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  • Writer's pictureJess Marciano

OCDC goes to the DRC!

Democratic Rural Conference Meets in Albany

The Democratic Rural Conference is an annual gathering of Democrats from the rural counties of New York state. While Democrats have a big edge in state-wide elections, and have majorities in the State Assembly and State Senate, we face a more challenging situation electing Democrats in the rural counties, so the DRC offers a great opportunity for us to renew our purpose and gather our strength.

This year, the DRC met at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Albany, April 26-27. Jess Marciano and Jim Renfrew attended from Orleans County. Jess is a Village Trustee in Medina and serves as our Orleans Democrats webmaster. Jim is a vice-chair of Orleans Democrats. Jim attended last year. This was the first time for Jess.

I want to emphasize that the best part of the gathering is the opportunity to make connections with other Democrats in similar circumstances. Jess was well-received as an elected Democrat in a predominantly Republican county. Candidates for office in similar communities were eager to talk with her about her experiences campaigning and serving as a local official. Jess’ role as a web site manager was also of interest to others.  

Note from Jess: It was so encouraging to be among like minded people from other rural areas in our state! These folks know our challenges, because they face the same ones. It was also incredibly heartening to see elected Democrats in higher state offices (State Assembly and State Senate) who hail from and represent rural districts like ours. It can be done!

I want to highlight an important meeting with David Wagenhauser, candidate for US Congress in the 24th District. Dave has visited Orleans on several occasions already, but now the campaign is up to full-speed with November approaching quickly. Our 24th District, now including all of Orleans, is a huge district geographically, stretching from Watertown and Canandaigua in the east to Buffalo suburbs in the west. The 25th District, centered in Rochester and represented by Joe Morelle, will no longer have a slice of Orleans after the November election (oh well, it was good while it lasted – I’ve been in the one district in Clarendon that was part of the 25th!). It was great to meet energized supporters from other counties in the district, such as Wyoming, Genesee, Livingston, Jefferson, Wayne, Ontario and Oswego. The fact that the district includes multiple media markets – Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Watertown - is a daunting challenge. As for current representative Claudia Tenney, Dave said, “She voted against the Infrastructure Bill and then took credit for infrastructure projects in our district”, not to mention her enabling former President Trump’s “stolen election” lies. There is a way to give support to Dave right now in Orleans. He is seeking an independent “Common Sense” ballot line on the November ballot, along with the Democratic line that is already secured. Signatures are needed before the end of May from registered voters of any party to secure this line. Please contact Jim Renfrew if you would like to sign. We’ll be hearing a lot more from Dave in weeks and months to come! And, of course, we hope to have him visit our Orleans Democrats summer picnic

Now, the speakers.  Governor Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Leticia James, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado each set out a strong appeal for Democrats to engage in the important elections that are approaching.  Governor Hochul emphasized recent accomplishments, including the passage of the state budget. Attorney General James was a much-anticipated speaker because of her lead role in prosecuting former President Trump for fraud. Comptroller DiNapoli described the solid financial footing the state is experiencing coming out of the pandemic. I especially enjoyed Lieutenant Governor Delgado, who cast a theme of “It’s game time!” to emphasize the vital “get out the vote” work for the coming November elections and the importance of rural Democrats. He described the moral imperative behind our efforts, quoting several of Dr, Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermons, making me wonder if we had taken the same classes while students at Colgate University many years ago (he was there many years after me).

An election was held for at-large representation on the DRC Board. Our own Jeff Lewis, Chair of Orleans Democrats, was on the ballot, but, unfortunately, was not chosen. It is good to see that we have lots of talent and experience at the DRC to draw from as we move forward.  

We received a legislative briefing from Assembly and Senate members concerning funding for new  housing, expansion of auto charging stations, economic development, protecting farmland during climate change, and reforms to property and school taxes.  During the course of the two days we also got to meet candidates for assembly and senate races around rural New York, incumbent and challengers alike. We heard a presentation about the New York Equal Rights amendment to the state constitution with provisions to protect reproductive freedom. It will appear on the November ballot.

Ny Whitaker, who manages the New York for Biden-Harris campaign effort gave a passionate appeal to get involved in the re-election effort, asserting that “Democracy is on the ballot!”. NY for Biden-Harris has a very helpful website that includes a resource guide outlining the accomplishments of the last four years under President Biden.  

Note from Jess: Every speech was dynamic and insightful, but this one was my favorite. Ny highlighted a lot of the concerns our neighbors cite when they are confused about why we are choosing Biden over Trump in 2024. I’ll include a few highlights, but New York for Biden Harris has virtual office hours the first Friday of each month, a resource we should not sleep on.

I’m paraphrasing, but here are some notes from her Q&A with the crowd.

Complaint: I can’t believe we can’t come up with a better candidate than these two.

Response: I am so impressed by how measured and patient Joe Biden is, and that comes from him being a seasoned politician. They don’t make many Barack Obamas. It takes a certain kind of person to run for office. The lived experience of Joe Biden is impressive. Single parent, he took the train. Loved ones lost. His lived experience has helped him be a great leader. The other guy just wants to destroy democracy. 

Complaint: It doesn’t matter, they’re both basically the same.

Response: I like my reproductive rights! I love my library, don’t you? These are just a few key differences between the two, and there are so many more we could share to prove the real choice, not “two of the same.”

Complaint: He’s just a puppet.

Response: I would rather have a puppet of the people than a puppet of Putin.

Complaint: I can’t support Biden because of Gaza.

Response: For many people, this is a very hard time. I am disheartened by what’s going on in Gaza, Haiti, Ukraine. There is one race, the human race. If Joe Biden is reelected, we have a greater chance to come to peace. That is not enough but hope is powerful. We have a better opportunity with him at the helm. As much as I wish he was president of all of the world, I think it will take many years for peace, and he is the one to get us there.

Complaint: Groceries, tax, and utilities have all done up. I don’t own stocks. Pain in the pocket.

Response: Usually in elected official spaces, somebody does a lot of bad stuff. And the next person has to come up and fix it. We are putting money in rich people’s pockets, and big corporations and companies raise prices. Buying local is important, costs a little less at times and keeps locals in business. Joe Biden doesn’t have a magic wand. Start writing letter campaigns and postcards to corporations. Sometimes our president has issues attributed to him that aren’t in his domain. Shouldn’t we send that to congress? Get a bill on price gouging and Joe Biden will sign it.  The people who are there right now are there on purpose to stall and stop progress. We must vote them out.

Complaint: The threat of socialism.

Response: What exactly does that mean?

Complaint: Open borders.

Response. My heart goes out to all of our migrants and immigrants. The other side is using the press to create a problem. Tax dollars were used to transport migrants and immigrants to flood specific places and states to drive a narrative.

Complaint: Democrats will raise my taxes:

Response: Biden’s tax plans have only placed increases on the wealthiest of Americans.

There were more examples, but this was such a fun exercise, with the crowd yelling out the complaints we have all heard over and over, and the responses Ny gave off the cuff were incredible. I can’t stress enough how humble and non-confrontational these responses were, and I could see us standing in Tops next to the eggs sharing with our neighbors how four more years of Biden Harris will lift all ships.

The DRC meets every year in April. I encourage Democrats in Orleans County to attend in the future. It is inspiring and energizing. 

Jim Renfrew, Vice-Chair

Orleans County Democratic Committee

Some Genesee and Orleans Dem Committee Members with NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli

Governor Kathy Hochul adresses the DRC.
Governor Hochul with OCDC Vice-Chair Jim Renfrew and Committee Member Jess Marciano
AG James, Jay Jacobs, and Governor Hochul

Jess Marciano with Ny Whitaker, selfie style!

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