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In May, Rodgers debate, COVID-19 in nursing homes, $14 billion deficit take center stage

Rachel May/Sam Rodgers
State Sen. Rachel May (D-Syracuse) is being challenged by Republican Sam Rodgers.

Central New York Democratic state Sen. Rachel May is running for reelection. Her opponent is Republican Sam Rodgers. The two candidates had a debate over the weekend on the Campbell Conversations. The coronavirus and the state’s $14 billion deficit, were among the main topics.

Senator May is the chair of the Senate Aging Committee and was asked how much responsibility the Legislature and her committee has on the state’s response to COVID-19 in nursing homes. At the height of the pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s March 25th mandate required nursing homes take recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals. That mandate was later reversed. The state said more than 6,600 nursing home residents died of COVID, but that doesn’t include nursing home residents who died at a hospital.

“I’ve been out in front holding hearings, making sure that the commissioner of health came and talked to us for hours and we had, literally 24 hours of hearings,” May said. “But also, and this has been my focus, not on pointing fingers backwards, but really learning lessons from what happened in the spring.”

Challenger Rodgers said May did nothing about the governor’s executive order, at the time.

“That’s just a complete abdication of duty,” Rodgers said. “She was also on the investigation committee for the hearing she talked about. Subpoenas weren’t issued, questions weren’t really answered, and I think the whole situation was handled in a way that was really harmful for obviously the people in nursing homes, but their families and people impacted from it.”

May said the governor was trying to respond to what was happening in Italy, where hospitals were turning away senior citizens because they didn’t have beds and ventilators.

On the topic of New York State's $14 billion dollar budget deficit, Rodgers said he would start by cutting what he called, expenses that prop up politicians, like public campaign financing. But that’s only $100 million dollars. May said the federal government needs to provide assistance to the state, and Republicans in the U.S. Senate are refusing to do so. She also supports a tax on the most wealthy.

The 53rd State Senate District includes all of Madison County and parts of Onondaga and Oneida counties.

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.