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ELECTION PREVIEW: Key races in the FLX

Don’t let it fool you though. This election cycle is plenty important – and not just because the White House is up for grabs.

There are over a hundred individual races in the Finger Lakes, which will be highlighted as local voters cast their ballot. In an earlier story reported here on FingerLakes1.com – we noted that 59 of the 102 elections happening in the Finger Lakes on Tuesday – would involve one or fewer candidates.

It’s an incredibly important cycle locally for a host of reasons. The largest reason for the increased importance has to do with the turnout, which will see an uptick due to it being a presidential year. There’s a natural uptick, according to election officials, which simply coordinates with more people coming out to cast a ballot for the highest office in the land.

Local elections have the biggest impact on the day-to-day life of those living in the Finger Lakes. While casting a ballot for Town Council will never feel as flashy as casting one for President of the United States – it’s a necessary action, and one that requires an informed decision.


Watch our LIVE Election Night coverage on Tuesday evening from 8:00 – 11:00 pm on FingerLakes1.TV

Here’s a look at the most-important local races in the region, according to the FingerLakes1.com Editorial Team:

Ontario County Court Judge

Republican incumbent Judge William F. Kocher will be without competition.

However, it doesn’t mean the race won’t be interesting. Ontario County First Assistant District Attorney Brian Dennis, who is a Democrat, will take on Republican attorney Terence L. Robinson Jr. for the second seat on the county bench.

Ontario County Court features two seats – each carrying a 10-year term.

That’s why this race is so important. The individual who wins this contest will be secured in office as Ontario County Court Judge until 2027.

Dennis, who has spent nearly 30 years in the Ontario County District Attorney’s Office is relying heavily on his experience and knowledge to win this race. In a Messenger Post story published on Friday, Dennis said, “The position of County Court judge is not a place for on-the-job training. The rights of crime victims, the rights of criminal defendants and public safety are too important to place in the hands of an inexperienced judge.”

Robinson has a different approach. He pointed out that his wealth of experience, and the diversity of his experience make him the right candidate. Robinson has received plenty of kudos from within the law community – there is no doubt that the two candidates offer something absolutely unique to voters.

Read more on this race here.

Yates County Court Judge

It has to be the most-complicated race in the entire region.

The three-way race between Matthew Conlon, Jason Cook, and Valerie Gardner has included allegations of fraud, dishonesty, and even political money with unknown origins.

Conlon, who is running as a Republican but is a registered Democrat filed petitions on both lines – but lost to Jason Cook in the Republican Primary on September 13th.

Cook, who also defeated Yates County District Attorney Valerie Gardner, has been accused of using “dishonest” political tricks to make one of his opponents look bad. In a mailer, which showed a return address of Arlington, Texas read in part that Cook, “placed his own interest ahead of the law when, as recently as July, he violated NYS Public Officers Law, section 3, (which states that a public officer must live in the county where they hold public office) by holding public office (assistant district attorney) in one county (Chemung), while living in another county (Yates).”

Those accusations prompted a response on Facebook from Cook who refrained from firing back in a hostile way. However, the bad blood between Cook and Conlon doesn’t stop there. Read more about that story in this great two part series by Spencer Tulis, of the Finger Lakes Times. (Part I) (Part II)

That isn’t the only drama that has been scorched into this race. In fact, Valerie Gardner, who is running on the Working Families party line featured illegally forged signatures during the petition process. Read more about that story here.

New York State Senate District 54

Understanding how important the 54th District is in New York State Senate only requires a brief look back at the legislation passed and regional security provided by retiring New York State Senator Michael Nozzolio. His unwavering support of the Finger Lakes, his fight for unique and powerful legislation like Brittany’s Law, and continued financial assistance for the region has resulted in growth and success over the last decade.

The three candidates vying to replace him believe that the region can do better. Canandaigua Supervisor Pam Helming, a Republican, has centered her campaign on experience, understanding policy, and delivering a message that cuts through the noise. Rose Supervisor Kenan Baldridge, a Democrat, is leaning on his experience and ability to compromise with Republicans – being the only elected Democrat on the Wayne County Board of Supervisors. Ontario County businessman, and Reform Party candidate Floyd Rayburn is taking a different approach. He believes that overwhelming and total change is necessary in order to bring functionality back to Albany.

The importance of this race is simple: The candidate who wins the 54th District seat will have the incredibly daunting task of replacing Sen. Nozzolio, who has represented the Finger Lakes region for more than three decades.

Check out the three in our own FingerLakes1.com New York State Senate debate, which featured discussion on a variety of topics from the race. To watch the debate, simply click on the video player above, or by clicking here.

Seneca Falls Town Council

Another important race in the Finger Lakes involves two vacated Town Council seats in Seneca Falls. While the vacancies have been filled, both of the appointees are subject to an election, which will take place on Tuesday.

While typical council races involve candidates seeking the most-votes, the introduction of vacancies alters the formula. When the candidates went through the petition filing process – they had to specify which term they were seeking.

Annette Lutz and Mary Sarratori, both Democrats, were appointed by Seneca Falls Supervisor Greg Lazzaro, and Town Council members Vic Porretta and Dave DeLelys to replace the one- and three-year terms vacated by Chad Sanderson and James Ricci respectively. They now will face off against Republican challengers Lou Ferrara and Thomas Ruzicka.

The race has largely been centered on proposed Local Law No. 7, which would prevent new landfills from entering the Town. It would also prevent current landfills, like the Seneca Meadows Landfill from expanding. The proposed local law has drawn overwhelming support from those who have been fighting to see Seneca Meadow’s closure in the coming years. While drawing intense criticism from those who have supported Seneca Meadows as a business in the community.

The fact remains though, that the landfill issue is one of many impacting voters in Seneca Falls this year. An aging infrastructure has caused a great deal of headaches for Town employees – who have been working overtime to stay ahead of water main breaks, and typical maintenance.

These problems are only exacerbated by the growing financial concerns in Seneca Falls. As budget season has rolled forward, cuts have been a constant talking point among the candidates and those serving on the board today, but few meaningful cuts have been made. While the board will have a session one day before Election Day to discuss these issues – it’s clear that Town expenses will continue to be on voter’s minds as they head to the polls.

Read more on this race here.

Remember to check out FingerLakes1.com’s Election Night Coverage, which will begin at 8 pm. Live results, analysis, exclusive interviews, and much more from throughout the region on Election Day, as voters cast their vote in the Finger Lakes.

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