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Election 2022: Water, state spending, Micron dominate issues in New 48th Senate District race

Julie Abbott campaign/ Rachel May campaign
Republican Julie Abbott, right, Incumbent Democrat Rachel May, left, and Conservative Justin Coretti, not pictured, run for New York 48th District Senator.

The new 48th Senate District covers a radically different territory. The district used to start in Syracuse and reached Oneida County. Now things have changed. The district still includes Syracuse, but extends into southern Onondaga County and west to include Cayuga County.

Incumbent Rachel May said that the district's geographical change means some issues have changed.

“In the new district, because it's got four Finger Lakes and part of Lake Ontario, water issues are huge," May said. "Something I didn't hear about as much in my old district. So, that's been great as a talking point for me because I work on water quality, and I work on watershed governance.”

She said voters are also concerned about abortion rights and the economy. May said the state also needs to be ready to tackle the pressures created by the massive Micron project in Clay.

“Affordable housing is one of them," May said. "Job training is a really big one. And I think transportation, making sure that we are doing the kind of development that protects the quality of life around here, instead of turning us into just some kind of a sprawling, big traffic jam community. So I feel like there are new priorities that are exciting because we have this big new opportunity, but we need to get it right.”

Micron presents unprecedented development opportunities across the region. Republican challenger Julie Abbott is also an Onondaga County Legislator, and said a recently approved controversial project for Syracuse’s Inner Harbor is part of the larger picture.

“Look at the aquarium; that's another one we have heard from the county executive. Everyone in this legislative body from the beginning that these are tandem projects," Abbott said. "The Inner Harbor is directly related to luring Micron. Here you're going to see housing; you're going to see probably some sort of food establishment down there. It is go time.”

But Abbott is taking heat for supporting the $85 million aquarium from Conservative Party candidate Justin Coretti.

“There's no need for this aquarium in Syracuse," Coretti said. "The taxpayer money could be spent to address drug issues for a rehabilitation program.”

Coretti said he was able to defeat Abbott in a primary because she is not truly conservative in the minds of his party and even the GOP.

“She was not their choice," Coretti said. "They don't want her to run. And they're looking forward to supporting me in the upcoming election. So, admittedly, as a third-party candidate, it is an uphill battle for me. But it's something that had to be done. Central New York needed somebody to run that had conservative ideals.”

Abbott said she does not see herself as partisan or even a politician, but rather as someone fed up with the political divide and prefers to meet people in the middle.

Look at the Conservative primary; they primaried me because I'm not conservative enough," Abbott said. "I'm not going to lie. I'm not. I believe that a woman has a right with her body. I don't think the government should tell us what we can and can't do. I don't care who you love. You can love whoever you want. Those are not things that I think the government should be getting into.”

Abbott said that also includes the state lowering the overtime threshold for farmworkers from 60 to 40 hours. She said the rural parts of her county legislature district would be hit hard.

“It's going to tank the farmers," Abbott said. "They already pay for housing. Their growing season is short. The whole idea of forcing farmers out of business by forcing them to pay overtime and then having taxpayers subsidize that is ludicrous to me.”

The state will offset the higher labor costs by reimbursing farmers over the ten-year rollout of the lower threshold. Abbott calls two-term incumbent Rachel May out of touch and complicit with policies that have led to higher crime, unfunded mandates and out-of-control state spending. For her part, May said she tries to run a positive campaign and waxes philosophical about the electoral process for state and federal lawmakers.

“I think it's a flaw of our whole system that every two years we invest literally billions if not trillions of dollars nationally in tearing each other apart," May said. "And it makes everybody feel negative about their government and about their choices. And it's no wonder people get sour on, on politics and government because so much money goes into attacks. And what do we get out of that in the end?”