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March 31, 2014

In Our Opinion: Two hot races shaping up for fall

The Daily Star

---- — Anyone looking forward to an interesting election season this fall should already be licking his chops over a couple of juicy races that have sprung up recently. 

Longtime local assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, has not one, but two challengers already vying for his seat to represent the 121st District, which includes most of Otsego County. 

Michael Hennessy, a stockbroker and former Oneida County legislator, recently declared his intention to challenge Magee in a Democratic primary. And Brookfield Town Supervisor John Salka, a Republican, also announced his candidacy. 

Magee, 74, who has held a seat in the Assembly since the senior George Bush was in the White House, has said he will rely on his record in the Legislature to win yet another term. 

“I’ve had a good record of working with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle,” Magee said in an interview with The Daily Star. “They respect me and respect the work that I’ve done as chairman of the Agriculture Committee.”

If anyone knows anything about Magee, it is that he’s stood up for agriculture. He is proud, and rightfully so, of his work over the years advocating for family farmers in this region. 

But as Salka put it, “Agriculture is important, but so are jobs.” Magee may find it difficult to convince voters that he is not a one-issue candidate. And it might be difficult to present a compelling counter-argument to Salka’s statement that Magee “has been in office a long, long time, and the energy’s no longer there.”

The same, however, cannot be said for Congressman Richard Hanna, R-Barneveld, who is also facing a primary challenge this fall. 

Hanna has proved himself to be an intriguing, self-aware and often unpredictable legislator. When he ran against Democrat Mike Arcuri to represent the 24th Congressional District in 2008, he quite candidly told this newspaper’s editorial board that he was only running as a Republican because the incumbent was a Democrat. 

Hanna has since sought to stiffen his credentials somewhat with the GOP base, but has never been one to blindly toe the party line. 

Now Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford, is attacking Hanna from his right flank in a bid for his seat in the House of Representatives. 

“He has been taking populist positions as opposed to taking the positions he said he would,” Tenney told The Daily Star. 

We doubt Hanna would quarrel too much with this characterization. And Tenney, who is sharp, intelligent and well-spoken, is herself no cookie-cutter Republican. And two other Republicans may yet jump in — both decidedly more conservative than the iconoclastic Hanna. 

It is unlikely that Hanna will join in a race to the right, so we are interested to see how this one plays out.