By CRAIG FREILICH
CAPE VINCENT -- Republican businessman and Cape Vincent town board member John Byrne has announced he will challenge Democrat Addie Russell of Theresa for the 116th Assembly District seat.
Byrne says he has traveled the entire district, which includes northern Jefferson County, plus Ogdensburg and all the towns in St. Lawrence County along the St. Lawrence River, plus Canton, Potsdam, Rossie, Macomb and DePeyster.
“It’s time to have someone in office who is a small business owner to bring some of those values to the North Country,” Byrne said Tuesday.
He is the founder of a plastics company near Cooperstown – “I built it from the ground up” -- that at one time employed 35 people.
He now owns and runs a small campground.He has been impressed with the number of lawn signs he has seen about the state’s gun control law, the Safe Act, but believes the major issue in the North Country right now is education.
“Education is huge,” he said. “I’m not in favor of the Gap Elimination Adjustment. It funnels most of the school aid downstate. We need that aid up here.
“The recent Assembly budget puts in more funding for education, but that leans heavily toward downstate.
“And I’m concerned about consolidation being forced on schools. When you start merging schools like that, you’re going to be putting kids on the bus for a long time.” He said he doesn’t think most legislators “realize the distances between schools up here and the importance of schools to the community.”
He is part of the consensus that favors higher educational standards, “but they’re just laying this in teachers’ laps without their input.”
He says his 6-year-old daughter gives him a personal stake in these issues.
Byrne said he had a summer place in the North Country for some time and when he decided to move north seven or eight years ago it was “because it is the most beautiful area in New York State, possibly the world.”
He said he has “wanted to give something back” to the North Country, and that as vice-chair of the Cape Vincent Local Development Corporation he accomplished something of that in helping MetalCraft Marine open a facility there that now employs 25 people.
“I’d like to do more for employment for the folks here.”
John Humphrey, a Navy veteran from Cape Vincent now living in the town of Brownville while running a soybean farm and horse operation, announced last month his intention to run for the Republican Party nomination in the Assembly contest.
Meanwhile Lisbon beef farmer Russ Finley says he is seeking the Conservative Party endorsement to run for the Assembly seat.