Yates County’s growing number of Democrats turned out for the grand opening of their party headquarters for 2018 in downtown Penn Yan. Located at 118 Main St. on the edge of the park, the storefront office is highly visible and with lots of foot traffic.

Democratic Congressional candidate Tracy Mitrano, an educator and cyber-security and internet policy expert who is seeking to unseat incumbent Tom Reed, was the guest of honor for the opening. A Yates County resident and voter, Mitrano was sharply critical of Reed for his alliance to big money interests and his opposition to affordable health care and education. 

One of Mitrano’s key platform stances is on internet availability for households in NY 23. She claims Reed has done nothing to improve internet infrastructure in the district he represents, where she says many rural areas have either no or very poor service.

“How can this district possibly function in the 21st century without that basic utility?” asks Mitrano. “That’s the province of federal government. We did it with electricity, we did it with the telephone, and we can do it with the internet!”

Environmental concerns are also high on Mitrano’s list of priorities. “What kind of investment would come to us if we despoil our land, if we despoil our water?” she asked the crowd. “No one would be interested in making the investment. We must maintain environmental conservation as we pursue economic growth. That’s the way we’re going to get enduring jobs in this district.”

Improving and expanding education is another point where Mitrano finds Reed lacking. “He does nothing to try to level the educational playing field in the K-12 sector. And he’s done nothing to keep the interest rates on student loans from usurious heights. Six to 12 percent interest rates is how you crush a generation of people! It’s how you keep people out of higher education and without the training they need to function in this economy.”

One of those people Mitrano is speaking of is Amanda Kirchgessner, a working waitress who is running against incumbent Tom O’Mara (R) for State Senator. Kirchgessner’s platform is based on health care, jobs, and justice, advocating for a living wage and affordable housing. 

“This is all about people,” said Kirchgessner, adding, “The thing that is so extraordinary about my campaign is that I’m a normal person!”

Kirchgessner is a 7th-generation resident of the 58th District, a graduate of Tompkins-Cortland Community College, and a member of the Ulysses Democratic Committee. She is also vice chair of the Tompkins County Employee Federal Credit Union, and treasurer of the Jacksonville Community Association.

Telling about meeting three young girls already interested in state politics, Kirchgessner said, “If we’re not thinking about the needs of our children, we’re not doing it right. This is about what we leave behind for future generations,” which was applauded by the assembled public.