As petitions circulate for New York State Assembly candidates and their respective party lines, 150th District incumbent Andy Goodell and his opponent Barrie Yochim are preparing for November.
Yochim, who was endorsed by the county Democratic Committee in February, said he's spending as much time as possible gathering feedback from the community in terms of focal points for the campaign.
"I'm really excited about the reception I've been getting," he said, adding that his position as executive director of Meals on Wheels for the past 15 years has provided him with the opportunity to listen to the needs of those he works for locally and statewide. "I do that in my everyday work life, and I've been taking advantage of learning about what people's needs are."
He was named president of the Meals on Wheels Association of New York state in 2013, which he said has allowed him to form strong connections.
"Having that trust given to you by people out of the area from across the state and realizing they're listening to you - I've been able to take advantage of that through local leadership," Yochim said. "It tells me I've been able to work through things and get things done. I don't back down - I get things done."
Yochim does not have a political background and has never run for office. However, he said he wants to use the skills he's learned as executive director if elected, and dedicate himself to the position full time.
"We all know we live far away from Albany, but I'd like to do something for our community to make it matter in Albany," he said. "I promoted that from the start and I believe being an Assemblyman is a full-time job and I will keep that as a full-time job."
On the contrary, Goodell, R-Jamestown, said it's in his own best interest to maintain at least part-time employment when he's not in Albany.
"My opponent said if he's elected as Assemblyman, he'll work the job full-time," Goodell said. "Every day, even when I'm not in Albany, I'm working on Assembly matters - even when we're not in session. I try to fit some private practice in as well."
As the managing partner of the law firm of Goodell & Rankin, he said the advantage of working outside of his position as Assemblyman helps him understand the needs of his constituents and the legal issues they may be facing.
"That's particularly important because as Assemblyman, my job is to try and improve the law," he said. "It's great background for trying to go and improve the legal system and that's basically what legislators do, or should be doing."
Goodell also said a large part of his motivation to keep his seat is maintaining Republican representation.
"I think it's important that we have an independent voice in Albany and not another voice for Sheldon Silver (Assembly speaker) and the New York majority," he said.
Goodell also disagrees with Yochim's opinion that Chautauqua County is sometimes overshadowed in Albany. "I would point out that Chautauqua County did very well this last year," he said, further citing what he named one of the most significant events of 2013 - Gov. Andrew Cuomo's support for repowering Dunkirk's NRG plant.
"We, as a community working together, were able to get the attention of the governor and get his support, which is one of the largest economic development projects in the history of our county," Goodell said. "I'm very pleased with the amount of attention we've been able to bring to Chautauqua County."
This is Goodell's third attempt at securing the 150th District seat. He has been endorsed by Republican and Conservative parties, and hopes to secure the Independence Party's endorsement as well.
Yochim is seeking the Working Families Party line.
Goodell's top four priorities are supporting jobs, cutting taxes to make New York more affordable and business competitive, enhancing education and welfare reform.
Yochim said education is also one of his top priorities, while he wants to make Chautauqua County a better place to live.
"That's going to be all encompassing for me this year," Yochim concluded.
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