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Reprinted from Dunkirk Observer – May 1, 2020 – by John D-Agostino

“Our county’s first job is to ensure that our citizens are safe. We need widespread testing to make sure we know the level of infection in our county.” – Rich Morrisroe

An already uphill battle during the 2020 election year has become even more of a mountain for those challenging the incumbents in a number of regional races. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the November election has taken a back seat.

It is a bitter pill for those eyeing changes locally and in the United States of America.

This past Tuesday was supposed to be New York’s day in the spotlight due to the primary, which has been moved to June 23. Before COVID-19 became a genuine concern, the Democrats were to go to the polls to choose between Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders as candidate for president.

Sanders, who had already begun to lose momentum in the campaign, decided to drop out of the election bid. Who knows how it would have played out if not for the pandemic?

Even Biden, no stranger to a big stage, has been lost in national coverage that is dominated by the disease.

On a local level, challengers are desperately seeking any type of publicity. In late February the Democrats announced Richard Morrisroe as its choice to seek the office of Chautauqua County executive against the appointed PJ Wendel. Quietly weeks later, Christine Cardinale of Jamestown and Frank Puglisi have emerged to run against state Assemblyman Andrew Goodell and Sen. George Borrello.

Name recognition for all three was going to be a problem before the virus. Today, it is an absolute dilemma.
There’s no door-to-door outreach. Rallies and meet-and-greet gatherings are not allowed. Plus, incumbents are controlling the message through daily updates while offering in-depth plans surrounding restarting our economies.

Is there any hope at all for a fair and balanced election? It could, unfortunately, depend on how all this plays out.

Recently, the buzzword has been all about reopening. Goodell and Borrello revealed their proposal two weeks ago looking at it as a regional model. Area Democratic challengers fired back, but their message was lost.
In the news item, sent by Morrisroe, it warned the Republican proposal could be happening too quickly. “First and foremost, any plan absolutely must include the proper safeguards, metrics and testing,” Morrisroe said on April 16. “Our county’s first job is to ensure that our citizens are safe. We need widespread testing to make sure we know the level of infection in our county. While I appreciate the state Sen. Borrello and Assemblyman Goodell’s initiative and ideas, they remain too incomplete to push for immediate action.”

Cardinale criticized it as a “checkerboard approach” and Puglisi, from Lyndon in eastern Cattaraugus County called it “extremely dangerous.”

Public sentiment, however, is tough to gauge at this time. There is a segment that is truly scared and willing to wait while another would have restarted the economy yesterday.

In recent days, state Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the situation even more complex. His regions, it appears, are on a much larger level. For instance, Chautauqua County appears to be stuck with Buffalo while to the east the Finger Lakes are part of Rochester.

Going by the numbers, it’s no surprise the outbreak is less in areas near the Pennsylvania border. Population numbers from Chautauqua to Allegany counties are about 250,000 — one-quarter of the total number of residents in Erie County.

A familiar House of Representatives race takes place in that federal Congressional District 23 that runs from Chautauqua County all the way east to near Binghamton. U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, who has won handily since 2014, will be facing Tracy Mitrano for a second time. Her candidacy in 2018 was stronger at the end than in the beginning and she has some name recognition this time around.

You could make a similar case in the race for Chautauqua County district attorney. Incumbent Democrat Patrick Swanson is going against Jason Schmidt once again. There’s not much chatter regarding this position, but this contest — like four years ago — could become the closest to call six months from now.

By then, we all pray, there will be a greater semblance of normalcy — even if it is the often contentious campaign season.

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