Mayoral candidate George Hutnick introduces himself.
By Vera Olinski
OGDENSBURG — The Ogdensburg Historical Society hosted its annual “Candidates' Night”, Tuesday, Oct. 9, in the Ogdensburg Firehouse. Fourteen candidates spoke to a standing room only hall. Candidates Mikie Sherrill (D), Jay Webber (R), Ryan Martinez (L), and Robert Crook (I) campaigned for the one seat, two-year term in the 11th Congressional District. Sussex County Surrogate Gary Chiusano (R) and Candidate William Hart (D) sought the one seat, five-year term for Sussex County Surrogate. Candidates Dawn Fantasia (R), Joshua Hertzberg (R), Patrick Curreri (D), Howard Zatkowsky (D), and Wayne Levante (I) campaigned for the two, three-year Sussex County Freeholder seats. Uncontested Ogdensburg Mayoral candidate George Hutnick introduced himself and addressed the crowd. Ogdensburg council candidates David Astor (R), Rachel Slater (R), and Peter Huhn (D) seek the two Council seats, three-year terms. Astor spoke and introduced himself to the crowd. Uncontested candidates Brendan Donegan and Sue Dolan are running for the two seats on the Ogdensburg Board of Education. Donegan spoke and asked for the borough residents' support. Moderator and Ogdensburg Historical Society President John F. Kibildis reminded attendees each Congressional candidate has position papers on many of today's issues. During discussion, Webber said, the economy is booming, with GDP growth over 4 percent last quarter; unemployment at a nearly 50 year low; wages and small business confidence rising; and potential private sector choice and competition in health insurance. He asked, why change course? Sherrill said she would fight hard to get back the state and local tax deduction (SALT) and for quality and affordable health care for everybody. She also said she would work toward federal grants for high speed internet and a rail system into Sussex County. Martinez spoke against politicians who write laws sending New Jersey money to Washington, but then say they will return and “get some of that money back for you.” In addition, he said, champions of the tax cuts did not cut spending, and the government debt is $21 trillion. Crook said the economy may be booming in other parts of the country, but not in New Jersey due to the most expensive taxes and living expenses. As a CPA, he clarified, with the SALT tax, most N.J. tax payers now receive savings on federal tax, because the standard deduction was doubled, and most people do not need to pay the alternative minimum tax anymore. “We cannot blame the tax problems of New Jersey,” he said, “on the federal government. New Jersey has to take responsibility and fix its own problems.” Asked about climate change, Crook said the Clean Air Act reduced carbon emissions by 60 percent, and New Jersey needs to diversify and cooperate with P.A., W.V., O.H., I.N., and I.L. - also part of First Energy's power grid. Therefore, he said, New Jersey needs a long-term capital plan for energy and all the infrastructure projects - including cyber-security. Sherrill said, New Jersey needs to look at wind power off-shore, because the state has the best conditions and the cost is going down. For environment and economy, she added, New Jersey needs to be one of the first investors. She, too, agreed with a long-term plan. When asked about term limits, Crook recommended term limits related to a person's age; Martinez said, not age, but two terms for the House and Senate; Sherrill said, the Democratic party needs to consider term limits, as already seen in the Republican party's committee chairmen term limits, which create movement and vibrancy in Congress; Webber supported term limits and said he had already submitted a N.J. Assembly term limit bill. Chiusano and Hart disputed the costs of opening satellite offices throughout the county versus the already existing outreach and Senior programs. Fantasia, Hertzberg, Curreri, Zatkowsky, and Levante discussed strengthening county services and not raising taxes. All agreed things need to change at the county level – including financial accountability, transportation, and economic development. Responding to what differentiates each candidate from each other, Levante said, he was a strong conservative candidate, who will speak on behalf of everyone. Zatkowsky said, he was a fiscal conservative, social liberal — and proud of it. Hertzberg said, his life experiences — government, private sector, and local government — set him apart from some of the others. Carreri said they were more alike than different: Sussex County people first - Americans first. Fantasia said she is a constitutional conservative, with family values, respectful, kind, fiscally conservative, and always puts tax payers first. Ogdensburg Councilman Michael Nardini read a statement from Mayor Rachel Slater. Elizabethtown Gas has begun Phase 2, and the project is scheduled to finish by the end of Nov. In addition, Nardini said, the mayor and council have decided to participate in the vial of life project – which alerts first responders of residents' medical information in an emergency.