Candidate panel debates for legislator seats

Editor’s note: This is part three in a series of three stories on Tuesday’s League of Women Voters political office candidates debates in Fredonia.

Come January, the number of seats in the Chautauqua County Legislature will be reduced from 25 to 19, and several districts in the area are turning up the heat this time around, as seen Tuesday in Fredonia Village Hall.

As part of a series of debates sponsored by the League of Women Voters, six candidates for legislative districts three, four and five were put in a panel-like setting to talk to potential voters in their corresponding districts and convince them to vote in their favor.

In District Three, which encompasses portions of Pomfret and Fredonia, the candidates are Democrat William Coughlin and Republican Bob Scudder, both current legislators. The seat for District Four, which encompasses portions of Pomfret and Fredonia, is being contested by Democrat Janet Keefe (the wife of current Fredonia Mayor Stephen Keefe) and Republican Michael Sullivan (a former Fredonia mayor). District Five’s seat, which encompasses Arkwright, Cherry Creek, Pomfret, Sheridan and Villenova, is seeing a race between Democrat Susan Baldwin (a retired County Home nurse) and Republican Terry Niebel (a former election commissioner), as well as Amy Farnham, who is running on the Working Families line.

“Our taxes keep climbing and our industry is moving out,” Baldwin said. “We need to bring industry back in and find more industry. Part of my campaigning tour, I met people that expressed an interest in bringing a fishing industry that they already have in Ohio that brings $4 billion in. That could be our own. I am retired and have more than 40 hours to spend paying attention to issues in Mayville. I look forward to being devoted and dedicated to our county to make it a good place.”

Sullivan agreed with Baldwin on taxes and unveiled a miniature camel from the board game “The Last Straw” to present his point.

“The way business is done in this government is not welcoming to job creators,” he said. “(Elected officials) continue to add straw to the camel’s back. We can only do so much before that back is going to break. The only thing different from two years ago is the reduction of the legislature.”

Sullivan said water costs continue to go up due to a stalled regional water district project, which he would push for if elected.

“I have the heart and passion to help the county move forward,” Scudder said. “The solution is electing competent people who are willing to make difficult, informed decisions on the hard challenges that lie ahead. I am one of those people. I feel I have served (as a legislator) with openness, concern for the issues, not being political, but rather serving my constituents.”

“High taxes are stifling our economic growth,” Niebel said. “My experience as a former county employee gives me insight into the workings of county government. I have a perspective on the struggles of small business owners (as the owner of Niebel Realty). I also have a small grape farm, giving me insight into the needs of the agricultural community. Based on this combination, I believe this makes me uniquely qualified to work for the voters of the district.”

“I know the people of my district very well and I am committed to the region,” Keefe said. “I have a great deal of energy and I will guarantee you, if elected, I will review and understand every resolution and law prior to coming up to vote. I will listen to and communicate clearly with my constituency.”

Keefe said the solution to the county’s unemployment problem is to install a retention system to keep local businesses operational locally, which is something the County Industrial Development Agency needs to look into. A better workforce training method is something Keefe also stressed.

Coughlin mentioned his experience as an attorney and manager and his 20 years in public service.

“We know many of the problems facing the county. One: Economic development. Two: What’s going to happen to our County Home? Three: Tax burden. Our biggest problem right now is a lack of leadership from the current administration and the (Republican) majority party. It has stuck its head in the sand and has not done anything real leadership would do.”

To view the entire debate, as well as the debates for county executive, county clerk and Pomfret Town Board that were held on the same night, tune in to Fredonia Public Access Channel 5 tonight or Saturday at 7 p.m.

Comments on this article may be sent to gfox@observertoday.com