Last night, New York State Assembly candidates Dan Lamb, Mike Lane, Barbara Lifton and Mike Sigler debated a variety of issues, from the state budget to student’s issues, for an audience of about 50 people.
Organized by the Cornell Political Coalition, the forum revolved around an hour and fifteen minute question and answer session. Moderator Stephen Johnson, Cornell’s assistant vice president for governmental affairs, asked the candidates questions submitted by the audience and selected by a politically representative panel. The candidates were then given a minute each to respond.
Before the question and answer session, each candidate was allotted two minutes to introduce themselves.
Republican candidate Sigler concentrated on the local economy.
“Tompkins County can lead New York State in creating new jobs,” he said. “Cornell will play a critical role in this.”
After speaking about the departure of Assembly member Marty Luster (D-125), Democrat Lifton described her work with various organizations and projects. These include work on the Test Ban Treaty for nuclear weapons in the 1980’s, forming Justice for All in response to the Contract for America, and recently developing a Democratic response group.
Democratic candidate Lamb also listed many of his qualifications, but concentrated on efforts to make the region more appealing to current residents, including preserving the environment and strengthening the local economy.
“I care about the future of our communities,” he said. “My message is about people fleeing New York.”
The former mayor of Dryden, Lane, another Democratic candidate, addressed the state budget.
“It’s time that our legislature came back to the people and started creating [the budget] in the daylight,” he said.
The first question addressed the candidates’ qualifications for the Assembly position.
Lifton spoke about her organizational experience, Lane described his work in Dryden, and Lamb talked about his work under Congress member Maurice Hinchey (D-NY). Lastly, Sigler discussed how he would apply his reporting experience to political office.
After a question on their community involvement, the candidates addressed the economic rift between the upstate and downstate regions.
Sigler described his belief that the region needs to appeal to businesses, especially their families and employees.
“The number one reason people say they want to be up here is quality of life,” he said.
Although Lifton agreed with the importance of high quality of life, she stressed the significance of education and strong transportation and communication networks.
Lamb also supported developing a strong transportation network, but said that he thought the most effective way to strengthen the upstate economy would be to lower energy costs.
“We need more diverse energy supplies,” he said.
Later questions focused on students, including political involvement, what candidates have done to reach out to them, and the unionization of graduate students.
All the candidates agreed that students can make a difference in the political arena, through volunteer work with political groups on campus and beyond.
In terms of reaching out to students, Lane criticized Governor George Pataki’s actions.
“I think what the governor is doing, attacking the Tuition Assistance Program, is disgraceful,” he said.
Lamb spoke about support he has received from students, while Lifton described the difficulties in reaching out to students during summer break.
All of the candidates advocated graduate students having a choice to unionize.
After answering questions about conflicts in the State Assembly, the speakers addressed women’s and minority issues.
Lifton described her experience with the Feminist Majority, which she became involved with after hearing about their work with women in Afghanistan.
Similarily, Lane recounted his support for hate crimes bills.
Sigler called for reaching out and discussing issues with all members of both groups.
“We have to talk with the women’s groups for both sides, liberal and conservative,” he said.
Both Sigler and Lamb stressed the importance of wage equity for women.
“Women in New York State earn 73 cents on the dollar compared to men,” Lamb said.
Although the crowd seemed to appreciate the event, members of the crowd differed in their opinions of the candidates.
If Funa Maduka ’04, student-elected trustee, were to vote in the election, she said she would vote for Lamb.
“He’s going to be a voice, not only for Ithaca, but also for students,” she said.
Helen Daniel, an Ithaca resident, has been a long time supporter of Lifton.
“I continue to be impressed with her honesty and sincerity about the issues,” she said.
As the Chair of the Cornell Republicans, Ryan Horn grad said he supported Sigler, for both his attitude and his platform.
“He had the best ability to establish the best rapport with the average voter.”
Betsy Cooper, President of the Cornell Political Coalition, said she organized the event to encourage this type of political discussion.
“We want to make politics more exciting for the average student,” she said. “We want people to realize that politics is more than just elected officials.”
Archived article by Shannon Brescher