EDITORIAL: Barrett for Assembly in 106th

OF THE THREE ASSEMBLY districts carved out Columbia County earlier this year, the 106th wins the prize for covering the most towns–essentially the bottom half of this county and then some, when you add in the Town of Ghent. But with all those towns, Columbia County voters still account for fewer than half of all those enrolled in this district.
It’s no wonder, then, that both candidates for the  Assembly seat in the 106th, Democrat Didi Barrett, the incumbent Assembly member, and Republican David Byrne, the Town of Milan councilman, both live in Dutchess County. That’s the reality of where the majority of people in this district live and vote. Columbia County voters want to be sure that the person who represents them in the state Assembly will keep this county’s interests at heart when serving in Albany. Mr. Byrne grew up in northern Dutchess County, graduated from West Point and was decorated with a Bronze Star medal for bravery in the Iraq War. He now works for a green energy company in addition to his service on the Town Board. He has a more detailed reform agenda than many other candidates, one that supports a specific bill designed to prevent the imposition of new unfunded state mandates. Other proposals are less specific, but that’s the current reality; all too often candidates who promote detailed agendas are ignored by a public uninterested in the specifics of governing and news media captivated by sensation not substance.
Ms. Barrett has served only a few months since she won a special election to replace Marc Molinaro, who resigned his Assembly seat to become Dutchess County Executive. Although she arrived at the end of the legislative session, Ms. Barrett supported a number bills designed to help this district including acting as a co-sponsoring the Assembly’s unfunded mandate relief bill.
Then, at the beginning of August the TCI of New York building in West Ghent went up in a huge fire and explosion that sent a plume of smoke high above the county. Ms. Barrett did not settle for an appearance at an early press conference held by local officials and responders as the site still smoldered. Within a week she had organized a panel of state, federal and local experts, several of whom had been present at the fire, to meet with the community. More than 100 people attended; they were angry, frightened and confused, And while the gathering raised as many questions than it answered, it became clear that Ms. Barrett’s approach to the problem–her desire to include the public and to treat her constituents’ concerns with respect marked the arrival of an effective leader who had put government to work on behalf of the people.
Mr. Byrne might well have done something similar. But the TCI fire happened on Ms. Barrett’s watch, and she rose to the challenge. For this and for her demonstrated involvement in serving the people of those who elected her, Didi Barrett deserves to be elected to a full two-year term on November 6.

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