League kicks off ‘meet the candidates’ in Jamestown

JAMESTOWN — Better time was never kept than by the League of Women Voters’ timekeeper Tuesday night.

The nonpartisan political organization held a Meet the Candidates Night, inviting county executive, county legislature and county clerk candidates to debate issues at Jamestown Community College.

Each candidate was given one question ahead of time, asking what the most important problem facing Chautauqua County today was and what they would do if elected.

Legislator candidate Elizabeth Rankin, R-Jamestown, said the biggest issue is the economy and jobs. She said many other issues stem from there like the drug epidemic and crime. Rankin said if there are more jobs, young people will also stay here.

David Reinhardt, democratic legislator candidate, said he understands and focuses on the challenges of hard-working families, helping youth achieve their dreams and community leadership. When speaking with constituents, Reinhardt said the issues he hears most are poor housing, crumbling neighborhoods and increased violent crime and drugs.

“We need to unite, not divide,” Reinhardt said.

Frank Besse, democratic legislator candidate, said diversity is important in Chautauqua County and anyone who wants to live in the area should be embraced. Besse said many groups were not represented in the crowd because they are disenfranchised with government, politics and society.

“It is our responsibility as people of privilege and opportunity to go to them where they are and say ‘What can we do for you?'” Besse said.

Besse was asked what privilege meant to him, to which he asked who drove to the event in a car.

“That’s a privilege,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that can’t get to Cummins because they can’t get a ride.”

Legislator Dave Wilfong, R-Jamestown, said the biggest issue is the opioid problem as it has destroyed families, communities and neighborhoods.

“We’ve got to do something about the easy, accessible drugs on our streets today,” Wilfong said. He said the way pain management is handled also need to be addressed.

George Borrello, republican county executive candidate, said the biggest problem facing Chautauqua County is that the county has too much government. Borello pointed out that Chautauqua County is about the size of the town of Amherst, but there are two cities, 27 towns, 13 villages and 42 fire districts.

Borrello said while his opponent can talk about what he has done, he has a proven track record and can show what he has done.

Mike Ferguson, democratic county executive candidate, said the biggest solution to the issues is more jobs with family sustaining wages. “The future for Chautauqua County is in jobs,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said jobs have to be replaced that have left the county, and he has the vision to do so.

Every person on the panel, when asked their opinion on a possible constitutional convention in New York state, said they were not in favor of it.

Afterward, a debate between the county clerk candidates, Democrat Leann Lazarony and Republican Larry Barmore was held.

Lazarony said she would be a “full-time” clerk and would talk to the staff to see how to best motivate them in their jobs. She has previously served as mayor of Cassadaga.

Barmore said nothing is lacking in the County Clerk’s Office, and the office runs efficiently and provides good customer service. He said he has improved the services at the county clerk’s office during his time there.

The League will hold another Meet the Candidates event Thursday at Dunkirk City Hall.