It was in March that the Chautauqua County Democratic Committee gave its endorsement in the June 26 Democratic primary for the newly-created 23rd Congressional District. The winner takes on Republican Tom Reed of Corning, who currently is a congressman in the 29th District.
Tompkins County legislator Nate Shinagawa got the nod over two attorneys, Leslie Danks Burke and Melissa Dobson. That endorsement of Shinagawa took a hit Wednesday with the announcement by Danks Burke that Chautauqua County Democratic Party chairman and legislator Keith Ahlstrom and fellow county legislator Shaun Heenan have endorsed her in the primary on June 26.
The OBSERVER was provided a copy of an email Ahlstrom had requested be sent to county Democrats on the party's email list. Ahlstrom states Shinagawa was endorsed by a vote of the county committee members present and that Shinagawa would represent the members of the district. The chairman continues by saying he has met with two of the candidates since that March committee meeting.
Pictured at right is Leslie Danks Burke. At left is Nate Shinagawa. Both are running in the newly created 23rd Congressional District.
"I have spent some time discussing the issues with them, and also in researching the district and the type of candidate that will have a chance of winning the Democratic Primary, but one that will also be able to win the general election in November. I have come to the conclusion that Leslie Danks Burke is that candidate, and as an individual I am announcing that I am endorsing Leslie Danks Burke for Congress," Ahlstrom stated in the email.
"I would encourage all to look at www.lesliefornewyork.com for information on Leslie, or to attend the county dinner on June 14 to hear from all of the candidates. I would encourage all Democrats to look at all of the candidates in the race for the primary, and to make a decision not based on what the committee or any individual does, but to make a decision based on the issues and the chance of success in the general election.
"The most important thing as Democrats is that we encourage all of our party members to vote in the primary and the general election. This election will set the tone for the next four years for America at the national level. Please be involved and support the candidates of your choice."
In Danks Burke's release, Ahlstrom and Heenan cited their reasoning for supporting her.
"I see in Leslie Danks Burke a candidate who will work hard to find solutions to the real problems we're facing," Ahlstrom said. "Leslie has the professional and life experience we need in our next representative, and is the only candidate with the right record to beat Tom Reed in the general. I'm supporting her in the Democratic primary June 26."
"Leslie was the first candidate to open an office in Chautauqua County, and her consistent presence here shows that she is committed to paying attention to our concerns. She's the person we need to represent us in the next Congress," Heenan said in the release. "Leslie will work hard to get infrastructure projects to our district, she understands the concerns of small businesses, and she will make sure the federal government is paying attention to our small farmers. On June 26 I'm voting for Leslie Danks Burke because she has a solid plan to bring jobs back to our region."
Danks Burke said she was honored by the endorsements.
"With support building on all sides of the twenty-third district, I know that we have the momentum to take this district for the Democrats," she added. "I look forward to working with people across the Southern Tier to come together to bring jobs back to our region."
Danks Burke's candidacy was endorsed earlier by Chautauqua County Legislator Timothy Hoyer (D-Jamestown), as well as Tompkins County Democratic Legislators Pam Mackesey, Dooley Kiefer and Pat Pryor.
Along with the endorsement of the Chautauqua County Democratic Committee, Shinagawa has been endorsed by the Tompkins, Chemung and Steuben counties Democratic Committees. In addition, mayors Anthony J. Dolce (Dunkirk), Steve Keefe (Fredonia) and Sam Teresi (Jamestown) have endorsed Shinagawa.
On Wednesday, the Dunkirk City Democratic committee, which includes Ahlstrom and Heenan as members, added its endorsement for Shinagawa.
City Democratic Chairman Frank Gawronski said city committee members present for the vote unanimously endorsed Shinagawa, as did the county committee during its endorsement meeting.
"Basically our committee is appreciative that Nate has established his office in the city of Dunkirk and that he's a strong Democratic candidate," Gawronski explained. "While there are two other Democratic candidates running for this position, we find Nate to be someone who has aligned himself with the middle class and creating jobs, has a good background in health care and all the major issues that concern us.
"He's been very cooperative and is someone we feel that if he wins the primary would be an excellent congressman for our area. It's not everyday we get a congressman who's willing to spend a lot of time in Dunkirk."
Gawronski added the other two Democratic primary contestants are also good candidates.
"If for some reason one of them is to win, as a Democratic committee we would certainly be supporting that candidate," he said, "but as of right now we're asking people to support Nate Shinagawa as the Democratic candidate."
There were 27,416 registered Democrats in Chautauqua County as of April, according to the Board of Elections website.
Danks Burke and Dobson are scheduled to participate in a forum at the James Prendergast Library in Jamestown today at 5:30 p.m. Shinagawa will be unable to attend due to a previously scheduled event in Ithaca
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