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Voters To Pick Which Progressive Should Challenge Finger Lakes Sen. Tom O'Mara

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) - Primary elections in New York are tomorrow. Democrats in Hornell, Corning, Elmira and Ithaca will choose between two candidates to challenge incumbent Republican State Senator Tom O’Mara in November.

Michael Lausell and Amanda Kirchgessner come from two different backgrounds, but they both call themselves “progressive."

Lausell is a lawyer and farmer who serves as the only Democrat on the Schuyler County legislature.

“I’m actually surprised that some Republicans that I’ve had some ideological differences with in different issues are supportive.”

Kirchgessner works as a waitress and seventh generation native of Tompkins County. She wants to mobilize the working class.

“A lot of people in this district are too poor to leave and they’re too poor to stay. So what do we do? We have to organize. We have to dig in. And we have to fight,” said Kirchgessner.

Both support a proposal for a statewide single payer healthcare system, which would give the state authority to support and carry out its own insurance network. The state Assembly passed the New York Health Act, which would essentially do that.

But, the Republican-held Senate refuses to bring it up. As Democrats, Kirchgessner and Lausell hope that if they’re elected to the Senate, that could change.

Both like it because it would shift tax burdens away from county property taxes. Lausell says he hears a lot of frustration about that on the Schuyler County legislature.

“Collecting it out of property taxes is the most regressive way that we can fund healthcare.”

Instead of property taxes, the New York Health Act would pay for healthcare through the state income tax. Kirchgessner is a major proponent of that across the board.

“Most taxes should be wealth-based. I think we need to look at property taxes and assess them more fairly.”

Both candidates are environmentalists. Kirchgessner believes threats to the environment are one of the region’s top priorities. As a legislator, Lausell fought against a proposed liquid petroleum gas storage facility on Seneca Lake.

The primary is Thursday, the general election is November 6.