Down To The Wire

With less than two weeks until the general election, candidates for county clerk, county executive and county legislature are letting their constituents in on the important issues.

The League of Women Voters and American Association of University Women hosted a debate at the James Prendergast Library on Thursday. The first hour of the debate consisted of questions being asked of Vince Horrigan, Republican county executive candidate; Ron Johnson, Democratic county executive candidate; Lori Cornell, Democratic county clerk candidate; and Larry Barmore, Republican county clerk candidate.

The second hour of the debate consisted of District 10 legislative candidates Sharon Lisciandro, Democrat, and PJ Wendel, Republican; District 11 Republican candidate David Wilfong; District 12 candidates Fred Larson, Democrat, and Bill Prieto, Republican; and District 16 Democratic candidate Tom Erlandson. District 16 Republican candidate Ron Lemon and District 11 Democratic candidate Bob Whitney were expected by the moderators of the debate to attend but did not.

Moderating the discussions were Marcia Merrins, of the League of Women Voters, and Dr. Lillian Ney of AAUW.

The candidates for county executive and county clerk were first given two minutes each to introduce themselves, as well as tell what they feel the most urgent problem in Chautauqua County is, and their solution to the problem. Barmore, Horrigan and Johnson introduced themselves, however Cornell was late for the meeting, prompting the discussion to begin without her.

“Generally, the League of Women Voters has a policy that candidates may not present without his opponent present,” Merrins said. “It is an unfair advantage. There is no rebuttal for whatever Mr. Barmore says. I’m not sure I can continue having Mr. Barmore answer questions without his opponent.”

The discussion then was turned over to the county executive candidates for a question on fracking. Horrigan said he believes that the county needs a portfolio of energy, and to be able to seize upon opportunity reliably and safely. Johnson answered the fracking issue does not currently present itself in Chautauqua County, however he has been working to educate himself on the issue, while discussing it with both sides.

Cornell apologized for arriving to the debate 15 minutes late. She explained she is in the midst of moving, and has not been receiving her mail. She said she had been told by a colleague the start time for the debate was 30 minutes later than it actually began.

The county executive candidates were questioned as to their views on the Chautauqua County Home, which the legislature will vote on whether to sell on Oct. 30. Staying true to his voting history as a county legislator, Horrigan said he is in favor of privatizing the home. Johnson said the home has only begun losing money over the last seven years, and, as a businessman, he would like to take a look at the home for himself.

“I have never said I would not sell the County Home under any circumstances,” Johnson said. “What I do say is that it needs to be a business decision and not a political one.”

The four candidates for the two positions were also questioned on issues such as relevant work history, economy, taxes, downsizing the government and services in Dunkirk before providing their closing statements.


Like the county executive and county clerk candidates, legislative candidates were given the opportunity to introduce themselves, as well as answer what they felt was the most urgent issue in Chautauqua County. Unlike the county executive and clerk candidates, legislators were able to discuss county wide issues if their opponent was not present at the debate, but Merrins asked them to refrain from discussing issues only pertinent to their district.

Candidates discussed issues such as Chautauqua Lake, jobs in the county, taxes and economic development. Members of the audience then questioned the candidates on other issues, such as how legislators would deal with covering additional board and committee meetings now that the size of the legislature has been reduced from 25 to 19.

Candidates were also questioned on how they would make the County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency more effective.

Wilfong indicated he was satisfied with how the CCIDA has been operating, but that he sees a problem with attracting business because New York state is not business-friendly. Lisciandro said she has been disappointed in the CCIDA, and said the agency has lost jobs over the last seven to eight years. Larson discussed economic development in terms of the CCIDA, while Prieto talked about the vacant land in the county, and investing in the unused space.

Legislative candidates were also asked about their views on the County Home. Wendel and Erlandson, who are currently legislators, said they would be in favor of selling the home, and have voted accordingly in the past. After giving their sentiments on the home, the other four candidates present also stated they would be in favor of selling the home. Larson said he cannot argue a situation that he doesn’t fully understand, but he feels if the home cannot break even, he would be in favor of selling the home.

The general election will take place Nov. 5 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Additional information about the Board of Elections and polling locations can be found at