In this year's campaign, three of the six seats representing Auburn residents on the Cayuga County Legislature are up for election, but just two have contested races on the ballot: Districts 11 and 13.
District 11, which covers much of the city's northeastern quadrant, features Elane Daly running on the Democratic, Working Families and Auburn First ballot lines against Michael Lesch on the Republican and Conservative lines. Both are newcomers to seeking elected office, and they are hoping to replace Frank Reginelli, who decided not to run for another four-year term.
Our initial observation about both Daly and Lesch is that they are among the strongest candidates in the field this year for the various contested Legislature seats. Unfortunately, we can't pluck one of them out of District 11 and stick them somewhere else. Only one can begin their first term in January.
Daly has retired from a long career in Cayuga County government, having moved up through the ranks at the Health and Human Services Department to ultimately become director. She clearly knows the inner workings of county government, and she has a solid grasp of current issues facing the county, such as the Owasco Lake water quality problem and the need for more stability out of the county administrator position. Our main concern from listening to Daly on the campaign trail is that she's too often reluctant to articulate a position on issues, such as whether she supports building a new county office building or refurbishing the current facility, even suggesting that it's not really worth discussing because it's not an immediate problem.
Lesch is a certified public accountant who works closely on financial management issues with a variety of clients, giving him exposure to a range of industries and the issues they confront. He's clearly a numbers guy, from this choice of a profession to the way he answers questions in an analytical way. What struck us most about Lesch's campaign was the work he put in to understand the wide range of issues that the Legislature must confront. He'll go into detail about why he supports the development of a Nine Element Watershed Plan for Owasco Lake because it's a good fit for dealing with the variety of non-point pollution sources in the watershed. He has put considerable thought into the population trends within Cayuga County and the challenges of providing services with a shrinking base of taxpaying residents.
In general, Lesch and Daly do not radically differ on most issues. What separates them is their experience, and one could argue in favor of either as being a good fit. Ultimately, we chose to take a broad view at what's missing on the Legislature currently, and we feel it could use a few more people with the financial experience that Lesch offers. His skill set, combined with an impressive work ethic, makes him an ideal choice.
District 13 covers a large portion of the city's center. Seeking a final term (due to the law that limits service to three full terms) is Tim Lattimore, running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence ballot lines. His opponent is Bob Nodzo on the Democratic and Auburn First lines.
Nodzo is a retired educator who loves to talk about the growth of the tourism and entertainment industry in downtown Auburn. He often speaks about his approach to solving problems, referring to "chart paper" and figuring out the pros and cons of proposals. This measured approach makes sense. Too often, though, he provides a generic answer to questions on specific issues, raising concerns about how informed he has become. In addition, Nodzo appears to have the belief that legislators are supposed to take direction from the county administrator, a flawed understanding of how county government is structured.
Unlike Nodzo, who has never run for elected office, Lattimore has a long history of serving, with stints on the Legislature, as an Auburn city councilor and as a former city mayor. Unlike his first two successful runs for Legislature in which this newspaper endorsed his opponents, this year we saw Lattimore more focused on offering specific solutions to county problems. In an age when far too many elected officials simply stay quiet and wait for votes to get called, Lattimore comes up with ideas and puts them out there for consideration. He has concrete proposals for helping Owasco Lake, for addressing county government structural deficiencies and for reconfiguring the downtown office building. Some of the issues we've criticized Lattimore for in the past remain, but we've never disputed that he has a passion for serving the residents of Auburn and Cayuga County. When weighed against his opponent this year, we see Lattimore as the better choice.
The Citizen endorses Michael Lesch and Tim Lattimore for Cayuga County Legislature.
The Citizen Editorial Board includes publisher Rob Forcey, managing editor Mike Dowd and executive editor Jeremy Boyer.