Allegany County legislator, 22-year-old both eye Senate Seat

BELMONT — Voters in the 57th State Senate District may have quite a contrast in choices when they decide who will fill Cathy Young's seat in Albany.

Monday, the Democratic Chairs of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany and Livingston counties tabbed political newcomer Austin T. Morgan as their choice to run for the seat.

Morgan, a lifelong resident of Freedom, is slated to graduate from Cornell University this spring with a degree in Human Development.

On the other side of the aisle, Allegany County Board of Legislators Chairman Curt Crandall is hoping to secure the Republican nomination.

Morgan is 22-years-old. Crandall has been been married to his wife, Cathy, for twice Morgan's age — 44 years.

Crandall highlighted the differences in political experience in officially announcing his candidacy Monday.

"While some legislative issues coming from Albany are seemingly complicated, I feel that my voice of reason and experienced leadership qualities can help direct New York State to a better tomorrow for your family and mine," stated the Belfast native. 

Crandall has been Chairman of the Allegany County Legislature for 14 years, the longest tenure in the County’s history. He has held all key leadership positions at the county level and previously served as a Deputy Town Supervisor. 

Crandall's campaign slogans read "Commonsense leadership works" and “Your family and mine deserve a better tomorrow in New York State.”

"I am a registered Republican and deeply conservative in my beliefs and values, and New York State needs commonsense leadership," he stated. "I believe that while government has a very important role in our lives as Americans, it should not attempt to run or legislate how we live our lives. I stand for reduced taxes, reduced regulations, private business and enterprise, more local government control, less State mandates on local government, and limiting unaffordable social welfare programs."

Crandall highlighted his fiscal work at the county level, which includes a county property tax rate that has decreased for nine consecutive years.

"I am proud of my record of reduced taxes, stable financial position, elimination of operational debt, improved bond rating, and other accomplishments experienced in Allegany County where I have served as Chairman since 2006," Crandall said. "With your help and support, I would like to have the opportunity to apply these principles and beliefs on the State level."

Crandall operates Crandall's Memorials, a family-owned cemetery memorial business spanning four generations. He serves on several community boards and organizations, stating he is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.

Crandall is currently circulating petitions for the Republican nomination.

"There is a petition process underway which would put candidates before the voters," he said. "I have designating petitions being circulated in the four counties, and I welcome anyone or group to reach out and learn more about the experience and leadership that I can bring to the entire 57th District." 

The Democratic Party, meanwhile, stands unified behind Morgan. Democratic leadership met and interviewed candidates over the last week, and Morgan made a strong impression.

“Morgan is 22 going on 40,” said Chautauqua County Democratic Chair Norman P. Green.

“He is one of those rare people who walks into a room and instantly gets your attention,” added Cattaraugus County Democratic Chair Frank Puglisi.

According to a release, Morgan is currently the co-president and former client manager of Cornell Productions, a student run company that employs 40 student workers. The company designs venue event layouts and cost estimates for its clients. Morgan has also worked as a substitute teacher and as a one-on-one teacher aide with special needs students. He was a session assistant and legislative analyst in 2018 with NYS Senator Leroy Comrie-D, NYC.

Democratic leadership said Morgan would be well positioned to represent the 57th District given the current Democratic majority in Albany.

“Morgan will immediately have power and access as a new majority caucus member in the New York State Senate. It makes great economic sense for our region in the new reality of NY politics to elect a young man who will gain seniority in the majority over the coming decades,” said Livingston County Democratic Chair Judith Hunter.

Morgan echoed those sentiments in a statement Monday.

“Senator Young was a titan of Albany, and I thank her for her many years of service to our region. The reality we face now, though, is a solid Democratic majority in the State Senate," he said. "If our district is to attract opportunity and promote growth, we must elect a representative able to be heard in the planning of major legislation, the distribution of school and other funding, and in plotting the course for the future of our state.”

“This campaign is about believing in a future that restores the promise of rural WNY and the Southern Tier ... It's time for a new generation to lead."

Allegany County Democratic Chair Mike McCormick said he was impressed with Morgan's knowledge of the District. 

“His command of the issues facing the 57th State Senate district amazes me. He is extremely intelligent and articulate. Morgan represents the future of our party. We are proud to back him for this office,” said McCormick.

Austin comes from a family rooted in the working-class tradition of the region. The son of a teacher aide and a maintenance mechanic, he was the valedictorian of Pioneer High School’s Class of 2015, and he is a proud first-generation college student set to graduate from Cornell. 

At a time when the area is grappling with population and opportunity loss, Austin believes that a fresh perspective and new energy are key to restoring the promise of local communities.

“Albany has forgotten freedom for decades, along with too many of the towns and villages we call home. I am running to change that,” Austin said. “It's time to rip out the pages of the political playbook that say to wait in line — we cannot wait any longer. It's time to vote our future.”

The four county chairs said that the next task for County Committee members is to circulate a qualifying designating petition to get Morgan on the ballot.

Young, a Republican, resigned effective March 10 and the 57th District has gone unrepresented in Albany since. Young often ran unopposed for reelection, including in 2018. In 2016, she handily defeated Democrat Lee Hyson with 83 percent of the vote.