Meet the Candidates
MILLERTON — The American Legion Post 178 is planning two Meet the Candidates events for Democrat Didi Barrett and Republican Rich Wager, both of whom are running for the 103rd Assembly in a special election on Tuesday, March 20.Both candidates are residents of Millbrook. As of Monday, March 5, both Wager and Barrett had confirmed they will participate, but at separate events held on different dates.“I am pleased to announce that we have established the Post will be able to hold a Meet the Candidate event from noon to 1 p.m. this Saturday, March 10,” Post Historian Sean Klay said after a frustrating couple of weeks trying to coordinate with the Barrett camp. “Regrettably we are only able to get [Barrett] for an hour, but something is always better than nothing.”The next day, on Sunday, March 11, there will be a Meet the Candidate event for Wager from 1 to 4 p.m., also at the Legion Hall.The candidates’ events won’t be the Legion’s first; it has held other such forums in the past. In the fall it held a pair of Meet the Candidates nights with county executive candidates Dan French and Marcus Molinaro.Molinaro won that election and now serves in the county’s top position, leaving his seat in the 103rd Assembly District vacant.“We didn’t get a strong turnout for the French one,” Klay said. “But it’s great that we had it. The thing I want to be able to stress is that when we’re doing these it’s not just the federal government that has big issues. State and local level governments are just as important.”Klay also stressed that while some Democrats, like Barrett, appeared to hesitate from appearing at the Post initially, they really shouldn’t. “We do not endorse candidates or parties,” he said. “We’re an advocacy group for veterans, and we look to foster these sort of events to get people engaged in government. A lot of people are reluctant to do so, but to get this one-on-one with our representatives — I think that is a great thing.”Although the Legion was hoping to host Wager and Barrett at the same event, Klay said it has successfully hosted separate events for opposing candidates in the past.“We’ve done that in the past, but we’re more reluctant to do that,” Klay said. “It tends to create more polarization as opposed to open discussions and engaging the candidates.”The events will follow a format that includes a brief introduction by the Legion, a brief introduction by the candidates with an explanation of why they are seeking office, how they plan to represent voters in Albany and what their qualifications are, followed by a brief question and answer period.The Meet the Candidates events are planned for Saturday, March 10, from noon to 1 p.m., and Sunday, March 11, from 1 to 4 p.m. Both events will be held at the Legion Hall at 155 Route 44 in Millerton. For more information, visit www.legionpost178.org.