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May 5, 2014

New, familiar guests mingle at GOP dinner

By Cheryl Petersen Contributing Writer
The Daily Star

---- — The current GOP candidate for New York governor and a former political standout were honored guests at the Delaware County Republican Committee’s 61st annual Lincoln Day dinner, held Friday at the Delhi American Legion. 

After state leaders rallied the audience, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Republican opponent, Rob Astorino outlined his platform and spoke about his priorities for the state and the region. Congratulations were also extended to Wanita Lewis, honored as the first woman to serve as a Delaware County supervisor, elected in 1973.

Astorino, a Westchester County executive, asked the crowd, “Is New York winning or losing?” and followed up by painting a picture of a state in trouble. 

“In the last four years, over 400,000 people have moved out of New York,” Astorino said. “A survey revealed that 42 percent of the population would follow if they could. New York is losing.”

Astorino described a climate of high taxes and a cultural corruption, and spoke about how his experiences in Westchester County would guide him in Albany if elected in November. 

“There are 1 million people in Westchester,” said Astorino. “While serving on the county board of legislators, I helped reduce the overall spending by 5.2 percent. If we can do it in Westchester, we can do it across the state.”

Astorino also identified natural gas exploration as a goal of his administration, noting that, “Public health and water quality can be the top priority. A protocol and regulations can be put in place and New York state can tap into its wealth.” 

Revenues from the new industry could help lower taxes and bolster education spending, he said. 

While expressing his support for women’s issues, Astorino said he would diverge from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on one point of the proposed Womens Equality Act, noting that, “Early-term abortions are sufficient. To legalize late-term abortions is unnecessary and too radical.”

Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford, spoke about her decision to run for the House of Representatives seat now held by fellow Republican Richard Hanna of Barneveld. 

Citing the intent to save the constitutional republic, Tenney added, “Today’s bloated federal government needs to be dealt with by adhering to the Constitution.”

Other speakers included Assemblyman Cliff Crouch of Guilford and Rep. Chris Gibson of Kinderhook. Crouch and Gibson joined senators Jim Seward of Milford and John Bonacic of Mount Hope, along with Pete Lopez of Schoharie, in honoring Wanita Lewis. 

Lewis, who lives in Oneonta and is approaching her 100th birthday, recalled her 60 years living in Delhi, including those she spent as its town supervisor. 

“We built the Delhi Town Hall spending $60,000, because that is the amount we had,” Lewis remembered. “I didn’t want a debt.” 

When she was elected in 1973 as the supervisor of the town of Delhi after earning a degree in business administration from the State University College of Technology at Delhi, Lewis became the first woman in the county to serve in such a position. And according to Andrea Campbell of the county GOP committee, Lewis’ achievement did not come without some strife. 

“Wanita Lewis stood her ground during her two terms as supervisor,” Campbell said. “While researching Wanita’s background, I discovered the sentiment at the time was not easy for a woman.”

Campbell mentioned a letter to the editor that read, “The Town doesn’t need a woman. It’s a man’s job.” 

“But, Wanita Lewis didn’t let those feelings disturb here,” said Campbell, a longtime acquaintance with Lewis. “She ran and won on her experience. Wanita was definitely qualified.”