New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli (right) accepts a "Turn It Blue" uniform with his name on it from Cattaraugus County Democratic Chairman Frank Puglisi at the Democrat's Turn It Blue Gala at HoliMont in Ellicottville on Friday. Democrat Election Commissioner Kevin Burleson (left) introduced DiNapoli to 100 attendees, including six congressional candidates and one surrogate.

ELLICOTTVILLE — New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said Friday he was encouraged that “people are coming out of the woodwork to run for Congress” against Rep. Tom Reed.

DiNapoli spoke at the Cattaraugus County Democratic Party’s “Turn It Blue Gala” at HoliMont in Ellicottville, attended by about 100 people including six congressional candidates and one surrogate.

“It’s wonderful you’ve got more congressional candidates running than ever before,” DiNapoli said. The candidates are heading toward a June 2018 primary.  

“It’s important to take back America in 2018,” DiNapoli said. But local elections like the Olean mayoral race with Democrat Linda Witte, he added, can be an important dress rehearsal for statewide and congressional elections in 2018.

Democrats are in a good position to benefit from the current chaos in Washington, D.C., DiNapoli said. Democrats have to get past talking among themselves as happened in the 2016 presidential election, he said.

“There’s a lot of frustration and feeling of being left behind,” DiNapoli said. At the same time, “There’s chaos at the highest level of our government,” he added

DiNapoli also slammed President Donald Trump for being “terribly hurtful” to transgender members of the military after the president announced Thursday that he would move to ban them from serving.

“He didn’t tell the generals,” DiNapoli said. “How do you run a military through Twitter?”

He encouraged fellow Democrats to “re-engage in the conversation.”

“Talking to ourselves is not going to take our country back. Talking to ourselves is not going to take this congressional district back,” he said. “It starts with getting Democrats out, but it doesn’t end there.”

DiNapoli also suggested a vote against a New York State Constitutional Convention on the ballot this November, saying it would “likely to cost $50 million and be a wasted amount of time and effort.

County Democrat Chairman Frank Puglisi presented DiNapoli with a blue jersey with his name and the number 18 to signify his re-election bid next year.

New York State Democratic Party Executive Director Basil Smikle Jr., encouraged local Democrats to field candidates in as many elections as possible.

He also mentioned health care. He said the last few days have shown the GOP is unable to undo the Affordable Care Act and that repeal of the act could cost New York state $6 billion a year and cost two million New Yorkers their health insurance.

“It’s going to be there going forward and millions won’t lose their healthcare,” he said.

The audience also heard from Democrats running for the Democratic nomination to run against Reed next year.

They include:

• John Hertzler, a Tompkins County town board member and actor who was dressed like Mark Twain.

• Max Della Pia of Owego, a retired Air Force pilot and attorney.

• Eddie Sundquist, a Jamestown attorney.

• Jason Leifer, Dryden town supervisor and an attorney, who said he is not ready to announce yet.

• Ian Golden, an Ithaca businessman.

• Tracy Mitrano, a Cornell University program director.

• Dora Leland, a representative of candidate Rick Gallant of Painted Post.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)

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