A central question in the 126th Assembly District race is who will be a better advocate to bring state funding and support back to central New York: Assemblyman Gary Finch, a Republican who has been in office since 1999, or Keith Batman, a Cayuga County legislator and the Democratic challenger in the campaign.
Since launching his state Assembly bid in April, Batman has made this a major theme of his campaign. In a news release, he said the job of an assembly member is to "represent the district and its citizens, get funding for projects, and help find solutions to local problems." Earlier in the same release, he said he would "show up, work and deliver."
Batman believes he would be in a better position to help the 126th district because, as a Democrat, he would be in the Assembly majority. Democrats control the chamber, which gives them an advantage in securing funding for their districts.
In his Batman's view, Finch hasn't been able to do a lot for the district as a minority member of the Assembly.
"I think the record shows that he really hasn't been particularly successful in getting the support and resources we need," he said in an interview last week. "Almost everything that he talks about when he talks about what he's done are things that other people have done and he signed on to one way or another."
He continued, "In my view, we don't need someone signing on to someone else's priorities. We need someone who is taking our priorities as their priority, their focus. We need someone like that to go to Albany and fight for us and be our voice. That's what I'm going to do."
From Finch's perspective, Batman's pitch to voters isn't a new argument. Since he was elected in 1999, he said in an interview last week, he's heard the same argument over the years — that his Democratic opponent would be better positioned to bring money and resources back to the district because they would be in the majority.
Finch acknowledged there may be some true to that message, but also highlighted the funding he has been able to secure for the district. In 2014, he partnered with state Sen. Jim Seward to advocate for a $200,000 grant to help finance the Dutch Hollow Brook stream bank restoration project.
He also pushed for a $2 million grant to assist the city of Auburn and town of Owasco with the installation of new water filtration systems. And earlier this year, he joined with state Sen. Pam Helming to announce a $500,000 grant for the village of Aurora and Wells College to purchase a new water filtration system.
"I know Keith says that the majority can deliver those things, but somehow I've been able to do it and been successful," Finch said.
Finch questioned how some state funding is distributed. While he praised the city of Auburn for winning a $10 million state grant through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, he disagreed with the competitive approach that pits regions against each other.
"The playing field is not level," he added.
Finch is seeking his 10th full term in the state Assembly. A former mayor of Aurora, he won a special election in 1999 to fill the seat vacated by former Assemblyman Dan Fessenden.
Batman has a local government background, too. He was elected to the Cayuga County Legislature in 2013 and served two years as chairman of the body. Before joining the county Legislature, he was the town supervisor in Scipio.
The 126th Assembly District covers parts of Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland and Onondaga counties. The election is Tuesday, Nov. 6.