OLEAN — The group of about 45 mostly conservative Republicans met Monday night on the second floor at Back Yard Bargains owned by Dale and Cindy Smith.
Many were once members of the Tea Party. Organizers Connie Wolfinger and Cindy Smith said the group’s main goal is the re-election of President Donald Trump.
Smith was critical of the state’s bail reform law which prohibits cash bail for misdemeanors and most non-violent felonies. State Sen. Beorge Borrello, R-Bemus Point, is chairman of a Senate Republican Task Force seeking the repeal of the bail reform law.
Allegany County Legislator David Decker said concerns over Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Democrat-controlled State Legislature are “just the tip of the iceberg of what will happen if we don’t re-elect Donald Trump president.”
Another Allegany County resident was also critical of the bail reform law. “Everybody ought to be madder than hell,” he said.
Smith said, “We are mostly here with a common goal of re-electing our president, Donald Trump and Congressman Tom Reed. We want to try to figure out what to do here in November. We’re here to get your ideas and thoughts.”
A large red Trump Make America Great Again banner hung on the wall of the room where the group met. Other presidential yard signs were also on display and for sale.
One woman from Allegany County said college students today only hear one side of things. “The media doesn’t report positive news about the president or the economy,” she added. “We need to fight the media bias.”
High school students don’t know about the U.S. Constitution, Decker said. “We should start teaching the Constitution and civics in school again so people know why we’re doing what we’re doing.”
Attendees were from Olean, Portville, Allegany, Hinsdale, Humphrey, Franklinville, Cuba, Belfast, Smethport and Eldred.
Reed campaign official James Feldman, who runs the incumbent’s Jamestown campaign office, predicted both the president and Rep. Reed “would carry this region once again.”
Feldman said Democrat Tracy Mitrano, Reed’s 2018 opponent, is expected to be the nominee again, and did not rule out a possible primary challenge to Reed.
Face to face meetings with voters to compare the candidates is always best, Feldman said. The telephone is the next best.
Feldman called bail reform “a godsend for us” because it is a galvanizing issue. Even Democrats are calling for bail reform changes, he said. Anyone who voted for it needs to be held accountable.
Donald Benson of Allegany, one of three Cattaraugus County legislators attending the meeting, said more young people are needed in the group. Speaking from experience, he said, young people are going to the Democrats. They need to get involved in politics, he added.
One woman suggested the Young Republicans group at St. Bonaventure University could help.
Another woman, who said she had worked with former presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan, said the group should get voter lists and start organizing phone banks to help get out the Republican vote in November.
A Pennsylvania woman suggested raising money for billboards in the swing states of Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Tom Stetz of Allegany, president of the Citizens Advocating Memorial Preservation (C.A.M.P.), also spoke to the group about the Civil War Memorial in Little Valley C.A.M.P. bought from the county in 2017.
Stetz said fundraising and grant applications are underway to raise $35,000 for a new roof this spring. Complete restoration of the memorial across from the Cattaraugus County Center in Little Valley could cost up to $1 million.
Stetz said veterans groups and a museum are being considered as possible uses for the building once it is completely renovated. It was dedicated in 1913 to Civil War veterans from Cattaraugus County.