ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – When Amanda Kirchgessner won the Democratic primary for New York’s 58th Senate district, she didn’t have a campaign manager, a communications team or even a staff. Just friends and supporters helping her. She’d campaigned by driving around the district and walking door-to-door to talk to people. She’s a first time candidate running against Republican incumbent Tom O’Mara.
The district is one of the biggest in the state senate. It stretches from Yates County in the west into the eastern part of Tompkins County.
Kirchgessner grew up in Enfield, a small agricultural community outside of Ithaca. Her father was killed in a hit-and-run accident when she was young. She still visits here mom and sister in Enfield and credits the community with helping her family make it through the difficulties after her father died.
For the past 16 years, she’s worked in restaurants and a diner. She eats occasional meals with friends at Loaves and Fishes in Ithaca, which serves free hot meals.
Throughout the campaign, she’s gone door-to-door talking with residents. She says, hearing from them has shifted her campaign priorities.
“Well, I think what’s happening right now is people are just struggling to meet their basic needs.” She said, “It’s food, healthcare, and housing. I came out initially as a strong supporter of the New York Health Act and I still am, but, I realize that food insecurity is a very real threat to stability in people’s home lives.”
That stability in home life has come up in other ways for Kirchgessner. October was a difficult month for her campaign.
The Ithaca Times ran a story in which her ex-wife accused Kirchgessner of domestic violence during the last years of their marriage.
Kirchgessner denies all the allegations.
Kirchgessner is focusing her campaign on addressing the needs of people and counties who are economically struggling. She says the healthcare system is failing the people it should be helping. Health insurance companies aren’t looking after the best interest of patients.
“We can’t even afford to get the healthcare,” she said, “because we can’t hit the deductibles, we can’t cover the co-pays, there’s evidence that many people are dying who have insurance because they can’t afford the co-pay to see a doctor. ‘Cause that’s how tight their budgets are.”
She believes the New York Health Act as a way to help relieve the Medicaid reimbursement burden of the poorest counties in the state. It would create a state-run, single-payer system.
A HAMILTONIAN IDEA?
One of Kirchgessner’s most unique ideas is a state bank.
“Every tax dollar would be sent to the bank,” she said. “What that means is a poor school district might need to make a capital improvement, but their budgets are tight. So, instead of them having to raise property taxes. What New York state, what the state bank would do is loan them the money at a very low interest rate.”
She said North Dakota state bank has worked successfully for over a century.
Kirchgessner said New York’s legislature needs more people like her, from a working background who’ve lived with the consequences of bad policymaking.