Mark J. Grisanti and Michael L. Amodeo offer a study in contrasts to voters in the 60th State Senate District this fall.
Republican incumbent Grisanti, 48, is a familiar name in Western New York, especially after his involvement in a scuffle at the Seneca Niagara Casino and his controversial vote in 2011 for same-sex marriage.
Amodeo, 33, is a political newcomer who is not very well-known.
Grisanti has worn gubernatorial approval like a badge of honor since his vote on legalizing gay marriage.
Amodeo hasn’t gotten an endorsement from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, despite being the Democratic candidate.
The matchup plays out in a region that seems to give Amodeo a huge advantage, at least on paper, since Democratic voters greatly outnumber Republicans in the district.
Also in the race are Charles M. Swanick on the Conservative line and Gregory L. Davis on the Working Families line.
Here’s a look at a few of the differences that set the two main candidates apart:
Amodeo, who grew up in the City of Tonawanda and then on a 200-acre farm in West Valley, said he supports an increase in the minimum wage, which would aid about 50,000 people in Erie County alone.
“Half of those are women, single mothers, looking to make ends meet,” said Amodeo, who said his views on poverty and income were shaped by a college semester that he spent in Ecuador.
Grisanti, who lives in Buffalo and was elected in 2010 in a close race against then-incumbent Antoine M. Thompson, said he does not support increases in the minimum wage.
“If the minimum wage was raised to $8.50,” Grisanti said during a meeting with The Buffalo News editorial board, “sure, people are going to get an additional $2,000 or $2,500, but they are going to fall outside those limits for programs like HEAP. They may get knocked out of programs they need.”
Grisanti said he is waiting to respond to the issue of hydrofracking until the completion of a public comment period that was recently held in the state. He pointed to what he called his record of looking out for residents on environmental issues.
“I’ve tried to legislate strict protection for residents of communities where hydrofracking takes place, and I will continue to press for those protections,” he said.
“I would like to see a ban on hydrofracking,” said Amodeo, who practices law at the Damon Morey firm in Buffalo. “The risk to our drinking water is too great, for what could be a temporary benefit.”
Amodeo also disputed the idea that there would be “this huge economic boom” if “fracking” occurred. He said he would support greener alternatives.
Grisanti is well-known for his vote last year to give same-sex couples in New York the right to marry. It was a change of position for the Republican senator, who had earlier said he was not in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry.
“In the primary, my opponents and others capitalized on that,” said Grisanti, who has also drawn significant campaign contributions from gay-rights groups and activists.
Grisanti said he is hearing about the marriage issue while he is out campaigning door-to-door.
“People say, ‘Why did you change your mind?’ ” Grisanti said. “There’s really no short way to answer that question. Otherwise, I would have done it in a 30-second TV ad or a palm card.”
“I felt, after listening to people on both sides of the issue ... [it was about] having people have rights and be protected by civic organizations,” Grisanti said.
The Democratic challenger said he also would have voted yes on allowing same-sex couples to marry because “it was the right thing to do.”
However, Amodeo fired criticisms at the incumbent over the way Grisanti handled the issue.
“I would never have campaigned, or taken money on it, and then changed my position,” said Amodeo. “If you’re out there campaigning, and getting people to vote for you on a particular stance, then I think that’s something you owe to them. I think that’s a problem.”
Future of upstate
Grisanti said that the race in the 60th District – which includes parts of Buffalo and the northern and southern suburbs – boils down to this: retaining an important Republican seat in the Senate and retaining a significant voice for Western New York in state government.
“This is about Western New York fighting to keep this seat from downstate,” Grisanti said. “My fear is, if this seat gets lost, it’s going to be a disaster not just for Western New York but for upstate as a whole.”
Amodeo said the importance of the race is the opportunity it offers to bring fresh energy and new ideas to Albany, which he said most people realize is “stagnant” and unproductive.
“Being a young person, and not involved in politics, I really want to see the structure of state government change,” said Amodeo, who plans to keep his law career and views state office as the part-time job he said it is designed to be.
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