Local legislator squaring off in Republican primary Tuesday

BELMONT — Curt Crandall is a mainstay of Allegany County government, serving as Chairman of the Board of Legislators for 14 years, the longest tenure in county history.

Now, he's hoping to take that experience to Albany.

Crandall is running for the New York state Senate seat vacant since Cathy Young's sudden resignation earlier this year. He'll square off with Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello in Tuesday's Republican primary. Given historical trends and voter registration figures, the victor will likely emerge the favorite in November's general election against Democrat Austin Morgan.

Crandall, who got his start in politics in Caneadea town government in 1984, believes his experience makes him the man to offer the 57th District a strong, independent voice in Albany.

"Because of the demographics and the registration in the district, I would lay my odds on the Republican candidate," Crandall said. "I, by far, bring the most experience in leadership of any of the candidates. I feel I’m more familiar with what’s going on in Albany as it relates to local governments in the 57th district.

"I believe in time when the pendulum swings back and the people in New York see what’s happening with a one-party Democrat controlled governorship, Senate, and Assembly, the pendulum is going to swing back closer to center, closer to normalcy. Who is it the people would like to have there in Albany, established and positioned to take a leadership position going forward? I believe in head to head comparison of myself and the competitors, the experience and commitment I’ve had to the county over the years would be demonstrated in Albany."

Crandall is a businessman who owns Crandall’s Memorials, a family-operated cemetery memorial business spanning four generations. The business has a presence in Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties. Crandall hopes to represent all of them from Albany in 2020 and beyond, plus southern Livingston County as the sprawling 57th District chooses its next Senator. 

The Spectator recently sat down with Crandall to discuss the issues and the campaign.

 

What was your motivation in deciding to run for Senate?

The decision didn’t come lightly. My wife, family and business were all taken into consideration. I did talk with the Senator (Cathy Young) within a couple hours of her announcement and felt encouraged to participate and have someone from this end of the district. My opponent is from the extreme northwest corner of the district in Chautauqua County. This is a big district, all of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany and about half of Livingston County. We have had meetings from one end to the other. We had a nice debate run by the Chautauqua County League of Women Voters. The only question we had going into it was what we felt was the most important thing for the 57th Senate District, and my reply was general operations of New York state and the difficulties in doing business here. If you look at the population trends, New York now runs behind California, Texas and Florida, and we’re losing Congressional positions. Something needs to be done with the business and tax climate in New York or we’re going to continue to lose population. If we were to operate correctly, people should be coming to New York, not exiting New York.

 

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

We have combated the property tax rates in Allegany County for a long time. This is the ninth year in a row that those average county property tax rates have been lowered. We’ve done that by maintaining our fund balance and our financial position. At the state level, without help from relief of mandated costs and programs, local municipalities are not going to be able to maintain the property taxes as they are. The property tax cap is unsustainable the way it is. That needs to be looked at and changed. I think the Second Amendment rights are right up there. It’s not just the SAFE Act but other legislation that has come along since. There’s legislation that would ban youth sport shooting, clay pigeons, target shooting and that type of activity if it goes through. As an Eagle Scout and recipient of a rifle merit badge when I was young, it’s all part of safety training and being able to handle firearms. I believe that’s the approach that needs to be taken, not taking away those Second Amendment rights. That is extremely important to people across the whole district. This is a conservative district. The actions that have been taken recently, from abortion legislation to the driver’s licenses for the undocumented, to trying to manipulate legislation for agriculture — over time organized labor on our family farms would literally destroy the local family farms in the 57th district. That has been an extreme concern of local farmers across the district.

 

You have highlighted your campaign's independence, drawing a contrast to the support George Borrello has received from GOP leadership in Albany.

We've demonstrated a direct tie from Senator Flanagan, who was a supporter of the SAFE Act and opponent of Senator Young, and in my opinion led to her stepping down as Senator of the 57th District. My opponent has been handpicked by Senator Flanagan and his team. I don't believe the 57th Senate District should be manipulated by a downstate Long Island Senator and those in influence in Albany. We should be beholden to the citizens, the voters, the taxpayers and residents of the 57th District. I'm the only candidate who is going to go to Albany not owing any favors to anyone and can independently speak freely about the 57th District. Those that know me know I have not cowered from taking a stand when it needs to be taken. I'll be able to express and voice my opinion, not of myself but collectively as a voice for the 57th District.

 

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

I think the challenges are brought on by longtime misdirection in Albany. This needs to turn around and it can turn around. The economic development approach through the 10 regions set up by Gov. Cuomo needs a serious look. The programs and projects that come out, such as the Buffalo Billion, I don’t believe are paying off in job creation and certainly not population retention or growth that were first projected. The 57th district is three counties out of the five in the Western New York district, with a lot of rural area and a lot of projects that have missed being funded when larger projects are looked at. I have said many times $1 million in Allegany County for a particular project can be real game-changer, but $1 million in downtown Buffalo or Niagara Falls seems to get lost in the shuffle. When we see tens of millions poured into projects that in my opinion don’t meet the common sense criteria that should be applied to them, it really needs to be looked at.

As far as opportunity, I will quote former Senator Young who said this is the greatest area of New York state. She took pride in saying she represented the best district in the state. Certainly by being involved in Allegany County as long as I have, I know exactly where she’s coming from. The other counties that make up the 57th District are of the same as Allegany County. We have good people, we have good businesses that are here. We need to retain them and come up with ways for them to grow. I think good forward-looking folks who are willing to invest a little bit in their own backyard goes a long way. I think there’s a lot of opportunity. Let’s grasp those opportunities before they slip though our fingers.

 

What are your thoughts on the state of the race?

I feel good about it. The people of the 57th District deserved to have this voice in this primary. I would encourage everyone that is registered to get out and vote. It's not only a privilege but a duty as a citizen. I believe it's a duty that should be exercised. I hope people turn out in droves Tuesday. The polls are open from 12 noon to 9 o'clock. I appreciated all the support the folks have given me.