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Orleans Dems hear from 2 candidates seeking to challenge Collins for Congress

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 March 2018 at 11:20 am

McMurray, Stankevich headed for June 26 Primary

ALBION – Two candidates running for Congress in the eight-county 27th District met at a forum in Albion on Tuesday with local Democratic Party members.

Nate McMurray, the Grand Island town supervisor, and Nick Stankevich, a Mumford resident and entrepreneur, are both seeking the Democratic Party line to challenge Chris Collins in November.

Photos by Tom Rivers: Nate McMurray, Grand Island town supervisor and a candidate for the 27th Congressional District, speaks during a forum on Tuesday in Albion that was organized by the Orleans County Democratic Party.

McMurray has the early edge over Stankevich, after securing the nomination from Turn 27 Blue, the Working Families Party and the Democratic county committees in Erie, Livingston, Niagara and Wyoming. The Orleans Democratic Party Committee is expected to take its endorsement soon. First, the party leaders wanted to hear from the two candidates.

McMurray grew up by the canal in North Tonawanda. When he was 5, his father died of cancer. He was one of seven children raised by a single mother. McMurray said the experience has made him empathetic of the struggles of people in poverty and who have endured tragedy.

He is grateful for public schools and social programs, which kept his family together and allowed for “a hand up.”

McMurray believes the government should be active in solving community problems. He said Republicans have painted “government” as the enemy, with the result a hands-off approach while Western New York and its many communities have suffered a downward spiral, with economic and population losses.

Collins has offered no answers while many small towns are suffering, McMurray said.

“If you go to these small towns they are devastated,” McMurray said. “They do not look like the United States of America.”

He said the vacant homes, decaying neighborhoods and shuttered storefronts in the downtowns look like towns in Eastern Europe.

“There are places in the 27th District that are being emptied out,” McMurray said. “It is a crisis situation. When you’re losing this much population, it’s a crisis situation.”

Nick Stankevich, a resident of rural Mumford in Monroe County, speaks during the forum at the QWL Building on Washington Street in Albion.

McMurray currently lives outside the 27th. He has been criticized by Collins for that. McMurray said he would move into the 27th if elected. (Collins also lived outside the former district in 1998 when he challenged John LaFalce for Congress.)

Stankevich, during the debate on Tuesday, noted that he was the only rural resident running for Congress in the 27th District. Stankevich sees renewable energy as an economic engine for the rural communities, from solar, wind energy, hydroelectric and on-farm electric projects, including manure digesters that use methane gas to power generators.

“We must embrace the renewable energy economy,” he said.

Stankevich works with his family’s business, the Genesee Country Inn Bed and Breakfast. He has also co-founded two local companies. Woolen Stitches is an artisanal wool shop. He also is working on hydroelectric energy project for the inn and its neighbors in Mumford.

The tax reform bill won’t help small businesses or middle class residents, he said. The legislation instead is focused by providing huge tax breaks to corporations and multi-millionaires, he said.

“We have a broken economic system and a corrupt political system,” Stankevich said.

Both McMurray and Stankevich said they support the Second Amendment but they want background checks, and a ban on bump stocks and assault rifles, such as AR-15s. Those assault rifles should only be permitted for military and police, and not regular citizens, they said.

McMurray also said the CDC should do a study on gun violence.

‘If you go to these small towns they are devastated. They do not look like the United States of America. There are places in the 27th District that are being emptied out. It is a crisis situation.’ – Nate McMurray

Both candidates support universal healthcare with a single-payer system. Stankevich said it would help businesses, reducing their costs if the government took the lead on healthcare coverage.

“I think healthcare is an earned right,” Stankevich said.

McMurray is a lawyer who is fluent in Korean and Mandarin Chinese. He represented countries in Asia. His experiences showed him other countries that provide universal healthcare.

“We are the wealthiest country in the world, but it doesn’t feel like that for many people in our country,” McMurray said. “What about the infirm and the children? I will fight relentlessly for them.”

Stankevich  also said government should also work to address the “student loan debt crisis.” The heavy debts on recent college grads cause many to delay marriage and buying a home, Stankevich said.

‘We have a broken economic system and a corrupt political system.’ – Nick Stankevich

Stankevich said he is the son of a school teacher mother and a father who sold insurance. He said he is a big fan of Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who energized many Democrats the last presidential campaign.

Both candidates said they support extending DACA for children who came to the country illegally. “To even talk about sending them home is a moral wrong,” McMurray said.

Nate McMurray

Stankevich said he supports expanded guest-worker programs for agriculture, to ensure farmers have an adequate workforce. He would also support a path to citizenship for those workers.

McMurray sees agriculture as a strength of the 27th District. The strong farm sector as well as the tourism potential are building blocks for improving the economy in the 8-county 27th District, he said.

McMurray is the only Democrat on the Grand Island Town Board. He said the town has worked together to protect farmland, develop recreational trails, tackle the opioid epidemic, renew vacant housing and neighborhood decay, put in 50 megawatts of solar power, and is working on a welcome center to celebrate the community’s history and culture.

Nick Stankevich

The successes are not one bold action, but a “a million painful steps,” he said, noting that success often takes a coordinated, long-range plan.

The two candidates also said they support legalizing marijuana, which they said will ultimately help with the opioid crisis in helping people manage their pain. The revenue from regulating and taxing marijuana could also be used for healthcare and infrastructure, they said.

The two disagreed with Trump’s protectionist stance with tariffs on steel and aluminum. But they said they agreed with President Trump that many trade deals were poorly negotiated and American workers need more protections.

McMurray faulted Trump for retreating from the world.

“We shouldn’t turn ourselves off to the world,” McMurray said. “We don’t turn our back on the world. The world is full of opportunities.”

Stankevich said the trade agreements have favored multi-national corporations at the expense of many Americans.

“Trump spoke to a lot of people with trade,” Stankevich said.

The two candidates are both planning to run in a June 26 Democratic Party primary. Collins has been endorsed by the Republican Party for another two-year term.

For more on McMurray, click here.

For more on Stankevich, click here.

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