he climbed the seniority ranks in the Senate through the years.

Schumer is definitely one of the leaders of Democrats in Congress, but he hasn’t allowed that fact to keep him from staying closely connected to the state. And we mean the entire state.

Schumer’s greatest strength is that he works tirelessly to stay connected with local communities, including Cayuga County, and he goes to work for those places when local issues arise in which he can offer some help.

Schumer’s Republican opponent, Jay Townsend, has done little to show he would be that type of senator if elected. His campaign has largely stuck to the far-right talking points that only seek to highlight divisions.

In the other U.S. Senate race in New York, Democratic incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand is taking on a candidate who, much like Schumer has done while in office, has worked his tail off getting around this state, meeting and listening to New Yorkers, and conveying his message of fiscal discipline.

Republican Joe DioGuardi, a former congressman, has already shown a willingness to be his own man, having won a primary despite not having the blessing of state party bosses.

What we see as one of DioGuardi’s greatest strengths, his ability to build grassroots coalitions and work closely with people all over this state, highlights our greatest disappointment with Gillibrand since she was appointed to the seat to replace Hilary Clinton. Gillibrand has done little to reach out to leaders in places such as Auburn. In the one visit she did make here, she essentially hand-picked her audience and showed little interest in spending quality time.

We also are skeptical of Gillibrand’s political shift since taking over the Senate seat, and wonder how much of an independent thinker she truly is.

The Citizen endorses Charles Schumer and Joe DioGuardi for the U.S. Senate.



• Governor •

Cuomo is the right leader at the right time

Republican Carl Paladino has campaigned for governor of New York as an anti-incumbent and has attacked Democrat Andrew Cuomo every chance he gets. Paladino portrays himself as a blue-collar candidate who understands the struggles of everyday working people, and his message has certainly resonated with a lot of voters who see him as a no-nonsense alternative to politics as usual. But since his primary victory, he has also shown a tremendous lack of self-control and demonstrated little in the way of realistic solutions. In the short time that we’ve gotten to know Paladino as a public figure he has too often had to apologize for — or “clarify” — remarks he’s made that people have found discourteous or distasteful. Among his top priorities are massive state spending and tax cuts, but he offers few specifics for how he will accomplish these promises.

Andrew Cuomo  has kept his campaign focused on the issues: state spending and its resulting deficit; Medicaid fraud and how to root it out; and paralyzing state taxes and how they can be reduced.

As state Attorney General, Cuomo has investigated state corruption and helped recover hundreds of millions of dollars that once leaked through the system. He put an end to deceptive lending practices that left college students with unfairly burdensome student loans.

Cuomo has the policymaking experience required to hit the ground running in Albany, and we believe he has the best chance of any candidate to make a positive impact on New York at a time the state desperately needs good leadership.

There is also an intriguing group of third-party candidates on the ballot this year, including central New York's Howie Hawkins.

However, we don’t see any third-party candidate with the accomplishments, new ideas and leadership skills required to take over as the state’s chief executive.

The Citizen endorses Andrew Cuomo for governor.



• State Comptroller •

Wilson has proven he can make a difference

In this year’s race for state comptroller, New Yorkers are fortunate to have one of the strongest candidates for this specific job the state has seen in decades.

Harry Wilson, the Republican candidate,  brings a distinguished career of working for top Wall Street investment firms with a focus on restructuring struggling companies. He took his talents to Washington to work on a bipartisan automotive industry task force, and was the person who successfully guided General Motors through a bankruptcy restructuring.

With Wilson we see a man striking positive qualities. First and foremost, he has the skill and intelligence to oversee the state’s troubled finances, and the experience to run the state’s pension fund.

It’s also worth noting that it’s likely the winner of this race will be working opposite a Democratic governor, which would provide a nice check on that office if a Republican was the comptroller.

Democrat Thomas DiNapoli was given this job four years ago when Alan Hevesi resigned in disgrace. DiNapoli, who had served as an Assemblyman held his own during his tenure, but the truth is he was not the qualified person to take over the job then and he is not today, either.

The Citizen endorses Harry Wilson for state comptroller.



• Attorney General •

Donovan has better experience, platform

In the race for state Attorney General, six-term state Sen. Eric Schneiderman likes to talk about how he took on a fellow Democrat in calling for the expulsion of disgraced Sen. Hiram Monserrate, but that really wasn't a gutsy stance given the bloody details of Monserrate's domestic assault conviction.

Currently in his second term as Staten Island District Attorney, Republican Dan Donovan says his top priority is reforming Albany, focusing on public corruption that has embarrassed the state. He also wants to crack down on Medicaid fraud and corruption on Wall Street. Donovan says that he successfully restructured the workload at his current office and can bring that experience to the AG's office to increase efficiency.

We hope that Donovan will take a broader, statewide outlook when it comes to corruption, because there are certainly issues outside of Albany, such as organized crime, that will need his attention. Donovan has the hands-on experience of a prosecutor, so we would expect a relatively seamless transition for him.

The Citizen endorses Dan Donovan for state attorney general.