A guide to the local ballot
Local elections impact students more than presidential election
Political science professor James Battista thinks local elections have a bigger impact on most people’s daily lives than the presidential election.
“It’s important to vote in local elections because your vote might actually be decisive with more than a trivial probability,” Battista said.
Local elections are often overshadowed by the presidential campaigns, particularly in this unprecedented and contentious election cycle. There are four local races in Erie County this year: Congress, State Senate, Assembly and District Attorney.
Local elections will also take place on Nov. 8.
Brian Higgins is the Democratic candidate for Congressional District 26 while Shelly Schratz is the Republican candidate for the same position.
Higgins is a current member of the U.S. House of Representatives and former member of the New York State Assembly. Higgins holds a Master’s in public administration from Harvard University, a B.A. in political science and an M.A. in history from Buffalo State College. His platform is based on investing in infrastructure, reducing student debt, raising the minimum wage, enforcing pay equity for women and maintaining and revitalizing local waterfronts.
Schratz formerly served on the Amherst Town Board and has owned Bing’s Restaurant and Catering for 27 years. Schratz supports term limits, reduced government spending, removing government regulations on small businesses, repealing Common Core and school choice programs.
The candidates for New York Senate District 61 are incumbent Republican Senator Michael Ranzenhofer and Democrat Thomas Loughran.
Ranzenhofer’s website says he holds a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Albany and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the UB School of Law. He was elected to the New York State Senate in 2008 and prior to that he served as Erie County Legislator from 1989 to 2008. Ranzenhofer supports lowering property taxes, repealing Common Core, investing in community colleges and legislation to help farmers.
Loughran has been the owner/operator of Loughran's Restaurant for 38 years and is currently serving his eleventh year on the Erie County Legislature, according to the Erie county website.
“These [local] elections might not sound as glamorous, but sometimes the issues they address are much more important because they have a much larger impact on our lives than, say, whoever becomes president,” said senior political science and economics major Dillon Smith.
Smith said he is voting for Loughran because he believes it’s important for Democrats to maintain the majority in the State Senate.
“That way reform can happen and won’t just be stopped by a non-unified state government,” Smith said. “So if, say, an issue of student loans and student debt comes across the Assembly in Cuomo’s office, it won’t just be stopped by a conservative held Senate.”
State General Assembly
Incumbent Republican Raymond Walter and Democrat Steven Meyer are running for New York Assembly District 146.
Walter holds a degree in history from SUNY Geneseo, a Juris Doctor from the UB School of Law and has served five years in the State Assembly and three years in the Erie County Legislature. Walter’s website says his primary issues are lowering taxes, governmental ethics reform and removing regulations on small businesses.
Junior history major Alexis Ogra said meeting Walter and getting involved with his campaign inspired her to get involved with politics as a freshman. She said Walter has a lot of experience and supports small government, a principle she said is important to her as a Republican.
“I think it’s important that we keep a strong voice – even if it’s a minority voice – for conservative Republicans [in the State Senate],” Ogra said.
Meyer has a Bachelor’s degree in political science from American University. He has worked for Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and is a small business owner in Williamsville. He is also executive director of the Erie County Democratic Committee. Meyer supports investing in renewable energy, campaign finance reform and reforming tax codes that Meyer says benefits the one percent at the expense of the middle class. Meyer, only 25, would be the youngest person to hold an assembly seat in New York.
“Based on the issues that are important to me, which are education, student debt, that type of thing, [Meyer] is aligned with what I think would be right for Buffalo and Erie county. [He] wants to move toward tuition-free college and reduce the debt burden for students in SUNY schools,” Smith said.
Democrat John Flynn and Conservative Joseph Treanor are running for Erie County District Attorney.
Ogra said the District Attorney’s office is a critical race this year because the former Erie County District Attorney, Frank Sedita, III, stepped into his position on the Supreme Court last year.
Flynn holds a law degree from the UB Law School and he is currently the Town Attorney in Tonawanda, a Commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve as well as an attorney in private practice. Flynn’s primary issues are campaign finance reform, addressing public corruption and reforming the District Attorney’s office so it’s “more representative of the community,” according to his website.
Smith, who is supporting Flynn, said there is an issue with former District Attorneys refusing to prosecute certain cases for political reasons.
“When it comes to the court system, it shouldn’t be political at all,” Smith said. “Flynn is running a platform of cleaning up the District Attorney’s office, trying to get the politics out of that office.”
Treanor is an Air Force veteran and a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and its law school. He is a registered member of the Conservative party.
Battista said it’s important to vote for a District Attorney because a person’s vote can shape the way that law enforcement operates in a county.
“If you want to see a shift in the priorities that law enforcement puts on different kinds of crime, that will be the way to do it,” Battista said.
Maddy Fowler is a staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org