In A Challenge To The GOP Incumbent, Democrat Danks Burke Tours Far Flung District

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ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – Ithaca resident and Democratic candidate for New York State Senate Leslie Danks Burke Tuesday tours the district she hopes to represent.  She will make seven stops, beginning in Penn Yan and ending in Ithaca.

Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Radio

Leslie Danks Burke in WSKG Ithaca studio. January 27, 2020. (Photo: Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Radio)

She’s challenging Republican incumbent Tom O’Mara in the 58th senate district, which is one of the geographically largest in New York. It includes Steuben, Chemung, Schuyler, Yates, and part of Tompkins counties.

She previously challenged O’Mara in 2016 and lost.

Danks Burke said the incumbent has failed to bring enough state money back into his district for programs that really matter to residents, such as education and job development. She said they deserve more money from Albany, and O’Mara has not worked to get it.

So what are we getting for those really high taxes?” she said. “Not enough. And we need someone who’s going to go to Albany and stand up and make sure we get what we’re paying for?”

Danks Burke said she believes voters know it’s time for new senate representation in the senate. However, the numbers are against her.

NY Senator Tom O’Mara. Mike Groll/AP Photo

The majority of registered voters in the district are Republicans. Nevertheless, Danks Burke said she won’t tailor her message according to party affiliations.

What I’m asking of voters at this point is not any different than what I’ve asked in the past” she said. “It’s not my job to convince voters. What it is as a leader, it’s your job to understand what voters need and step up and provide leadership that’s going to get that.”

O’Mara is standing by his record of bringing state funds into his district.

“Well, she’s totally off base with that because nobody’s fought harder for  funding for the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes region than I have,” he said in response.

O’Mara points to his successful work on regional economic development proposals for the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes. He also said four cities have received $10 million each through the state Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

Danks Burke is also critical of O’Mara’s support for state infrastructure funding, saying the district deserves and needs more than it gets.

Again, O’Mara pointed to his record and said, “I have fought for, in the years I’ve been here increases in CHIPS [Consolidated Highway Improvement Program] funding which goes directly to local roads and bridges that has increased over 50%. Everyone of our towns, villages, counties for their local roads, has been a priority of mine.”

Last week he said, the state announced “extreme weather funding” specifically for roads and bridges. Projects in the 58th district will receive between $8-$10 million.