A former mayor of Syracuse brought her gubernatorial campaign to Buffalo Wednesday morning. Stephanie Miner, along with runningmate Michael Volpe, are seeking votes on behalf of a party founded just one year ago.
Miner, who is also a former top official in the New York State Democratic Party, stood with Volpe a few hundred yards away from the Tesla Gigafactory 2 plant in Buffalo's Riverbend neighborhood.
She noted the corruption in the construction bidding process, revealed during the trial and conviction earlier this year of former SUNY Polytechnic Institute president Alain Kaloyeros. She also pointed to lower-than-promised job creation.
"We also know that Tesla has a lot of internal problems as well and they have not been able to sell the solar panels they've been discussing," Miner said. "This is a project that was born of corruption and is mired in inferior performance and, we think, represents the opposite of what you should be spending hard-earned tax dollars on."
Those dollars, Miner suggests, would have been better spent on improving Buffalo's infrastructure, including road and bridge repairs and updating water mains and sewers. Infrastructure investment is one of the pieces of her campaign platform. It also includes a state takeover of Medicaid, designed to ease property tax burdens in Upstate counties where, according to Miner's campaign literature, property owners are paying higher rates as a percentage of home values. Her campaign also calls for ethics reform, led by the dissolution of JCOPE and its replacement by a new, independent panel.
The Buffalo Billion, Miner tells WBFO, has created good optics for the region but has done little to impact ongoing poverty. According to Miner, one of every two children born in Upstate cities including Buffalo are born into poverty.
"And because of the current economy they're going to die in poverty," she said. "That's unacceptable and that shows the failure of our government. We have millions of New Yorkers who are leaving this state, more than any other state, because there's a crisis of opportunity Upstate, a crisis of affordability Downstate and a state government that's more interested in rewarding campaign contributors than actually solving problems."
Miner and her running mate, who is mayor of the Village of Pelham in Westchester County, represent the Serve America Movement line. It's a line formed just last year but one Volpe says will do a better job of reaching out to Upstate voters. He acknowledged the Democratic Primary debate between incumbent Andrew Cuomo and challenger Cynthia Nixon, and how their lone debate covered issues such as New York City area transportation but effectively ignored Upstate issues.
"The SAM party line is designed to disrupt the two-party system, which has failed Upstate New York," Volpe said. "Both the Democrats and Republicans have done nothing and have been an abject failure in terms of keeping people in the state, promoting the local economies, producing and creating better infrastructure for the residents. With the SAM party alternative, folks will have honest, hard-working policy-based government."
Among those present to hear the SAM campaign pitch was former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, who says New York voters have become fed up with the two major parties. He admits alternative parties face an uphill climb in New York State and the SAM party is very new to the state's political scene.
"I believe it's a movement that is long overdue," Giambra said. "The folks who are interested in SAM are interesting people, involved in the business community who, like me, have said they've had it with both the traditional Democrat and Republican parties. I believe it's time for an alternative party to emerge. I'm hoping SAM might be that party."
But will New York voters have the willingness to break free of the two major parties at the ballot? For all the talk of disgust in the Democratic and Republican parties, there remains the mindset among many voters that choosing one of the minor-party candidates is essentially tossing away a vote. WBFO asked Giambra about whether more New Yorkers might be gaining the courage to think differently."
"I think the evolution is happening," he said. "I think most voters in both major parties have been disgusted with the outcomes that we're seeing, with the traditional Democrats and Republicans just taking turns being in power. It's time for something different."