Many visitors made their way through the opening day of the Chautauqua County Fair, but two visitors were unique. Candidates in the race for New York state governor and Chautauqua County Sheriff stopped by to take in the food, activities and fun of the fair.
For Chautauqua County native Russell Payne, the fair has been an annual tradition for him and his family. Payne, who is running against incumbent Joseph Gerace for county sheriff, has 10 grandchildren who enjoy the fair.
"I have 10 grandkids so the kids like to come up. I've always come to the fair all my life. This year is especially important for me because I am running for Chautauqua County Sheriff and like to get the word out, encourage people to come out and vote on November the 4th," Payne said.
Payne, who has served in law enforcement for over 30 years, will have appearances at the fair throughout the week. He will also have a booth in the Conservation Building affiliated with the county's Shooters Committee on Political Education. He is hoping to reach out to those uncommitted voters so they take to the polls in November.
Joining Payne was Rob Astorino, Westchester County Executive, who is running against Gov. Andrew Cuomo in November. While this is not Astorino's first time in Chautauqua County, it was his first time visiting the fair. He said the county fair is great with the sounds of children laughing and going on amusement rides and all the fried food offerings.
Astorino was in Niagara and Erie counties over the weekend and visited both Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties during his trip on Monday. He said that his governor campaign is going well and that the polls "mean nothing at this point." When he won county executive, he was outnumbered by registered Democrats by almost 2-to-1.
"So when I was running in 2009, nobody gave us a shot. We were 30 points down in the polls in the summer, outspent 5-to-1 and we won by 13 points. People don't vote today, they vote in November," he said. "There's a lot that will happen between now and then as people start focusing on the state and how it's going in the wrong direction. Gov. Cuomo has done nothing to help the middle class, nothing to help our farmers and agricultural business."
Astorino said Cuomo has taken away residents' gun rights and implemented Common Core, which is a "disaster." Many New Yorkers are leaving to live elsewhere, whether it be Pennsylvania, Ohio or more southern states, according to Astorino. In Westchester County, Astorino has made the changes he believes are necessary - budget and property tax cuts.
"We cut property taxes in Westchester (County) and we have a budget today that is less than what it was when I walked in the door five years ago. It can be done but we need to make some changes in Albany which affect everyone here in Western New York," Astorino said.
Astorino hopes people in Chautauqua County and Western New York will not be afraid of a "downstate boy." With Cuomo joining up with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Astorino believes personal freedoms will be taken away, businesses will see more regulations and taxes will increase.
"I get it. This economy is in bad shape and the business climate is terrible - one of the worst in the nation. It's going to get worse now that Andrew Cuomo has signed up with the radical Bill de Blasio agenda out of New York City; that is going to be awful and destructive for Western New York ... You're the ones that will stop it. We're looking for a big win in Chautauqua and Western New York," he said.