County Dems look forward to November at annual banquet

Democratic energy and power was in the air at the Dunkirk Lighthouse. The Chautauqua County Democratic Committee held its annual banquet Thursday evening on the shores of Lake Erie.

Several speakers included the candidates for state Supreme Court Judge and local candidates running for New York State Assembly and Congress in addition to County Sheriff. One of the key guest speakers was Martha Robertson, challenging incumbent Congressman Tom Reed for the 23rd Congressional District. Democratic Chair Norm Green explained Robertson has been present and involved in the big issues facing the county – repowering NRG, the ConAgra rally and the Lake Shore Hospital rally.

Robertson wanted to let those in attendance see who she is, could she win and what difference can she make if she wins. Robertson said she grew up with her four siblings and her parents and helped out with the family business.

With her several endorsements, including one from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and a campaign started over a year ago, Robertson believes she has a fighting chance to beat Reed. Robertson noted there is such a huge difference between her and Reed. Robertson said she will fight for the middle class, education, Medicare, Social Security and will invest in infrastructure.

“My mom taught me that when you see something wrong you have to step up, so it is time for us to fight. I see our country heading in the wrong direction and I have to fight for the middle class, seniors and for our children who deserve an economy and a future that includes everyone,” Robertson said.

Barrie Yochim, who is running for the 150th assembly district against incumbent Andy Goodell, thinks he can do a better job than what is being done. Yochim has been the executive director of Meals on Wheels for the past 15 years. The organization has delivered over 2 million meals including 750,000 meals in the Dunkirk and Fredonia area.

“I am your endorsed candidate so I am representing you,” he said. “I think I can do a better job representing our community.”

Running for re-election for Chautauqua County Sheriff is Joseph Gerace, entering into his 20th year as county sheriff. He has been with the sheriff’s department for 36 years. He recalled the times that he is most proud of during his time as county sheriff. He spoke of when former President Bill Clinton came to the county for three and a half days and the start of a forensic identification team. The forensic team involves 18 members representing local law enforcement agencies.

“I love what I do and I work hard at what I do. I consider myself to be proactive, progressive and professional,” Gerace said.

Starflight started in 1986 and was funded through taxpayers and the WCA Foundation. Under Gerace the program has grown and has been privatized, no longer relying on tax dollars. According to Gerace, in 2013 Starflight had 427 patient flights.

Another program Gerace is proud of is the emergency 911 system. All dispatchers are put through the emergency medical dispatch program for training. Gerace gave an example of a call where a woman called saying her mother-in-law was choking. The dispatcher walked the caller through instructions on how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver which was successfully performed by the caller’s husband. Gerace also said Chautauqua County is the only county in New York to utilize Smart911. The program, which is free, allows residents to fill in vital information that will be seen by first responders when they call 911.

Also speaking was Sam Hoyt who read a letter on behalf of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The letter praised Green for his work building the committee throughout the county.

“I can say with confidence … that we here in Chautauqua County are very, very lucky to have a leader like Norm (Green). He works hard and he is passionate about the issues,” Hoyt said.

Winning Democrat of the Year was Diane Hall, a member of the Hanover Democratic Committee. Hanover Town Councilman Kevin O’Connell said Hall is a great help in making sure the Hanover committee runs well and that there is a democratic presence in the area. Hall said she was “shocked and honored” to receive the award.

Candidates for New York State Supreme Court included Susan Eagan, Alisa Lukasiewicz, E. Jeannette Ogden, Debra Givens, John DelMonte, Michael Flaherty Jr., Jeff Marion and Dennis Glascott also spoke.

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