Barrett and Wager attend Legion events
MILLERTON — American Legion Post 178 held two Meet the Candidates events during the weekend — one on Saturday, March 10, with Democrat Didi Barrett and another on Sunday, March 11, with Republican Rich Wager. Both candidates are running for the vacant 103rd Assembly seat in a special election on Tuesday, March 20.Barrett’s event was from noon to 1 p.m. and Wager’s was from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., allowing Wager to cover more ground with the audience.Barrett’s audience was comprised of approximately six community members, while Wager pulled in approximately 15 residents.“We were able to cover much more ground with Wager as a result of the time we had, as well as the increased participation,” said Post Historian Sean Klay.Both events followed a format of introduction by the Legion, introduction by the candidates explaining why they are seeking office, how they plan to represent voters in Albany, their qualifications and a question-and-answer period. Barrett Barrett introduced herself at the event with a strong emphasis on her ties to the community.Several times throughout the discussion she referenced growing up in Dutchess County, raising a family in the area and her ties to the area, including much nonprofit/community activism work.“The questions from the public focused largely on concern over taxes and their impact on the community” Klay said.Barrett addressed the fact that many younger individuals are not staying in the area anymore and attributed that to a rising tax burden.She also mentioned that the unfunded mandates were largely to blame.“I feel like we’re having the wrong conversation. I would like to be the one to say that in Albany. Why are we basing our wealth on property?” she said.Barrett also acknowledged the disconnect on the state and local levels.“Our school budgets aren’t working anymore; we need to find out why that is and steer the conversation in that direction,” she said.The public also noted the issues with the Pine Plains Central School District as it is facing a declining school population while still paying Superintendent Linda Kaumeyer nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year.Barrett assured the crowd that her ties to the communities would help her go to Albany.“We need the kind of leadership that changes the conversation. I’m willing to step up and do that. I’m not looking to run elsewhere. This isn’t a career for me. This is something I’m passionate about because it’s where I’m from,” she said. Wager “As part of his introduction, Wager noted a number of issues facing New Yorkers in this election cycle,” Klay said.Wager mentioned that New York state ranks as the 49th worst state for taxes and job creation.He also noted that most jobs are created by small businesses of 25 employees or less and that improving conditions would allow small businesses to thrive.‘The American dream is that subsequent generations will do better then the last, and that doesn’t exist in New York state,” Wager said.Klay asked Wager what his top three priorities are should he be elected. Wager listed that he would identify what is wrong with the pension system, improve conditions for small businesses and address the lack of budget priorities.Wager also weighed in on more controversial issues facing the nation. He is identified as a fiscal conservative. He is pro-choice but not in favor of abortion “on demand,” and would rather allow for it in “hard case” situations. He is pro-civil unions for homosexuals and pro-Second Amendment.He noted that legal gun owners are not the problem when it comes to gun-related crimes in New York state.The American Legion Post 178 made an invitation to both candidates that if they should win, they would be welcome to contact the post to facilitate Town Hall meetings in the future.