FREDONIA, NY (WNY News Now) – The two candidates running in a special election to fill the open congressional seat in Western New York faced off and spoke directly with voters during a debate on Thursday in Chautauqua County.
Early voting is already underway for the NY-23 special election, to fill out the remainder of former Congressman Tom Reed’s term after he resigned in May.
Hosted and moderated by the League of Women Voters, candidates Max DelliaPia (D) and Joe Sempolinski (R) spent over an hour debating the issues they care about at the BOCES Center in Fredonia.
“I believe in equity, you know. I honor the rule of law, I want people to have a fair shot, I want them to pay a fair share. I want people to be able to live life with the person they love and I wanna work together to make sure that those things happen,” assures Della Pia. “Pass an Equal Rights Amendment, make sure voting rights are preserved and strengthened.”
The candidate also focused on bringing good jobs back to the area, with the Infrastructure Bill that provides training which will ensure the jobs stay in the area.
Though he is running in a majority conservative district, Della Pia says that given enough time with reluctant voters, they find common ground.
“We don’t have to agree on everything. If we could just agree on a couple things, and then agree to disagree on the others, and then just share a common vision for those two things and work together to make something good happen for the country and also for our constituents, I think that’s the way we’re gonna restore confidence and hope in an institution that many people feel is failing,” explains Della Pia.
Della Pia also believes that inflation, specifically gas prices, is the result of price gouging and corporate manipulation.
Republican Candidate Joe Sempolinski, who is only running in the special election and not the general this November, however, had a different take on the subject.
“The recent Inflation Reduction Act that was a real distinction. I felt it was more taxes, more spending, massive army of IRS agents. My opponent said that he would’ve voted for that. We were asked about the filibuster, I think we should keep the filibuster, my opponent said he wanted to get rid of the filibuster,” clarified Sempolinski.
If elected, Sempolinski would only be a Congressmen for a short period of time.
“Three of the four months of this remainder of the term, the house will be in session, and the house is very closely divided. So who is chosen in this election could very well determine what passes the house and what doesn’t pass the house,” explains Sempolinski.
Since Reed’s resignation, Sempolinski says constituents have been confused about who to talk to about their concerns, but have begun to contact him for answers.
Sempolinski says his focus would be on helping the economy, especially locally which he believes has been left behind, as well as helping those with developmental disabilities.
“There’s no person that knows this whole configuration for the remainder of the one year better than I do. So if I can be somebody who speaks up for some folks that oftentimes get not the attention that maybe other parts of New York State get, it would be a profound honor to be the person that is advocating for the values and the policies we need,” says Sempolinski.
The winner of next Tuesday’s special election will serve as Congressman until January 3, when the ultimate winner of the general election this fall will take office.
Jamestown area conservative Richard Moon also is running a write-in campaign for the special election, however did not join the debate.
You can watch the full debate on our YouTube page, or in the video posted below: