Ballroom forum brings local candidates

Geneseo once again played host to local politics as candidates running for New York State's Supreme Court, Assembly and Senate, and the Congressional district gathered for a political forum.

According to Thomas Matthews, director of Leadership Education Development and Training, the event, held Wednesday night in the Union Ballroom, was organized as a forum rather than a debate due to the difficulty of debating issues among political candidates who running for positions in different levels of government.

The forum opened with 59th State Senate District candidates Democrat Kathy Konst and Republican Dale Volker, 57th State Senate District candidate Democrat Christopher Schaffer, and 147th State Assembly District candidates Republican Dan Burling and Democrat Phil Jones. The audience posed questions to the candidates who each had one minute to answer.

One of the most Geneseo-relevant topics discussed was that of the recent cuts to the SUNY budget. All candidates agreed with the need to fight the cuts with the exception of Schaffer, who admitted to not following the issue. Burling spoke of past defense for the SUNY system, saying, "We have gone to bat time and time again, and we will continue to do so."

Jones, however, offered a realistic view of the current financial situation, saying, "I will do everything I can for Geneseo and SUNY, but there's going to have to be some cuts."

Candidates also answered questions about bipartisanship and tax incentives for energy alternatives.

Supreme Court candidates Republicans Elma Bellini and Robert Lunn and Democrats Paul Riordan and Joanne Winslow took the stage second. Since judicial candidates cannot discuss issues that may come before them in court, each gave a five minute statement.

Lunn is a presently elected judge seeking a second term, while Bellini has been an acting Supreme Court Justice since 2004 and is running on the Republican, independent, and conservative lines. Riordan and Winslow are both attorneys and first-time challengers.

Democratic Congressional candidate Alice Kryzan spoke last, giving a short speech and then taking questions from the audience. As an environmental lawyer, Kryzan stressed the creation of green collar jobs and renewable energy businesses as the "signature issue" in her campaign. She also discussed health care and economic policies.

All candidates in these elections were invited. Republican Congressional candidate Christopher Lee notably did not attend, to the disappointment of some audience members.

"You still want to know what the other person has to say," said junior Ben Krolikowski. "[Lee's absence is] like saying, 'I don't want to have a conversation.'"

Lee also declined the invitation to the Congressional debate in September.

Despite the small student turnout, forum coordinators and most of the candidates urged student voters to be informed and go to the polls.

"I enjoyed getting to know the candidates a little better," said junior Rachel Svenson, who said she knew little about them before the forum. "I just wish it had been better publicized."

"It's appropriate that the college host something like this," said Matthews. "It is part of the college's responsibility to have informed citizens who can make informed decisions."

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