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McMahon, Kinne highlight race for Onondaga County Executive

Kinne and McMahon campaigns

Voters in Onondaga County choose the chief executive of county government on Election Day. The choice is between an incumbent Republican touting a record of achievements and a longtime Democratic legislator not happy with how the county’s been run.

Ryan McMahon has been County Executive just over five years — wrapping up Joanie Mahoney’s unfinished term, before running on his own. He won his first term by 10 percentage points.

"This time the voters know we're tested," McMahon said. "They know that our administration is capable of dealing with the 100-year pandemic —emergencies that can come from that. We've also, from a financial and fiscal position, I think voters don't worry about their county government finances."

Democrat Bill Kinne isn’t on board the McMahon bandwagon. As a county legislator, he’s been opposed to some of the initiatives McMahon has pushed through the legislature. He’s an underdog in this race, but is running because he believes voters need a choice.

"I'm not pleased with what he's doing," Kinne said. "I mean, besides the aquarium, which I think is a major boondoggle, he's done some other things that I find very questionable, like hiring people that have no experience in jobs that are made up."

The race for county executive touches on a number of issues. Consolidating the county jail. McMahon is for it, Kinne wants to wait to see what the state says about it. Construction of an $85 million aquarium in Syracuse’s Inner Harbor. McMahon said it’s necessary for economic development, Kinne said he’ll try to reverse the decision to build it, suggesting it will be a burden to the county down the road. Lurking in the background, the biggest economic development project the area has ever seen, Micron’s $100 billion plan to build a computer chip complex in the Town of Clay. McMahon said that’s what’s going to dominate county business over the next four years.

"And so now it's about executing," McMahon said. "And that's fun, and when you can see all the hard work done by dozens and dozens of people to try to get to this moment and it's a great opportunity for our community."

Kinne agrees Micron is a game changer for central New York, suggesting the county needs to be paying more attention to things like infrastructure and the like, to make the way for thousands of new residents on the way.

"But no, I don't think it's been handled right," Kinne said. "We should not wait until the Micron employees are here where we decided to do some housing. We should start now."

McMahon said the county is already making way for Micron.

“So we've really invested a lot into our O-Chip program, which is helping fill gaps of projects that could happen, but haven't — bring more units online. We're certainly looking at other policy things we can do to drive more units."

Bubbling under all the issues is the question of style. McMahon is sometimes criticized for aggressive methods to get things done. Kinne said that wouldn’t be his way.

"I think I'd be a much better listener and not so much of throwing it, you know, jamming it down your throat,” Kinne said.

McMahon said he’s not afraid to lead.

"And at times, you know, our style, people maybe like, 'Oh geez, he's a hard-charging guy on this issue in this style,'" McMahon said. "It's not because we're not thoughtful. It's because we are thoughtful and we think the only way to get something done is to take that approach. The many, many times we take the more diplomatic approach, nobody wants to talk about that."

There have only been four county executives in Onondaga County since the County Executive position was created in 1962. All have been Republican.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.