Twenty-two-year-old Austin Morgan of Freedom thinks it’s time for a generational change in 57th State Senate District representation.
The Cattaraugus County Democrat seeking the seat vacated by longtime Sen. Catharine M. Young, R-Olean, in March after 15 years in the office.
He faces Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello in the Nov. 5 special election to fill the vacancy in the district covering Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany and part of Livingston counties.
Morgan graduated from Cornell University in May.
“I’m so proud of what we have been able to accomplish,” Morgan said in an interview with the Olean Times Herald. “We have a surprisingly diverse coalition — political and geographical. I think we are going to shock a lot of folks this November. This is a close race.”
The fundraising isn’t close. Morgan’s last report on the state Board of Elections website showed contributions of $9,847 and expenses totaling $12,293.
Morgan said a lot of his opponent’s campaign contributions are from the New York State Senate Republican Minority. Borrello has raised $72,368 and spent $31,933
Morgan said he’s running for the Senate seat because when he was an intern in Albany last year, he didn’t find many working class legislators. Also, he said, “It’s time to pass the torch” to a younger generation. Otherwise, he said, “you recycle the same politicians and policies.”
It’s time for New York to legalize marijuana, Morgan said. The state can draw on the experience of other states in crafting its laws. Many seniors from around the district are concerned over the lack of doctors able to prescribe medical marijuana and rural dispensaries.
“Small farmers should be at the front lines, growing it,” Morgan said. “It’s about time for recreational (use) legalization.”
Morgan acknowledged the Republican enrollment edge in the district, but with Democrats in control of the Senate, voters are considering whether to send a Democrat, who would be a member of the majority party, or a Republican to Albany.
“When you talk about effectiveness and who can get things done, it’s the majority party,” he said.
Morgan said Borrello has concentrated his campaign in Chautauqua County. “I’ve outworked my opponent. He doesn’t show up in our counties. He’s run his campaign from Chautauqua County.”
The Freedom resident said his campaign has also brought new voters to the polls as he has sought to register new voters. High school and college voters “want someone they can vote for and seniors are excited for someone young who will fix what needs to be fixed.”
Morgan said people are shocked to hear him ask, “How can we help?” when he’s campaigning door to door. They are not asking for much, mostly infrastructure. They want their potholes filled and the money Young got for firefighters and libraries, he said.
Morgan said the number one bill that became law that will hurt Western New York and Southern Tier family farms is the New York Farm Labor Bill. “It is going to devastate our farms,” he said. “I will be a strong advocate for farmers. I come from a farm family.”
A project Cattaraugus and Allegany counties really don’t need is the $755 million Alle-Catt Wind Farm, said Morgan, who favors small-scale projects. “People are supportive (of green projects) but don’t like it when corporations run amuck.”
Morgan said an example of an industrial turbine project not being done in a transparent manner is the Arkwright Wind Farm in Chautauqua County.
Based on what have been described as conflicts of interest involving public officials making decisions on the wind farm laws, Morgan said, “I don’t trust Invenergy, in good faith, to make our communities better.”
He said projects like the Franklinville solar project have been open with residents and make more sense than 600-foot industrial turbines close to homes.
Morgan said he hoped to be the one to carry on Young’s legacy in the Senate district.
Asked about the low fundraising amounts for his campaign, Morgan replied, “I’ve spent my life pinching pennies. We’ve worked hard to get every individual contribution.” The contributions are much less than the $300 average contribution his opponent is receiving.
The state Senate Democrats and New York Democratic Party have largely stayed out of the 57th Senate District. Morgan said his campaign talked with them, “but we did not take their money. We did not accept their help.”
Morgan has proposed to help bolster workforce training in the area by using Excelsior Scholarship-like funding to provide training for workers. It could be a key to future workforce development, he added, noting it could be a way to retain workers and expand jobs.
Morgan maintains that Borello does not know Cattaraugus County or the issues facing its residents.
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)