To hear Independence Party candidate Christina Abt tell it, the race for the 147th New York State Assembly District seat is largely dominated by rural and agricultural interests.
But her Republican opponent, former East Aurora Mayor David J. DiPietro, is talking about small-business reform, mandatory drug-testing for all welfare recipients and the need to scrap the state’s gasoline tax.
The district covers many southern Erie County towns, parts of the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation and all of Wyoming County. Seven-term incumbent Daniel J. Burling of Warsaw decided not to seek re-election, but he has publicly supported Abt.
While Abt has not held political office, she is familiar with politics and agriculture. Raised in a family with strong farming ties to Wyoming County, Abt blogs nearly every day about her campaign and shoots videos with farmers to show her understanding of the significance of agriculture to the district.
A media specialist for the Erie County Legislature from 2002 to 2006, she also worked for former Erie County Legislator Robert Reynolds of Hamburg, who now is her campaign manager. She has run for the Eden Town Board. Abt also managed a horse farm, raising Morgan horses in Evans and in Eden for 25 years. Now, she is a media and public relations consultant.
“I have always been someone who worked both sides of the aisle. I’m very respectful of people having passions regarding their political parties,” said Abt, 60, who also has the Working Family Party lines. “But for me, my greatest passion has always been the community and doing the right thing for the community.”
Abt, who said her campaign will cost between $20,000 and $30,000, prides herself on deep farming experience and strong family roots in Wyoming County. She insists that she can truly connect with farmers, their issues and their needs.
DiPietro, 52, owns three Sparkle dry-cleaning stores and has high name recognition, thanks to a six-year tenure as East Aurora mayor and service as a village trustee before that. He talks of small-business reform, but he isn’t talking about agricultural issues as much. DiPietro has kept a place in the political arena since ending his village service; he’s run twice for State Senate before this bid for the Assembly. He is pushing for elimination of the state gasoline tax and the need for drug-testing for welfare recipients as the cornerstone issues of his platform.
“The state gasoline tax needs to go. Out of a $140 billion budget, it’s a drop in the bucket. I think it sends a huge message to every citizen if you could eliminate the highest gas taxes in the country to become the lowest,” said DiPietro, who also carries the Conservative Party line.
DiPietro touts a record of fiscal responsibility as a former mayor, saying he turned the village around and that he worked to consolidate departments, merged the village sewer department with the county, privatized garbage collection and pushed for more open government.
DiPietro said he has spent more than $50,000 so far on his campaign.
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