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Dia Carabajal and John Lemondes Want to Fill the Open 126th Assembly District Seat;

For the first time in 20 years, Gary Finch is not on the ballot in the 126th assembly district.  The Republican who represented the western suburbs of Syracuse and parts of Cayuga, Cortland, and Chenango Counties is retiring.  That leaves a rare wide open seat, much like the 50th senate district which includes some of the same territory. 

WAER News takes a look at how the assembly candidates are trying to reach voters during a pandemic, and some of their priorities.

Republican John Lemondes  admits limitations due to the pandemic have made it challenging for everyone. 

It makes it difficult for those who are running to get their message out.  It makes it difficult for voters to hear and understand those messages.  At the end of the day, it’s really restricting door to door activity where people are afraid to have people at their homes in their space in that way.”

Democrat Dia Carabajal is a 30-year educator who’s previously held seats on the Auburn school board and Auburn City Council. 

I’ve knocked on a lot of doors before, but we can’t do that now.  We are doing electronic outreach through Facebook, our website, Twitter, and Instagram.  We’ve been doing some Zoom interviews that we put on our website.  We are making phone calls, and we’re doing some socially distanced events.”

Carabajal recently joined other Democratic candidates for state legislature in Seneca Falls in July to show their solidarity.      

She says the pandemic is clearly tied to the big issues on voters minds.

Health care, education, how are we going to get back to work, how are we going to get back to school, how are we going to get back to life under these circumstances, and when is it going to be safe to get back to those normal activities.  That’s also a concern.”

Credit WAER file photo

The issues and priorities are clearly different for John Lemondes, a retired army colonel turned sheep farmer.

He posted a video over the summer expressing his support for other farmers and the agriculture industry as the backbone of the economy for the region and the state.

Lemondes says he’s running for office to change the state’s direction.  He lists several reasons for the downward trajectory, which have gone unaddressed for decades.

Number one, we have the highest minimum wage in the country.  Number two, we have the highest taxes in the country.  Number three, we have the second-highest utility rates in the country.  Number four, we have the highest outmigration in the country.  People have been fleeing New York for 20 years if not longer.  This is terrible.  People leave for a reason, and it’s not the weather." 

Lemondes says all of that drives business away, too.  He paints a rather dark picture of the state’s condition.

I want to see my state vibrant.  I want to see it what it once was.  I want to see it have opportunity for our children so they don’t grow up knowing they have to leave in order to have a decent life because there’s no chance to have one here. People communicate this to me every single day.”

But Lemondes says public safety is number one on voters minds, and it’s a cornerstone of his campaign.  He says he’s saddened to see the democrats align themselves with what he calls anarchist activity protesting the police.  Lemondes even says New York City is being “decimated, looted, and rioted because police aren’t allowed to do their jobs.”

Dia Carabajal made no mention of public safety in an interview, just like Lemondes didn’t mention the environment.  Carabajal says the health of the four finger lakes and smaller kettle lakes in the district is important to the people of the 126th

They all have been affected by harmful algal blooms.  That is our source of drinking water.  It’s our source of recreation.   It’s our source of tourism.  It is a source of real estate value.  The health of our Finger Lakes is paramount.”

Carabajal says she’s also looking out for jobs, and is a strong supporter of labor, a living wage, and access to quality health care.  Voters in the 126th district will decide whether to increase the assembly’s Democratic majority or keep it a Republican seat. 

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at