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Abt, DiPietro running for the 147th assembly

Following the restructuring of New York’s political districts, many residents in the Southtowns have now found themselves in a new assembly district with new candidates running for election this Nov. 6.

This is especially true for Boston, North Collins, Eden, Brant, Evans and the parts of the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation.

Instead of being in District 146, which they shared with the towns of Hamburg, Collins, Concord, Sardinia, Colden and Holland, they are now in District 147, which has removed Hamburg and added Wales, Aurora, Elma, Marilla and all of Wyoming County. (Hamburg is now in District 149).

Incumbent District 146 Assemblyman Kevin Smardz (R, I), originally announced he would run for the seat of District 147, when incumbent District 146 Assemblyman Daniel J. Burling (R,C) announced he was not running for reelection.

This summer Smardz announced he would not run for office for personal reasons, which then opened the lists to a host of potential candidates.

The following are the two candidates seeking election for the 147 District.

Christina Abt, (I) is the endorsed Democrat and Working Families candidate and also won a primary challenge for the Independence Party endorsement. In October, Burling publicly came out in support of Abt’s candidacy.

Abt, 60, of Eden, for all her life has been interested in politics and over the years has had a lot of experience working with the various political parties in the area.

“When I was in high school I got interested in politics and started running for class offices,” Abt said.

“Then I decided to major in political science in college and continued to run for offices at the college level,”

Abt said.

Since graduating from college, Abt has been involved in the political theater in a variety of roles: media specialist for the Erie County Legislator (hired by the Republican Party); worked with Legislator Jeannie Chase (R) District 12 representing the towns of Boston, Brant, Eden, Evans and North Collins; worked with Legislator Robert Reynolds (D) when he was elected to represent the District 12 and ran for the Eden Town Board as an independent candidate, since the main political parties had cross endorsed the candidates.

“I ran as an independent candidate, coming up with my own party, because I felt the voters needed a choice and they weren’t getting one by the parties cross endorsing,” she said. Though she was not elected, it confirmed to her that she wanted to be involved in how things are done.

“I believe in giving back to your community,” Abt said. While being heavily involved in this year’s Eden Bicentennial celebration, she learned that since the 1800s it has been a tradition in Eden for residents to serve in Albany as a public service for their community.

“That is a really important tradition and it is something I have always believed in.”

Abt, who is running a grass roots campaign, not only has many connections to Erie County, but has strong family ties in Wyoming County, with family names of Green and McCormick being well known to the farming community.

“Farming does need to be moved to the forefront of our concerns,” she said. “There are so many mandates out there, that the farm operators are being severely hampered in their abilities to farm.”

Agriculture is only one of the things that concerns Abt, though she believes that one needs to work with the residents without preconceived agendas.

“I feel I am well qualified to represent the residents in both counties and I can connect with them on a personal level,” she said. “Not only have I traveled back and forth between the two counties but over the years I have worked in many different venues, which gives me a great understanding of the needs of this diverse area.”

Along with doing the jobs in the political field, she has owned and operated farms; worked in the restaurant business; has done public relations work for local businesses; worked as a columnist for newspapers (including The Sun); was co-host of Good Morning Buffalo for WECK 1230 AM; worked for WBFO/NPR Radio 88.7; was president of the Eden Chamber of Commerce; wrote the song honoring those on fatal Flight 3407 “Love Knows No Boundaries;” has written for “Chicken Soup for the Soul;” has done a lot in the Eden community including the Bicentennial celebration and has raised two children and now has two grandchildren.

“I know how to work with all the parties and I know how to listen,” she said.

“You don’t go into this making promises that you can’t keep. You go to Albany and you listen, learn and you go to work,” she said.

“People matter and we can make a change if you go in with a positive mind set,” Abt said. “Our greatest natural resource here is the people and we will get it done.”

David J. DiPietro (R) is endorsed by the Conservative Party and was the winner of a hotly contested Republican primary between four candidates.

DiPietro, 52, of East Aurora, is also no stranger to the political stage, having served as a trustee for the Village of East Aurora from 1999 to 2002 and mayor from 2002 through 2008.

“When I became mayor, the village was in a huge financial mess,” he said. “In less than two years I was able to turn that around and then we had tax cuts for three straight years.”

While mayor, he initiated consolidation of building and code enforcement; consolidation of the water and sewer, merging one of most expensive sewer departments in the state with the county and also negotiated with each of the unions in the village to reach an agreement where employees now pay for a percentage of their health care plan instead of taxpayers paying for it 100 percent.

Other initiatives were: privatizing garbage collection, cutting administrative salaries, reducing staffing; enacting open meetings initiatives, taking the board meetings into public venues for the residents and started the village website and newsletter.

According to DiPietro, he knows how to handle finances, not only because of earning a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Wittenberg University and then working at M&T Bank in the trust division, he also had to deal with million dollar budgets as mayor.

“I know how government works and I know how to get things done,” DiPetro said. “Plus owning a small family business really makes you understand the day by day challenges all businesses face in New York.”

DiPietro’s father, Carlin DiPietro, started the family business, Sparkle Cleaners in 1948 and DiPetro took over from his father in 1991.

Since then he has opened two satellite sites in East Aurora while keeping the plant location in Amherst, doubling the number of employees and tripling his sales numbers.

“East Aurora is in the heart of the district and with having campaigned in the district twice before, when I ran for the senate and for this primary, I feel like I have really gotten to know the residents and their concerns.

“This is a heavy agricultural area and the farm owners are being over regulated by the Department of Environment and Conservation,” he said.

“Often the rules from the DEC have good intentions for the more urban areas but they are unrealistic for those agricultural businesses.

“We need to make sure the laws are fair and are not unreasonable,” he said.

DiPietro said he would like to help get a stalled bill passed that would eliminate the New York State gas tax.

“This would be a savings of about 38-cents on the gallon,” he said. “It would remove about $2 billion from our income for the state but with lower gas prices it would bring in more tourists and drive up sales.

“We would also easily replace that money if we address the flawed Welfare Program in this state.”

According to DiPietro, if the state would enact a law mandating people on welfare to be drug tested on a regular basis, the state would see a reduction of welfare recipients.

“I don’t believe taxpayers should be paying for people to buy illegal drugs,” DiPietro said. “I believe that if we were able to get this testing done, we would see a $5 billion savings as people would be removed from the rolls.

“There is so much waste in Albany, I believe I can make a difference.”

DiPietro, lives in East Aurora with his wife, Theresa, his two step-sons, Ryan and Danny and their daughter Ava.

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