November 7, 2006

Democrats Psych Up Voters for Election

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Tompkins County Democrats rallied for their party’s candidates Sunday night at the Lansing Community Center.

“A rally gets people excited to vote, and gives ordinary people a chance to meet the candidates,” said Shary Zifchock, the former Democratic election commissioner of the Board of Elections in Tompkins County.

“Democratic rallies are important because many elections in Tompkins County have been very close, so close that we’ve had to wait almost a month for the final results.”

Fifty-nine percent of registered voters turned out for the 2002 general elections, according to the Tompkins County Board of Elections website. In Tompkins County, there are roughly 26,000 registered Democrats and roughly 16,000 registered Republicans.

“I think these elections are an excellent chance to take back Congress,” said Irene Stein, chair of the Democratic Committee of Tompkins County. Pat Pryor, Tompkins County coordinator for the Arcuri campaign and headquarter coordinator for the Tompkins County Democratic Committee, said that the rally was the last significant push to get voters “psyched up.”

She explained that she had been working on organizing Sunday night’s rally for a couple of weeks, with the help of 25 volunteers.

Michael Arcuri headlined the rally. The 46-year-old Oneida Country district attorney is running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, for the 24th Congressional district, of which Tompkins County is a part.

His opponent is Republican New York State Senator Robert Meier. The seat in Congress both the candidates are vying for was vacated by Republican Sherwood Boehlert, who retired.

Democratic Congressmen Maurice Hinchey spoke before Arcuri on topics including Al-Qaeda, unemployment, and health insurance.

“The Bush administration twisted and distorted issues in Iraq and now we need a full investigation of the war,” Hinchey said. “To do that, we need a Democratic majority Congress.”

Hinchey is running for Congress unopposed; he has served as a Congressman for the 22nd district since 1993.

Hinchey heralded Arcuri as one step in obtaining a Democratic majority in Congress, which, he said “would be a step in putting the government in the
right direction.”

In his speech at the Sunday night rally, Arcuri dropped a line for college students: “student loans are the way the middle class is educated and they help a family get their kids through college.” He said that through education, the United States keeps up with the world.

After the speech, Arcuri touted internship programs. At his District Attorney office, a program titled “Cyber Crime School,” which investigates white-collar crimes, hired three students following their internship at the office.

“We need more programs like that, ones that connect schools, businesses, and government agencies,” Arcuri said. “They work out great for employers, too. They can see who they’re hiring.”

Arcuri said programs like “Cyber Crime School” are a way to fight the upstate New York “brain drain.” Brain Drain is the phenomenon of young people attending and graduating from an upstate New York college, and then leaving the area.

“Young people are our largest export,” Arcuri said.
In the Tompkins County League of Women Voters’ candidate forum last week, Barbara Lifton, incumbent democratic assemblywoman for the 125th district, expressed her support for the Essential New York Program, which aims to curtail “Brain Drain” by linking the private sector with universities in upstate New York in order to create new jobs for retaining graduates of local colleges.

Hinchey and Arcuri both spoke about the need for universal healthcare in America.
“A government’s duty to its citizens is universal healthcare,” Arcuri said. “The U.S. is one of two industrialized nations in the world without universal healthcare, the other being Turkey.”

Arcuri related a story about one of the 20 debates he has had with Meier, his opponent.

“We had an opportunity to ask each other questions and Meier asked me what my position was on gay marriage,” Arcuri said.

Arcuri went on to say that in the debate, he said that he supports civil unions. But, then, he said he replied to Meier, “of all the things this country has to deal with, you ask me about gay marriage?”

Peter Meskill, the incumbent sheriff, also sought support from Democrats at the rally. After his speech, Meskill said that Robison’s comments on his handling of the budget show that Robison does not understand county accounting, and that Robison has not come up with “one specific idea about what he wants to do once in office.”

“There’s no substance behind his ideas,” Meskill said. Meskill said that is characteristic of the Republican party.

“I haven’t made my mind up yet about my decision for sheriff,” said a lifelong resident of Lansing. He commented on how many residents of Lansing know the candidates personally.