On September 17, 2015, we received mailings from both candidates in the 2015 NY 52nd State Senate special election. The following will be a review of the mailings received and the websites of each candidate as they exist at the time of this article.
First we will delve into the mailings. Starting alphabetically, there is the most recent mailing by Undersheriff Fred Akshar (see photos attached to article). In that mailing, Akshar takes on the issue of Common Core. He states that he will work to end overtesting students and fight for State funds to ensure “first-class education” for students. The mailer goes on to promise a return to local control of schools and empowering students and teachers.
In looking at the website, fredakshar.com, on the issue of Common Core there is just an 87 word statement, among 7 other issues. That statement does not mention returning control to parents or teachers. Nor does the statement on the website ensure a “first-class education” as the mailing does. Instead the website stops short of the mailing and states, separately of Common Core, to fight to “eliminate the budget-cutting Gap Elimination Adjustment.” On Common Core itself, it is simply stated Akshar wants
“…our schools to be the very best, more valuable class time is used for learning—not testing—and parents are encouraged and welcomed to be more involved in their children’s education.”
In comparing the website to the mailings, on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being completely separate of his election platform and 10 being completely inclusive, we would rate the issue of Common Core as a 4. The website has massively more tame language promising no substantive efforts and calmly looking for change. The mailing on the other hand is a far more aggressively worded attack on Common Core, with promises of actions and results. We do not know the actual stance on the issue that Undersheriff Akshar holds, but if he takes on the interview he personally promised to us in July, it will be one of the questions we will discuss.
For Barbara Fiala, the mailing delivered on the same day as the Akshar mailing is very different. Instead of a single issue, Fiala focuses on 3 subjects – Jobs, Education, and Women’s Equality. The flyer summarizes Fiala’s position on all three issues as
“She will fight to secure our fair share of funding for business investments, public infrastructure and job training programs…She will work to reform high stakes testing and the flawed teacher evaluation process… She will fight to finally pass the Women’s Equality Act…”
On Barbara Fiala’s website, fialaforsenate.com, only 3 issues are presented as her campaign platform. Those 3 issues are almost word for word what is found in her flyer (with the items quoted being exactly the same on both). In rating on the same scale as for Fred Akshar, Fiala scores an 8. This is because there is almost no difference in what is said in the mailing and the website.
But the mailings, and how that relates to the websites, are not the full story. There is more to the candidates than just the mailings. What is really being said on the website and mailings?
Again, in alphabetical order, Fred Akshar provides more information on his website about the issues he plans to address. Given the wording on the website is overall very tame and seeks to not rock the boat. Even Akshar’s Fair Share plan on jobs is a meek statement mostly relying on State Government funding and job training. Though it does highlight cutting taxes and “red tape”, in keeping with Republican ideals for the last 20+ years in New York’s blue control.
But the sum of all 8 issues on his platform breakdown to just the 3 real issues. They are the economy (split into the Fair Share plan, jobs, and personal taxes), listening to voters, education (split into schools and Common Core) and fighting heroin (which has a separate news announcement going into somewhat more detail). The sub-headings do not really separate different issues. In addition, none of the issues have any real plan behind them. Just ideals that Fred Akshar advocates.
For Barbara Fiala, things are far more simple. As stated, she has just 3 issues that are on her platform. Jobs, Education, and Women’s equality. Nowhere on Fiala’s website does she delve deeper than the titles of the issues and her personal experience, other than on jobs. On that issue Barbara Fiala focuses on State Government providing funding, cutting taxes, and State spending to support the unfunded mandates required by State Government.
For both candidates, the more hardcore of their Parties will take issue. For Akshar, he is sparse on describing his efforts to reduce taxes and regulation. For Fiala, she is seeking more Government control without addressing environmental, LBGT, or minority issues that are the staple of the Democrat Party in NY State. Supporters will emphasize Fred Akshar on his focus on removing Government from education and reducing taxes; while for Barbara Fiala equal pay for women will be the rally point.
In short, both candidates are severely lacking in substance. Neither is presenting, in their mailings or their websites, any substantive reason to vote for them. Neither has revealed any plan (thus far) for change or an actual platform they stand for. Both justify the arguments of individuals like Denver Jones and others who objected to the selection (for Democrats by Gov. Cuomo, and Republicans by Broome County Chairman Bijoy Datta) without input from the public.
It is not the purpose of this article to take a side in the race. Supporters of each candidate will find portions of this article to be objectionable. Nor is the purpose to alienate voters. Instead, the point is to highlight what the candidates must discuss and the public should learn more about. Greater details needs to be revealed. Overall we cannot rate either candidate on any scale as they have yet to provide enough substance to rate them on.
** Note – Michael “Vass” Vasquez is a former Republican candidate for Congress and current Republican Committeeman for the 18th Election District in Binghamton, NY, and a political commentator since 2007. Both candidates campaigns have been given open invitations to interview at any time. Neither campaign was contacted about the mailings or websites in this article. **