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Coverage of central and northern New York's congressional races, including the primary races and the general election.Races covered include the 24th Congressional District, currently held by Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus), who is running for reelection; the 22nd Congressional District, currently held by Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld), who is retiring; and the 21st Congressional District, currently held by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro).

In 126th Assembly rematch, Dwire and Finch share similar concerns, differ on minimum wage

The Dwire and Finch campaign Facebook pages
Democrat Diane Dwire and Republican Assemblyman Gary Finch.

Republican Assemblyman Gary Finch will face a rematch in New York’s 126th Assembly District as he runs for re-election against Democratic challenger Diane Dwire again. The two candidates share similar concerns on the big issues facing the district.

The 126th Assembly District covers parts of Onondaga, Cortland, Cayuga and Chenango counties. Both candidates said two of the biggest issues affecting the district are heroin and opioid addiction and toxic blue-green algae in Owasco Lake. About 50,000 people in Cayuga County, including the city of Auburn, get their drinking water from Owasco Lake. Finch said legislators are trying to initiate a meeting with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“This toxic level is below the standard of safety, but who sets that standard?" Finch asked. "We don’t even know. We don’t even know how it’s getting in the lake. And we don’t know how these toxins affect the human beings that are drinking it.”

Dwire said the algae poses health risks and could negatively affect businesses.

"We don't want a Flint, Michigan, we don't want a Hoosick Falls," Dwire said. "We're working to bring town, county, city, state and federal governments together. What is our solution to prevent the toxins from getting into the public water systems?"

When it comes to heroin and opioids, Dwire, a retired nurse and army veteran, said it is all about prevention, treatment and having insurance companies pay for inpatient services for up to three months.

“People have to have time to really develop their defense mechanisms to deal with the pressures when they are outside in the workforce or in school," Dwire said. "A lot of our current addictions and a lot of the deaths have come to young people.”

Finch gives credit to various local nonprofit groups for bringing more awareness to the heroin crisis.

"$25 million in the last year's budget from the state of New York was for rehab for heroin addicts," Finch said. "There are positive things going on even when you're talking about these young adults overdosing on this terrible drug. We don't have enough detox centers. We don't have enough rehab centers."

Both candidates want to see more ethics reform in Albany and are against pay raises for state legislators. One of the biggest issues they differ on is the minimum wage increase to $12.50 an hour for upstate by the end of 2020. Dwire is for it.

“I do believe that we need to have a living wage," Dwire said. "People work hard and they need to be able to support their families and earn what they deserve.”

Finch is against the raise in the minimum wage, saying it will create fewer jobs rather than more.

“I understand a family cannot live on what we pay in the minimum wage, but it’s an entry level wage," Finch said. "It’s a wage that allows people to enter the workforce and move on up.”

The district has about 6,000 more registered Republican voters than Democrats, but more than 20,000 voters are not affiliated with any political party.

Finch complimented Dwire on being a formidable candidate and for taking the high road and said he wishes the presidential election would do the same.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.