BROOME COUNTY – NewsChannel 34 is Your Local Election Headquarters.
Beginning tonight, we are bringing you profiles of the most important races affecting Greater Binghamton.
We begin with the race for Broome County Executive.
County Executive Jason Garnar has burnished his public profile by holding regular coronavirus briefings and updating residents on the pandemic.
he Democrat credits county workers for collecting and distributing PPE, contact tracing the infected and establishing a mobile rapid results testing facility.
“One of many things that we’ve been able to do with all of our department heads to do everything we can to prevent the spread, to save lives and also to reopen our economy,” says Garnar.
Like Garnar, who once served on the county legislature, Republican Karl Bernhardsen is a former legislator from Binghamton’s Westside.
While he too praises the work of county employees in combatting the virus, he blasts Garnar’s proposed budget for offering a .1% property tax cut at a time when essential county positions are going unfilled.
“Suggesting a totally nominal tax decrease. It just doesn’t make sense. It’s insulting to anyone who can do basic math,” says Bernhardsen.
Garnar counters that fiscal responsibility is a hallmark of his first term.
He says the 15 million dollar fund balance he amassed in his first 3 years is keeping the county from financial ruin.
All while delivering tax cuts for 3 straight budgets by working in partnership with the Republican-controlled legislature.
“When I see you at church, I don’t see you as a Republican or a Democrat. I just see you as someone who goes to my church. If I see you at my kid’s practice, I don’t see you as a Republican or Democrat. You’re just a parent like me. When I see people in the community, I don’t look at them like they have a label on themselves. I just look at them as Broome County residents and people who want to make this a better place to live in,” says Garnar.
Garnar also touts the establishment of Helio Health’s 50 bed in-patient drug treatment center in Dickinson and the expanded workforce development office at the Oakdale Mall.
But Bernhardsen accuses Garnar of turning a deaf ear to those protesting racial injustice.
“I’m certainly not saying that I agree with everything that every various group that is protesting is talking about. But, there are real concerns and fears that people have that aren’t being talked about,” says Bernhardsen.
Bernhardsen sees the pandemic as an opportunity to rethink how the county government is structured, to make it less reliant on state and federal funding.
He says that as a former legislator and former employee of the Board of Elections, he has both perspectives on how county government functions.
“To have a calming presence that is willing to listen to everybody, and then, at the same time, call out tough decisions that need to be made. You need to be able to balance those two things. I think I have the personality and experience and record which shows that I’m willing to do both of those things,” says Bernhardsen.
For Garnar, it’s all about hard work and results. He’s running on his ability to get things done.
“I wake up in the morning trying to figure out how to make Broome County a better place, and I go to bed thinking about what I can do in the next day to make Broome County a better place to live in,” says Garnar.
Garnar says the results speak for themselves.
Early voting in New York State begins this Saturday at 4 locations across Broome County.
For a list of dates, times and locations, go to BroomeVotes.com.
Watch full interviews with the candidates below: