Congressional challenger getting early start

The campaign for the seat in New York’s 23rd Congressional District has begun, even though the election is not until November 2014. Tompkins County Legislature Chairwoman Martha Robertson officially announced her candidacy Thursday morning at Dunkirk’s Boardwalk Market as she kicked off a two-day trek through the 11-county district.

Dunkirk Democratic City Committee Chairman Frank Gawronski made the introduction.

“We’re here to listen to Martha and see if she has some words of wisdom for Dunkirk,” he said.

Robertson told the small gathering that she was excited to be in Dunkirk.

“Chautauqua County really needs someone who will fight for the welfare of the whole community, all of Western New York. Someone who will fight through the gridlock in Washington. Someone who knows how to create long-lasting economic development and good jobs that can’t be outsourced. Someone who will fight to protect Medicare, Social Security, someone who will fight for working families and … for the investments in education that are our children’s future,” she stated. “I’m that fighter and today I’m very happy, very proud, to announce my candidacy … to represent the people of the 23rd District of New York.

“Washington is broken and we can do better.”

Robertson said she has been in public service all her life and that small businesses are the core and backbone of the economy. She added she is proud of the work the Tompkins County IDA has accomplished.

She then turned to incumbent Republican, Tom Reed, asking what he has done in the office. She said he voted against the minimum wage increase, which is now at $15,000 per year for a full-time worker.

“The vast majority of people on minimum wage are adult women trying to raise their kids,” she said. “I’ll fight to increase the minimum wage so working people have a chance to support their family. I’ll fight for good opportunities for our district to bring in the kinds of jobs that can’t be outsourced. Investments like things that local farmers need to be able to create value-added products like cheese, yogurt, to be able to compete nationally.

“Our most important investment is in education. We can’t afford not to invest in our kids, that’s our future. In fact, teachers are the best job creators. They’re educating the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

Robertson said Reed voted for the sequester without thinking about the consequences to local schools.

“I think that’s the wrong choice,” she added. “Tom Reed would rather cut funding for our local schools than ask the corporations and wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share. I think that’s the wrong priority.”

Robertson said she will fight for Medicare and Social Security while Reed would rather cut the programs than “close a single tax loophole.”

Robertson said she knows finding work is tough in Upstate New York.

“We have to change that and that’s why I’m running for Congress,” she added. “With your help we can change that. We can bring jobs back to Western New York and we can make upstate New York prosperous, somewhere our families can thrive again.”

Before facing Reed in 2014, Robertson will run for re-election to the Tomkins County legislature, although she said she will not be the chair after 2013.

“I know that I can represent the voters and residents of Dryden very adequately, as well as talk to the voters of the entire district,” she added.

She said she was pleased a study of health impacts related to fracking will be completed before the state makes its decision as the effects will be “irreversible.” In response to another question, Robertson said it was important to look at the reasons for the loss of industry and jobs in the state. She explained her local power plant was being evaluated the same as Dunkirk’s.

“I think it’s important that these jobs stay in the communities where they are. It’s vital that the tax base remain and we preserve the jobs here in the district,” she added. “Basically, the Public Service Commission is considering this option and we’ll see how it goes.”

Robertson said coal powered is better for the environment than natural gas.

“The evidence is growing that coal, when you look at the total carbon footprint, that coal is less damaging because of the methane release associated with natural gas,” she explained. “I believe that the absolute best idea would be to keep the coal-fired with renewables like wood pellets.”

She added a recent study has shown that a complete investment in renewables could make the state independent of fossil fuels by 2030.

Robertson said she knows Reed will be a tough opponent.

“I know it’s an uphill battle, I’m not afraid of that,” she stated. “I beat an incumbent the first time that I ran, surprised a few people. I never shied away from hard work and I’m looking forward to it.

“I think the issues are so important and I think it’s important to step up and I have the opportunity to do this.”

Local officials in attendance besides Gawronski were Chautauqua County Democratic Election commissioner Norman Green and Fredonia Mayor Steven Keefe.

Robertson’s campaign can be reached online at

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