State Senate Debate

The Hamilton Rotary Club hosted a debate between two candidates competing to represent the 53rd district in the New York State Senate on Sunday, October 28. The Republican candidate, Janet Burman, and the Democratic candidate, Rachel May, both arrived early to the Colgate Inn to mingle with Hamilton residents. President-elect of the Rotary club, Matt Noris, introduced the candidates.

“I don’t remember there ever being two women candidates running for the 53rd district,” Noris said.

Each candidate was given a five-minute opening statement, which was followed by a question segment in which members of the audience could and voice their concerns. Each candidate then had a chance to propose one question to the opposing candidate, and finally, two minutes were set aside for each candidate’s closing argument.

Burman described her youth in Washington, D.C. watching her mother fight for a voice on the only board in which she was allowed to vote, the school board. An economics major with a grad degree from Carnegie Mellon University, Burman’s journey began in academia, transitioned to business when she started her own consulting firm and has now landed her in politics.

May, living in Syracuse, has spent her years developing her education. With a graduate degree in environmental studies and Russian, she has dedicated her life to teaching and learning. She is now is a professor at Syracuse University.

With regards to policy, Burman emphasized a focus on fair taxes, employment, healthcare, small farmers and education. May also emphasized the importance of education and health care for all, but stressed great importance on voting reform and 21st-century infrastructure, meaning rebuilding our infrastructure to consider the environment, as well as progressing with jobs and economic growth.

Residents of Hamilton, Lebanon and Madison posed questions about a variety of issues including healthcare, the opioid crisis, reproductive rights, voter turnout in the 53rd district, taxes and employment. For the greater majority of the debate, the two candidates did not agree with each other. Burman mostly approached the debate with an economic perspective and May an environmental perspective.

After much disagreement and debate, both candidates were able to come together and recognize the importance of this election.

“I want to recognize the historic nature of two women here debating for this district,” Burman said. “I think [May] and I have done a great job staying focused on the issues… and I want to thank [her] for that.”

Contact Kelsey McGeough at [email protected].