Chautauqua County Executive running for Cathy Young's former seat

George Borrello has been giving the odometer a workout since launching his campaign to fill Cathy Young’s seat in the 57th Senate District.

Borrello, who was elected Chautauqua County Executive in 2017, has been crisscrossing the sprawling district in the run-up to Tuesday’s Republican primary. Borrello and Allegany County Legislator Curt Crandall both seek the Republican nomination for November’s general election to replace Young, who resigned in March to pursue an opportunity at Cornell University.

Since then, Allegany, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and southern Livingston County have not been represented in the state Senate. Borrello said he recently visited all four counties on the same day, attending the Nunda Fun Days, the Cuba Celtic Festival, a Vietnam Veterans Symposium in Frewsburg, and a GOP cocktail event in Olean. 

“I consider this practice for what Cathy Young did, which is get out as much as possible into the district,” Borrello said. “As a county executive I had a very similar situation. I was from the north end of Chautauqua County, which is a big area. When I took over the vehicle the previous county executive used it had 36,000 miles on it. A year and a half later it had 92,000 miles on it. I’m very much committed to making sure that I’m there to meet people directly and understand the issues, not just during the campaign but as senator. It’s good business, and in my business background that’s what I did. It’s about meeting people face to face.”

Born and raised in northern Chautauqua County, Borrello started his own business in his 20s providing products and services to the hospitality businesses across the country. He was a longtime county legislator before becoming county executive.

The Spectator recently discussed the campaign and the state of the 57th District with Borrello.

 

What motivated you to run for Senate?

So much of what goes on here and across the region is so dependent on having a strong advocate in Albany. There was no stronger advocate than Cathy Young. She did an amazing job. I worked very closely with her as a county legislator and then as a county executive, and even now in her new role at Cornell I’ve had a few meetings with her already. I know what an outstanding job she did. She knew every square inch of this district. No matter where you were in this district, you felt like she lived next door to you. To have those shoes now empty was really my motivation to try to step up and make sure we still have a strong voice in Albany. That’s No. 1. No. 2, you look at what has happened with the Democrats controlling the governorship, the Assembly and the Senate, in a short period of time we’ve seen some shameful, erratic things go on and laws passed that are just not in line with our values here in Upstate New York and this region, particularly. Whether it’s this radical abortion bill, these are things that are not even Republican or Democrat, it’s a radical New York City agenda that’s being imposed upon us more so than ever before. For me, it was about where I can be most effective to help the most people in our area. It’s by going in and advocating strongly for us in this region.

 

What are some of the challenges and the potential you see in the district?

We face the same challenges across the entire district. I think we have this beautifully diverse and unique area that’s very special in many ways. In Allegany County and Livingston County you have these wonderful natural assets, but then you of course have the challenges that every rural community faces and that’s the loss of population. You see the special things we can highlight, and we need to improve our self-confidence, first. We all do the same thing, we do it in Chautauqua County, we tell our kids to leave, we tell them there’s no opportunity here, and it’s not true. What I did first when I became county executive was go on a crusade to visit 100 businesses in 100 days. I actually got 107 in my first 100 days of office. The idea was not just to go in, take a picture and leave. Most of these meetings lasted about two hours. I wanted to really know what their concerns were, what they felt the future was for them in our county. I tailored our economic development strategy around that. What I found out was the political rhetoric wasn’t true. We have jobs, what we lack is the skilled workforce to fill those positions.

While we certainly want to do everything we can to attract businesses, because there’s places leaving — I know right now there’s issues with Siemens moving out (of Wellsville) and taking good paying jobs with them — we can improve our workforce if we can not just retrain existing employees to fit the skills that are needed by the companies that are here and growing, but also make sure our kids understand, here are the in-demand jobs in our area, here’s what you should be learning. That is the No. 1 concern for businesses, is workforce. It’s above taxes, regulation, weather. All those other things that are challenges, certainly, but if we can solve the workforce issue we can create a new image and tell people what a wonderful place this is to live. I love where I live. In my previous career in the private sector I could’ve lived anywhere. I chose to move back because I knew what wonderful, unique place it was and is. We have that in every community. I was in Cuba recently. What a great little village with so many things to offer. You can own a historic home in a walkable village. We have lots of places like that. Wellsville is the same way. We can promote that quality of life. We can really share the things that we sometimes take for granted to attract people from the outside, whether it’s our beautiful lakes and waterways, outdoor recreation, walkable communities, opportunities for entrepreneurs and people that telecommute. These are all opportunities for us.

 

What are some of the key issues your campaign has focused on?

It’s clear taxes and regulation are No. 1. I will continue what Cathy Young started and push for less taxes and regulation. I started my own business when I was in my 20s and grew that business. I understand what it’s like to have to deal with these crushing regulations in New York state. We need to push back on these ridiculous proposals. I think the reason we live in one of the worst states to do business in is because the vast majority of people in Albany, whether they’re elected officials or bureaucrats, have no idea what it takes to operate a business. They don’t understand what it takes to make a payroll and deal with those crushing regulations. This district borders Pennsylvania. We have a unique situation where we have to be competitive more-so than others because you can literally throw a stone and be in a different state that has a competitive advantage over us even when we give all the incentives we have in our economic development toolbox.

We have to advocate with fellow elected officials and make sure they understand the impact and unintended consequences. We need to push for more local control. New York City can do what they want to do. They have a very different environment, but they need to stop imposing their will and political agenda on upstate New York. You look at this Farm Labor Bill, for example, not only was it sponsored by two people from New York City who have never set foot on a farm, they had some halfhearted public hearings and they never came to the western part of New York state that is being so heavily impacted by this. Chautauqua County has the most farms per capita in the state. You have countless farms across the state that are going to be impacted and they didn’t want to hear from us.

 

What are your thoughts on the state of the race?

I’ve spent a lot of time in the other counties in this district. I’ve tried to get out there and meet folks in Livingston and Allegany County. I feel like I’ve been able to get my message out there and meet people, but there is still more work to be done. I feel confident.