Two Democrats vying for a shot at New York’s 121st District Assembly seat squared off in a recent debate on Zoom before Tuesday’s primary.
In the event sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Dan Buttermann and Corey Mosher made their case as to why they should take on first-term Republican incumbent John Salka in November. Buttermann is an insurance claims specialist and member of the school board in Oneonta who lists education funding and renewable energy among his top concerns. From the get-go, he says the district is ripe with opportunity for wind, solar, and energy projects.
“If we can fight two things at once – we can fight the climate crisis together by going after energy generation and also energy consumption, bringing that down – we have a bright future in energy. And I’m looking forward to working on that in the Assembly," says Buttermann.
Mosher, a fourth-generation farmer from Hamilton, shares that excitement. He says he successfully installed windmills on his own farm, and has watched similar projects develop throughout the district. However, he’s also seen projects fall through the cracks for lack of local buy-in. He says if you want renewable energy in the district, the best way to drum up support is by enacting protections for farmers.
“There’s several different examples over the past where they have been taken advantage of," Mosher explains. "So we need to have those structures in place to help not only just those local residents [who] it’s going to affect, but also make sure that these projects can be successful over the long haul. Because then you get to build that trust.”
Mosher says climate change, agriculture, and infrastructure are the pillars of his campaign. He’d like to see broadband internet become a utility in the state, especially in light of the shutdowns caused by COVID-19. Buttermann – who seemingly struggled with his own connectivity problems throughout the debate – agreed, pointing to an ongoing project with Otsego Electric Cooperative in Hartwick.
“They are building a fiber optic network across their membership and beyond, and they started this process a few years ago. This is the example that I will look to as your Assemblymember, to help those kinds of projects," says Buttermann. "And why it’s important is because there has to be money for it. It is not possible for us to make this happen without grant funding from the federal and the state government.”
For the most part, the candidates agree on the issues, opting instead to stand out in the details. Both say they support mail-in voting, but Buttermann says municipalities should be allocated extra funding to handle it. On the topic of police brutality, Mosher praised the legislature’s recent repeal of 50-A and ban on police chokeholds. Buttermann says he wants to help communities “reimagine” their relationship with police departments, and build on bail reforms that took effect at the start of the year.
“I want to work on things like the bail reform and take it a step further, so that our justice system does not make you buy a presumption of innocence," he adds. "That you have that until you go to trial, and you get your day in court.”
The real difference between the candidates, according to Mosher, lies in who they know. Mosher, who is also running on the Working Families Party line, touts experience with the Madison County Cooperative Extension and the New York State Vegetable Growers’ Association. He’s been endorsed by Planned Parenthood, and has worked alongside Democratic State Senator Rachel May.
“My connections in Albany and D.C. already rely on me for perspective on agriculture. When I am in the legislature I won’t just be a resource, I will be a leader," promises Mosher.
Buttermann’s endorsement list, meanwhile, includes a slew of local officials, like Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh, and New Windsor Mayor Ed Lentz. When it comes to acquiring funds for the district, Buttermann claims he’ll have a direct line to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
“I’ve already got his phone number in my phone ready to go, and I plan to use it," he notes. "I’m gonna call him Day One, and get right to work.”
It’s not clear if either Democrat can carry what is considered a largely rural, Republican district. History says it’s certainly possible: former Democratic State Assemblyman Bill McGee held the post for almost 30 years before it flipped to John Salka in 2018. Mosher says the path forward comes down to conversation – and, well, further debate.
“I don’t shy away and talk out of both sides of my mouth, but I do find, engaging in that conversation, there is a whole lot that we agree on," he notes. "And it’s those connection points that, when you find them, then you can actually implement them and get real work done.”
The 121st District covers Madison County and parts of Oneida and Otsego Counties. Early voting has begun in the primary on June 23.