State Senate seats don't become available every day. Incumbents tend to hang onto them.
So, when longtime Sen. James Seward announced he would not seek re-election to his 51st District seat after 28 years in office, a spirited campaign to replace him was a given.
We've examined both major party candidates and we recommend our readers vote for Jim Barber.
Barber, 63, brings the right amount of experience in both business and government to the campaign. As a fifth-generation farmer, the owner and operator of a 500-acre farm in Schoharie County, he is plugged into both agriculture and economics — two important fields in our rural area.
Beyond his own fields and barns in Middleburgh, however, Barber has served, by presidential appointment, as executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in New York. There, he can boast of improving services to farmers while staff and budgets were cut to improve efficiency. He has also served in state government as special assistant to the commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, and has held offices in farm advocacy groups.
We like Barber's approach to the job. "When I see something that needs fixing, I roll up my sleeves and do it," he told us. "I look for new approaches to do things better, and when confronted with problems, I work to develop solutions."
Barber, a Democrat, also has a realistic approach to working with his party's majority in the Senate.
"I decided to run for state Senate because I saw that upstate New York needed representation within the majority party if we were to continue to have a voice in Albany," he said.
Barber has called for tax reform, taking the burden off rural property owners, and also for relief from unfunded state mandates on counties and municipalities.
By contrast, his opponent, Peter Oberacker, 57, a Schenevus Republican, Otsego County representative and business owner, leapt to today's favorite talking point of the Republican minority, citing bail reform as the most pressing matter in the state. He railed against "downstate radicals" — hardly a way to gain support and help the region.
We were also troubled by Oberacker's May 6 vote in the county legislature against following the state’s expert guidance on safely re-opening during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, he called for Otsego County to throw open the doors and "start this flow of sales tax coming back in,” a position that looks even more foolish given what has happened since.
In the 42nd District, we endorse the incumbent, Sen. Jen Metzger, 55, a Democrat from the Ulster County town of Rosendale.
Metzger, nearing the end of her freshman term, has proven a thoughtful voice for rural New York and someone interested in the people of all corners of her district. She was quickly installed as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee and noted with pride that she has had 26 bills signed into law, all with bipartisan support.
Like Barber, she said she thinks the property tax and school funding systems in the state are broken, and said fixing them would be her priority in a second term. She is an advocate for state support of localities and emergency services and called for reform of economic development funding — a system that has long suffered from corruption and lack of transparency. We applaud those positions.
Her opponent, Michael Martucci, 35, a Republican from the Orange County town of Wawayanda, made a fortune building and running a school bus company before selling it two years ago. Since then, he has engaged in some admirable philanthropy and runs a small family farm.
Unfortunately, he parroted the bail reform trope when asked about New York's most pressing issue, glossing over the rampant COVID pandemic. He also claimed Metzger is "beholden to the New York City interests that control Albany" — something we have not seen in two years of watching the senator pretty closely.