Catskill Mountain News - Assembly candidates set for April 24 special election

2018-03-14 / Front Page - Catskill Mountain News

Assembly candidates set for April 24 special election

Seeking to fill post vacated by Pete Lopez

By Brian Sweeney

Republican Chris Tague and Democrat Aidan O’Connor Jr. will face off in a special election on Tuesday, April 24 to fill the 102nd Assembly District seat vacated by the resignation of Pete Lopez.

Aidan O’Connor was elected to the Greene County Legislature in 2015, representing Durham. Since his election, Mr. O’Connor has served as Chair of Health Services and has been a member of Economic Development and Tourism and County Resources Committee. In January 2018, he was elected Minority Leader and is a member of every committee of the legislature.

Mr. O’Connor graduated from Greenville High School. While a student, he volunteered with the Greenville Rescue Squad and that experience sparked his passion with prehospital medicine. He enrolled at SUNY Cobleskill and was the youngest in his class at age 20 to earn his NYS Paramedic certification and continues to work at SUNY Cobleskill helping to train our future first responders.

After graduation, Mr. O’Connor worked as an Emergency Medical Services provider for the Town of Catskill, Windham Mountain, Greene County Emergency Medical Services Inc. and the Greenport Rescue Squad. Five years ago he transitioned to work at LifeNet on the company’s helicopter team, providing paramedic care transporting patients in 27 upstate New York counties, including all in the 102nd Assembly District. He was recently promoted to a manager position with the air medical company.

His volunteer/not-for-profit history includes: Rotary Club President, Chairman of the Greene County EMS Council, Inc. and President of Greene County Emergency Medical Systems Inc.

Wants to serve more people

Asked his reasons for running for the Assembly position, Mr. O’Connor stated, “I absolutely love working day in and day out for my community to help make it the best that it can be. I have worked on numerous projects on the local level and now I want to work at the state level to bridge these solutions together.”

The Democratic candidate said he feels there are numerous key issues that he’d list as priorities, if he wins the contest. Among these, he cited improving the regional communication networks, including enhancing broadband, cell phone service and 911 tower and interoperability as being of vital importance.

Given his experience in the industry, Mr. O’Connor said he would also be an advocate for seeking in-patient centers for mental health and substance abuse.

Regarding the opioid/heroin epidemic, Mr. O’Connor stated that he would support legislation that holds pharmaceutical companies accountable and would work to implement longterm solutions while supporting local life saving resources.

If elected to the state Assembly, Mr. O’Connor said he would work to stem the flow of residents who are leaving New York, particularly youths.

“I am part of the generation that has left upstate New York because of many factors. I want to be the inspiration for my generation and future generations, showing that it’s possible to graduate here, find a job here and buy a house here,” the candidate commented.

He also vows to be a strong supporter of agriculture, economic development initiatives and tourism.

Challenges for farmers

“I will not only be able to listen and empathize with the challenges facing agriculture and small businesses, but by being in the majority I can act to fix them through legislation and/or the budget,” he explained.

During his tenure on the Greene County Legislature, voted no on an 8.5 percent tax increase budget that also stripped healthcare benefits from retirees.

On the topic of the gun legislation, Mr. O’Connor said, I believe we should always be looking at all our gun safety laws to ensure that they help save lives while always preserving our 2nd Amendment rights. We have a long tradition of hunting and gun safety here and the vast majority of residents in my Home County and district grew up using and respecting guns. We also have some of the most stringent laws in the nation concerning gun safety.”

Asked what attributes he would bring to this position, Mr. O’Connor touted his “energy, enthusiasm and experience. I would also bring the perspective and voice on behalf of First Responders and would most likely the first full-time paramedic to be at the state legislature.”