15-term sen­a­tor faces chal­lenge in re-elec­tion bid

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Wil­liam J. Kem­ble news@free­manon­line.com

State Sen. James Se­ward, a 15-term in­cum­bent, is be­ing chal­lenged in his re-elec­tion bid by Jer­maine Bag­nall-Gra­ham.

The win­ner of the 51st Se­nate Dis­trict race will serve a two-year term start­ing Jan. 1, 2017.

Bag­nall-Gra­ham, 44, of 6 East St. South, Sher­burne, will be on the Demo­cratic and Women’s Equal­ity Party lines on the Nov. 8 bal­lot. Se­ward, 65, of 80 North St., Mil­ford, will be on the Repub­li­can, Con­ser­va­tive, In­de­pen­dence and Re­form Party lines.

The 51st State Se­nate Dis­trict in­cludes all of Ot­sego, Schoharie and Cort­land coun­ties, and parts of Ulster, Delaware, Chenango, Herkimer, Cayuga and Tomp­kins coun­ties. The Ulster County towns in the dis­trict are Rochester, Olive, Shan­daken and Har­den­burgh.

Jer­maine Bag­nall-Gra­ham

Bag­nall-Gra­ham is a first-time can­di­date for elected of­fice who works as a clin­i­cal sys­tems an­a­lyst for Bas­sett Health Care.

He has lived in the dis­trict for 12 years, and he and his wife, An­nette, have two young chil­dren.

Bag­nall-Gra­ham grad­u­ated from Bing­ham­ton High School in 1990, earned a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in com­mu­ni­ca­tions from SUNY Oneonta in 2006 and re­ceived a master’s de­gree in pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion from SUNY Bing­ham­ton in 2010. He was in the U.S. Army from 1994 to 1999 and was dis­charged as an E4 spe­cial­ist.

Bag­nall-Gra­ham says state law­mak­ers to have done a poor job of pro­vid­ing sup­port to school dis­tricts and deal­ing with prob­lems re­lated to stan­dard­ized test­ing.

“Look­ing at the way we’re eval­u­at­ing teach­ers, ty­ing it to the stu­dent test­ing, that has to be ad­dressed,” he said.

“We have this com­pli­cated sys­tem that the state uses to fund schools,” he said. “I would like to sim­plify it. Fo­cus on schools that are need-based, based on the eco­nomic sit­u­a­tions of the fam­i­lies of the stu­dents. If you have a ... wealthy school on Long Is­land ver­sus a poor school in Sher­burne or Oneonta, the cost of liv­ing is lower here but yet we also have peo­ple on so­cial ser­vices here, unem­ployed here, so the kids who are go­ing to school here are com­ing from poorer fam­i­lies.”

Bag­nall-Gra­ham also said state law­mak­ers have failed to rec­og­nize the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts on com­mu­ni­ties of such pro­pos­als as the Con­sti­tu­tion Pipe­line and long­stand­ing prob­lems like the blue­green al­gae in Owasco Lake.

Bag­nall-Gra­ham said the high­est pri­or­ity should be com­bat­ing cor­rup­tion among state law­mak­ers.

“I think if peo­ple are se­ri­ous about end­ing cor­rup­tion, es­pe­cially the three-men-in-a-room [state bud­get] sce­nario, if you added more trans­parency into that process by in­clud­ing an out­side per­son such as the comp­trol­ler, I think it would be huge,” he said. He also sug­gested adding the Se­nate and As­sem­bly mi­nor­ity lead­ers to the process.

Bag­nall-Gra­ham also said it’s im­por­tant to ad­dress the opi­oid ad­dic­tion prob­lem in the state.

“I think a lot of the fo­cus should be on hir­ing more ex­perts in the drug re­hab ar­eas and drug coun­sel­ing ar­eas,” he said. “We have to open up more long-term care fa­cil­i­ties. It’s got to go be­yond ed­u­ca­tion. It’s got to be boots-to-ground re­hab.”

James Se­ward

Se­ward is a life­long area res­i­dent, and he and his wife, Cyn­thia, have two adult chil­dren.

Se­ward grad­u­ated from Oneonta High School in 1969 and earned a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in politi­cal science from Hartwick Col­lege in 1973.

He first was elected to the state Se­nate in 1986.

Se­ward is a mem­ber of the Pathfinder Vil­lage Res­i­den­tial Com­mu­nity for Downs Syn­drome, the Glim­mer­glass Opera in Coop­er­stown, the Mil­ford His­tor­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion and the Mil­ford United Methodist Church board.

Se­ward con­sid­ers fund­ing for school dis­tricts and im­prov­ing stan­dard­ized test­ing to be a pri­or­ity for the next Leg­is­la­ture.

“I’m pleased that we have the cur­rent com­mis­sioner of ed­u­ca­tion and the Board of Re­gents re­vamp­ing Com­mon Core and teacher eval­u­a­tions,” he said. “Both of those is­sues have been very dif­fi­cult for our school dis-

tricts and stu­dents and par­ents. I am pleased with the direc­tion that we’re go­ing with re­vamp­ing Com­mon Core, with less re­liance on the high-stakes test­ing of stu­dents and com­ing in with a fairer way of eval­u­at­ing teacher per­for­mance.”

Se­ward also would like to see a shift in how eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment money is dis­trib­uted in the state.

“We have these re­gional coun­cils that have de­vel­oped these plans ... and that drives cer­tain eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment fund­ing to cer­tain projects,” he said. “I say, go­ing for­ward, we need to put more em­pha­sis

on broad-based eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in­cen­tives — in tax re­lief, for ex­am­ple . ... I would like to see a pro­gram for small busi­nesses to help them with their prop­erty taxes.”

Se­ward also said a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment should be placed on the 2017 bal­lot to elim­i­nate pen­sions for state law­mak­ers con­victed of crimes in­volv­ing cor­rup­tion.

“Also, term lim­its for leg­isla­tive lead­ers in the Leg­is­la­ture and the com­mit­tee chair­men,” he said. “We have that in our Se­nate rules, [where] the ma­jor­ity leader of the Se­nate can only serve for eight years and also com­mit­tee chair­men for eight years. I’d like to see that placed in the law so that would ap­ply to both houses of the Leg­is­la­ture.”


Jer­maine Bag­nall-Gra­ham, left, and state Sen. James Se­ward

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