Cayuga County is divided up into three state Senate districts, with all three coming into or up to the border of the city of Auburn and branching out from there. And for the first time since these state Senate lines were drawn following the 2010 Census, there are contested races in all three districts this year.
The battle for the 54th Senate District is a rematch of the 2016 campaign, which was won by state Sen. Pam Helming, the Republican former town supervisor of Canandaigua. Her challenger is Democrat Kenan Baldridge, town supervisor in Rose.
Although Baldridge is a Democrat, his stances on many issues before state government are at odds with many of the candidates running for office in his party. He's reluctant about legalizing recreational marijuana use or allowing sports betting in New York state, and while he supports the concept of universal health care, he doesn't like the plan that Democrats in Albany have been pushing.
A big push for Baldridge this year is addressing the challenging of solid waste management, especially in the western parts of the district that are home to massive landfills and the heavy volume of long-haul garbage trucks that come with them. But on this issue, Baldridge's proposal to shut down the landfills and build recycling centers to replace them isn't a realistic approach, and as his opponent points out, he's done little in his current job as a town and Wayne County leader to make an impact on this issue.
In 2016, we endorsed Baldridge largely because we saw Helming, whom Republicans chose as their candidate to replace longtime retiring state Sen. Michael Nozzolio, as a potential pawn in the Albany power-grab game. We're pleased to say she has proven us wrong in her first two years in office.
Helming has been an incredibly productive legislator, getting important bills introduced and signed into law, and she's shown that she will fight for her district's needs above all else. She's successfully advocated for state support for flood victims on the Lake Ontario shoreline, water users along Cayuga Lake and residents who enjoy Auburn's Casey Park recreational facility. Helming is meticulous about her constituent service, and it's showing in the results she's delivered.
In the race for the 51st Senate District, state Sen. James Seward is seeking to continue a career in Albany that began when Ronald Reagan was president of the United States. The Republican from Otsego County has done good work keeping connected with Cayuga County constituents in a vast district that stretches east-to-west from Ulster County to the communities he represents here. Seward, not surprisingly, is against term limits but he does want a more independent ethics commission to help combat corruption in Albany.
In what is a sad commentary on state government, Seward has distinguished himself by not getting caught up in corruption despite its prevalence during his time there, but we firmly believe long-time incumbents still have to answer for the lack of progress in the area of ethics and dysfunction in Albany. As we've said with similar career politicians, we believe voters should give strong consideration to challengers who come to the race prepared to take on key issues and with experience that will enable them to get things done.
In this year's race for the 51st, Democratic challenger Joyce St. George has demonstrated that she's ready for the state Legislature. Her impressive resume includes working as a corruption investigator in New York City and as a training consultant with the U.S. Department of Justice. The Delaware County resident also has extensive experience in health care, particularly mental health care, which is a critical need in this state.
St. George comes across as much more passionate about cleaning up Albany corruption. She proposes term limits, wants to limit outside income sources for legislators and wants to take steps to reduce the power of big-money lobbying. St. George also campaigned on being an advocate for the Chlld Victims Act to get longer statutes of limitation for child sex abuse crimes and civil cases, she's a fighter for greater access to health care and she's a staunch advocate for protecting our precious water supplies.
The race for the 50th Senate District is a contest to succeed longtime incumbent Sen. John DeFrancisco, who has decided to retire. Republicans are trying to keep the seat by nominating Bob Antonacci, the elected Onondaga County comptroller for the past 11 years. The Democratic candidate, John Mannion, is a high school biology teacher who is making his first run for elected office.
Antonacci has a solid political resume as a multi-term countywide office holder, and he's someone who's had the support of party committee leaders in that county who have clashed with the county executive over the years. He knows his way around a big budget, and he understands the challenges local governments face from Albany's unfunded mandates.
Mannion may not have the elected office experience of his challenger, but he's clearly done his homework and demonstrated he has passion for this campaign. He's one of the few candidates we've seen in state races who actually puts in the time and effort to draft detailed platforms on his issues, and he's gone around the district talking to voters about them. His advocacy for fixing Albany's broken education funding formula is something Albany, and school districts in Cayuga County, badly need. Antonacci, on the other hand, has run an inconsistent campaign at best when it comes to being pro-active about how he would approach the job of being a senator.
On several of the statewide issues, these two candidates appear to see eye-to-eye, but there's often an important difference. On several matters, we were struck by Antonacci's attempts to take stances that may clash with the Republican Senate leadership while leaving himself room to change his mind or not make the issue a high priority in which he'd actively try to change minds in Albany. He took this approach in stating support for the Child Victims Act, limits on outside income for legislators and even sports betting. Mannion's positions are clear and well-reasoned, and he's ready to get to work in Albany on behalf of central New Yorkers.
With each of these Senate races, we see a clear advantage in terms of energy, commitment and knowledge of the issues for Helming, St. George and Mannion.
The Citizen Editorial Board includes publisher Rob Forcey, managing editor Mike Dowd and executive editor Jeremy Boyer.