The Oneonta and Cooperstown chapters of the League of Women Voters hosted a virtual debate for the Democratic candidates for the 121st District of the New York Assembly via Zoom on Tuesday, June 9.
However, candidates Dan Buttermann of Oneonta and Corey Mosher of Hamilton shied away from taking shots at each other, mostly agreeing on issues and aiming their criticisms toward incumbent John Salka, R-Brookfield.
"Salka said: 'I don't expect to get significant legislation passed,'" Buttermann said. "That's a troubling statement."
Mosher said Salka has been divisive in his one term in office, pushing false narratives such as an upstate-downstate divide. He praised Assemblyman Bill Magee, who held the office for 27 years before losing to Salka in 2018.
"For almost three decades, Bill was a leader in this district," Mosher said. "You knew he was for agriculture."
When asked directly why they were the better candidate to take on Salka, each man demurred from attacking his primary opponent.
"Dan is a very, very nice guy," Mosher said. "This is a little bit tough because I think he is a good guy and a good community leader."
Instead, the two men pivoted to talking about themselves and why they would be a good leader.
Buttermann, an insurance claims specialist, is a member of the Oneonta School Board of Education and a former Planning Board member for the town of Oneonta. He unsuccessfully ran against Magee in the 2018 Democratic primary. He is a co-founder and producer of the TEDxOneonta series and said he will bring experience and ideas to the Assembly. He has been endorsed by Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig and Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh, among other local leaders.
Mosher is a fourth-generation farmer and co-owner of Mosher Farms in Bouckville. He has served on board of directors for the Madison County Cooperative Extension and the New York State Vegetable Growers’ Association. He worked on the 2018 campaign of State Sen. Rachel May, a Democrat in the 53rd district (Syracuse), and is endorsed by Magee, as well as True Blue NY.
In his opening statement, Mosher said he is running on a three-fold platform: moving the state forward on addressing climate change, protecting agricultural interests and reinvesting in the state's infrastructure.
Buttermann also said climate change is one of his signature issues, saying he was running for the future of New York, including for his three daughters.
In their opening statements, both men also discussed the Black Lives Matter protests that were reignited by the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a police officer in Minneapolis in May.
"Things must change," Buttermann said. "I will be there to listen and respond," to the black community, he said.
"We will not and cannot be silent," Mosher said. "This district deserves proper representation and right now we are not getting it."
The debate was moderated by Liane Hirabayashi, co-president of the Cooperstown Area LWV, with questions submitted via email by residents and also from Daily Star Managing Editor Bob Cairns, who was on the Zoom chat with Hirabayashi and the candidates.
In addition to climate change and Black Lives Matter, the candidates took questions about local buy-in on green energy projects, policies to address police brutality against people of color, broadband access in a rural district, voting by mail, unfunded mandates from the state to local municipalities, economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and the "On Pause" executive order to stop the spread of the virus, distance learning in the schools, gun control, how to make sure upstate communities get their fair share of state funding and health care.
Salka, the incumbent, was elected Town Supervisor of Brookfield in 2007 before ousting Magee on his third attempt in 2018. He is a member of the Assembly's committees on aging, banks, health, higher education and social services.
The 121st district includes the southern half of Oneida County, all of Madison County and the western half of Otsego County, plus Cooperstown and Oneonta.
The primary election will be held from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday, June 23, with early voting beginning Saturday, June 13. Because of the pandemic, absentee voting is available to everyone in the district.
Hirabayashi said the debate was recorded and will be posted on the LWV local websites and platforms within a week. Go to www.my.lwv.org/new-york/cooperstown-area or lwvoneonta.org for more information.
* Edited at 9:26 a.m. June 10, 2020 to correct website address.