Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Published 7:30 AM EDT Oct 21, 2018
Two years after Pamela Helming handily defeated Kenan Baldridge in a race for an open seat in the state Senate, Helming and Baldridge are at it again this fall.
Helming, the former supervisor in the town of Canandaigua and a Republican, is seeking a second two-year term in the 54th Senate district.
Baldridge, the current supervisor of the town of Rose in Wayne County and a Democrat, is making his second run for the office.
The district comprises part or all of six Finger Lakes counties, including the town of Webster in Monroe County.
With the benefit of incumbency, Helming is able to cite a number of first-term accomplishments. Twenty-one bills she sponsored were signed into law, she said, which is more than any other first-term lawmaker.
Principal among them, perhaps, is legislation that provided $45 million in state financial aid to residents, businesses and local governments hurt by record high water and flooding on the Lake Ontario shoreline last year.
Helming, whose district includes more than 50 miles of the shoreline, was congratulated publicly for her work by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
"The funding we were able to get through helped a lot of people," said Helming, who described the shoreline program as the largest state disaster-relief act ever.
Helming articulates the Republican mantra of opposition to new taxes and fees and support for fewer business regulations and state mandates on local government. However, she also touted support for funding for agricultural programs and local police and fire services, a prescription drug take-back program and money for substance-abuse programs in county jails.
The first-term senator also said she was pleased that the Senate passed a bill she sponsored that would effectively block a controversial solid-waste incinerator that a Rochester company has proposed for rural Seneca County. She is hopeful the state Assembly may still pass the bill this year.
Solid-waste disposal is a significant issue in the district, which is home to the three largest landfills in New York state.
Baldridge opposes not just the incinerator but the long-term existence of the three landfills, which are in Ontario County, Seneca County, and on the Wayne-Monroe county line.
He believes they should close after their current operating permits expire in a few years' time.
"To me, landfills are a technology whose day is done," he said. Baldridge said the facilities should become recycling centers and the state should work much harder to reduce waste generation.
The two candidates agree that the importation of trash from New York City to the Finger Lakes landfills should stop.
But Helming, who worked for a decade for Casella Waste Systems, which operates the big landfill in Ontario County, said she thinks it should be left up to local officials and state environmental regulators to determine
"As a state senator I would not advocate encouraging the closure of a private business," she said.
Asked about major issues that he discusses on the campaign trail, Baldridge mentioned the landfills and also the state gun-control law known as the SAFE Act.
Helming has voiced opposition to the 2013 act, which sought, among other things, to bar high-capacity magazines and require mental-health professionals to report people they judge at risk of committing violent acts.
Baldridge said he is open to amending the SAFE Act but supports the basic law. "I'm saying I don't like the way it was done but it has some good things in it," he said.
A 42-year member of the North Rose Fire Department, he particularly supports the provision that created a mandatory life sentence for people who murder an on-the-job first responder. The provision was inspired by the 2012 slaying of two West Webster firefighters.
Baldridge, a fifth-generation Wayne County resident, said he believes he more squarely represents the people of the district.
He said he has made it a point to be accessible and transparent with constituents during his seven years as Rose town supervisor. "I would take that approach to the Senate — get out there with people ... so they can talk about whatever they want."
In their first race two years ago, Helming earned about 60 percent of the vote and Baldridge about 33 percent, with the balance going to a third-party candidate.
The rematch will not so lop-sided, Baldridge averred. "The indicators are looking better this time around," he said.
The 54th state Senate district includes all of Wayne and Seneca counties, the town of Webster in Monroe County, the eastern half of Ontario County, the western half of Cayuga County and the town of Lansing in Tompkins County. It stretches 75 miles from one corner to the other.
As of April, about 37 percent of the registered votes in the district were enrolled Republicans. Thirty percent were enrolled Democrats and 25 percent were not enrolled in any party. The balance were members of the Independence, Conservative, Working Families and other parties.
The base salary for state senators is $79,500. Terms are two years.
Kenan S. Baldridge
Electoral status: Second run for state Senate
Resident: Town of Rose, Wayne County
Party lines: Democratic, Working Families, Women's Equality
Background: Has served as the elected town supervisor of Rose since 2011. Former member of the North Rose-Wolcott Board of Education. Long-time member of the North Rose Fire Department, former paramedic and head of the department ambulance service. Former administrator for United Blood Services and American Red Cross.
Education: Middlebury College (bachelor's degree), Syracuse University (master's degree), University at Albany (master's degree in public administration), University of Akron (PhD in public administration).
Pamela A. Helming
Electoral status: Serving her first term in the state Senate
Residence: Town of Canandaigua, Ontario County
Family: Married, two children
Party lines: Republican, Conservative, Independence, Reform
Background: Was the elected supervisor of the town of Canandaigua from 2014 to 2016, and a member of the town board from 2010 to 2013. Worked for Continuing Developmental Service as a group-home and workforce manager; as an asset manager for commercial property owner CrossKeys Corp., and as an environmental auditor of landfills, recycling centers and other facilities for Casella Waste Systems.
Education: Hiram College (bachelor's degree)