OSWEGO — The race for the 120th New York State Assembly District is competitive for the first time in ten years as Democratic challenger Gail Tosh and incumbent Assemblyman Will Barclay vie to represent the majority of Oswego County in Albany.
Barclay will appear on the Republican, Conservative, Independence and Reform Party ballot lines. Tosh will appear on the Democratic, Working Families and Women’s Equality Party lines.
First elected in 2002, Barclay, R-Pulaski, has been a political mainstay in Oswego County for nearly two decades and has run unopposed in each of the last four elections.
Tosh, an Onondaga County language specialist and educator, is seeking to unseat Barclay and win a two-year term to represent the district, which encompasses roughly the eastern portion of Oswego County, including the cities of Oswego and Fulton, and small portions of Jefferson and Onondaga counties.
After 15 years in office, Barclay has risen through the leadership ranks and was named Deputy Minority Leader in 2012. In the most recent legislative session, he served on committees for energy, insurance, judiciary, rules and ways and means.
As the eighth generation of his family to live in Oswego County, Barclay said a major motivation behind his initial run for office was to improve the area and ensure his children would have the opportunity to become the ninth generation.
Barclay, who received roughly twice as many votes as Democrat Jerome Burns in his last electoral challenge in 2008, believes he has made a difference not just for his family, but also for all central New Yorkers.
If re-elected, Barclay said he would continue to sponsor legislation and support measures to reduce taxes, improve communities in the district and protect the way of life in upstate New York.
“It’s going to be what I’ve done for the last 16 years: Continue to fight for Oswego County,” said Barclay. “That means pushing for policies to lower the cost of doing business, not raising taxes, and making life in Oswego County more affordable.”
Tosh says it’s time for a change and the political climate in New York and around the nation made her realize she couldn’t wait for it to happen on its own.
If elected, Tosh says she would implement bold policies to improve the local economy and quality of life, starting with affordable health care. Tosh is a vocal proponent for the New York Health Act, a bill that would create a statewide single-payer health care system.
The formation of such a single-payer system would make the state more attractive to businesses by cutting insurance costs, Tosh argued at a recent debate between the two candidates hosted by The Palladium-Times, adding that providing affordable health care to everyone would boost entrepreneurship and remove burdens from starting businesses.
“Small business is the engine that drives our innovation, our invention and our progress, so let’s give that engine some gas,” she said. “Lets take away the fear of branching out on our own and starting a new business by not being able to supply health insurance to our families.”
A relative political unknown heading into the election, Tosh has never been elected to public office but believes her education, life experience and time as a small business owner qualify her to effectively represent the people of the 120th District.
Tosh graduated from Empire State College in 2014 and has spent time teaching English both overseas and in Syracuse. She currently lives in Lysander with her wife and two children on a small farm, says her family is “just like everybody else” and “facing the same struggles.”
Barclay says limiting and eliminating unfunded mandates — the largest of which is Medicaid costs — handed down from Albany would be a major part of reducing burdens to businesses and taxing jurisdictions and those efforts have garnered more and more publicity recently, helping the cause.
“We have to get the local share of Medicaid off the counties,” Barclay said. “If we could phase it in, I think the state could afford to do it, and it would save significant money for the taxpayers in Oswego County.”
Barclay noted the results of the upcoming election would have a significant impact on the chances of those and others of his policies. Should the state Senate change hands, the shifting political landscape would force a redirection of at least some of his efforts toward defeating policies put forth by downstate Democrats.
Republicans in Albany have maintained tenuous control of the state Senate in recent years, cobbling together a coalition of GOP and renegade Democrat lawmakers to retain the majority among the 62 senators. Depending on the results of Tuesday’s election, Republicans could find themselves in control of one state Legislature chamber, or none.
With all the high-profile corruption cases that have hit Albany recently, including members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s inner circle and former legislative leaders from both parties, Barclay said continuing the push for ethics reform would also be a priority moving forward.
Though the campaign between herself and Barclay has been civil and cordial, Tosh said it’s underscored by a feeling of national outrage pitting friends, family members and neighbors against each other. Tosh described the time spent on the campaign trail as “enlightening” and noted she’s enjoyed all the conversations with voters from all the different parties.
Tosh says, if elected, she’ll work hard to improve Oswego County and fight for “all of our families together,” adding it’s “in our diversity that we find strength as a nation.”
“We look at our situation and see that we are working hard, paying our taxes and not getting the services we deserve in return,” she said. “We are underfunded and underserved. It’s time we had a strong advocate in Albany fighting for our collective future.”
Election Day is tomorrow, Nov. 6.