Potential opponents to Reed take stage

OBSERVER Photo by Jimmy McCarthy Democratic candidates for Congress discussed various issues during a forum held by the League of Women Voters on Wednesday evening at Chautauqua Lake High School. Pictured from the right are Eddie Sundquist, of Jamestown; Linda Andrei, of Ithaca; and Max Della Pia, of Owego.

MAYVILLE — Five Democratic candidates looking to unseat Republican incumbent Tom Reed took center stage Wednesday evening inside Chautauqua Lake High School.

The forum held by the League of Women Voters allowed the public to hear the candidates and examine their platforms. Democrats will head to the polls for the June 26 primary.

For candidates, the push is on to gain separation from the rest of the pack and challenge Reed in November.

Candidates began by discussing their qualifications while providing a major policy concern they had.

For Jamestown native Eddie Sundquist, an attorney with Lewis & Lewis, he said he’s fighting for the social rights of people across the nation. Sundquist, who spent time as a science teacher at a Philadelphia school, told the story of a seventh-grade special education student, Jordan, who was expelled from public school.

Through Jordan’s interest in robotics, Sundquist said it lifted him to where he could graduate seventh-grade and then high school. Sundquist ended up going back to watch Jordan walk across the stage during graduation. Sundquist said he’s now on his way to Penn State where he’s going for his engineering degree.

“Jordan had a lifeline. He had support networks,” Sundquist said. “He reminds me why I ran. I’m ready to fight for our kids. I’m ready to fight for the jobs we have here in Chautauqua County and in this district. I’m running to fight for our community and I won’t stop until we get that here in our district.”

Linda Andrei, a retired cardiologist from Ithaca, acknowledged her main issue surrounds health care. Andrei stated that health care should be a right. She also said it’s important in regards to the opioid crisis and the environment.

“If you don’t have health care, you can’t work,” she said. “It effects employers and employees. It effects farmers who are now driving school buses in order to be able to have health care, and farming at night and on the weekends. That’s just wrong.”

Former Air Force Officer Max Della Pia, of Owego, said he took an oath when he was 17 to support and defend the Constitution of U.S. against all enemies foreign and domestic. As for special interests, Della Pia said it’s a domestic threat to the Constitution.

“It effects every policy and law written in Washington,” he said. “I can give you examples ranging from Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, education and all those things that the Koch brothers want to change. They want to reduce taxes for the very wealthy and corporations and support fossil fuels. Those things aren’t going to help this nation become the nation it can be.”

Ithaca small businessman Ian Golden told attendees that a new energy and a change needs to be seen in the office held by Reed. Golden said he’s running because he’s fearful for the future that’s being set out for his children. He acknowledged that things are “messed up” today.

“Part of it is we’re surrounded and led by individuals who are controlled by special interests and are unable to work for the good of the district and their constituents,” he said. “I’m here to say that a politician shouldn’t be a bad word. I think we all value the role they fill, and I’m here to bring a new level of honesty, transparency and energy to the office that we so badly need.”

Penn Yann resident Tracy Mitrano, an internet and cybersecurity specialist, said she’s running for Congress to unite the district and serve the interests of its people. She also said she’s running to right wrongs while pulling the eastern and western parts of the district together.

“Too long have we been neglected. Too far have we been led down a path of resentment and division,” she said. “Medical care is unavailable because of cost. World-class education (is) unobtainable because it’s unaffordable. The internet, a utility that’s fundamentally altered local commerce and communication, is out of reach for farmers, small business, teachers and the students who need it.”

Candidates answered an array of the public’s questions from jobs to alternative energy. They also were posed with a question on how they would stand up to Reed and have serious debate on the issues in Chautauqua County, if they went on to win the primary. Andrei and Della Pia both acknowledged that Reed needs to be held accountable regarding his political record and agenda. Sundquist said Reed’s attacked him on social media and called him an extreme Ithaca liberal.

“My response is I would be happy to jump back into a classroom and show you a map of where Jamestown and Chautauqua County is,” he said “More importantly, what we need to talk about is the fact we need to remove the labels from Tom Reed and what he does. That’s what he does, puts a label on you and says this is what you are.”

Reed has won the last three 23rd congressional district races having beaten Democrats Nate Shinagowa in 2012, Martha Robertson in 2014 and John Plumb in 2016.