FREEDOM, NY – The Democratic candidate running for Cathy Young’s (R-Olean) recently-vacated State Senate seat says that despite his age, he’s still just as capable and qualified to represent voters in the 57th district when compared to the other two individuals running for the seat.
Democratic candidate Austin Morgan, 22, is a lifelong resident of Freedom, NY in Cattaraugus County. The son of a teacher’s aide and a maintenance mechanic, Morgan was the valedictorian of Pioneer High School’s Class of 2015, and he is a first-generation college student about to graduate from Cornell University where he is studying child development and environmental influences on that development. He’s worked as a teacher aide with special needs students, substitute teacher, State Senate Legislative Analyst, and as the co-President of a student-run event production business on the Cornell Campus.
Morgan has already been endorsed by all four county Democratic Committees in the 57th district, including Chautauqua County.
Morgan was a guest on this week’s Community Matters program and talked about his candidacy and why he’s decided to run for State Senate.
“I think it’s time for some energy and I think it’s time for some excitement in our local politics. When was the last time we looked at government and didn’t have an exhaustive sigh?” Morgan asked. “So I put my name in because I really feel a sense of duty to the towns, the streets, and the people who raised me.”
Morgan appears to be the lone Democratic candidate in a special election for a Senate district that historically has favored Republicans (the party has held the seat going back to the days of the late Jess Present, who was first elected to the State Senate in 1968). On the Republican side both Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello (Irving) and Allegany County Legislature Chairman Curtis Crandall (Belfast) are vying for the party’s nomination, with Borrello already receiving the endorsement of all four county Republican Committees.
Even though both Borrello and Crandall have been elected to public office and currently serve in leadership positions at the local level, Morgan said that doesn’t necessarily translate to them having more knowledge about what it takes to operate within the State Legislature.
“In 2018 I worked for the State Senate and I realized that a lot of the places, a lot of the folks around where we live, just aren’t at the table right now. Their voices just aren’t being heard,” Morgan explained, later adding, “Beyond the two Republican opponents that I have right now, I have more experience in how the Senate works, how the Democratic majority works, and how things are actually done in Albany.”
Besides their history in public office, both Borrello and Crandall also have extensive experience running a business, which can be appealing for some constituents who want a representative who understands the challenges that face small businesses and their owners.
But Morgan said he also has experience managing people and making a company profitable.
“When I came to Cornell University, I found out there was an on-campus business called Cornell Production. It does media events – we do sound and lighting for them. When I first found the company it was going under. It lacked leadership and it just was not functioning. So one of the things I did in my Freshman semester was I joined the organization. A friend and I got it organized, got the employees organized – over 40 students who worked for the company. And we turned it around. We reached profit the very next semester,” Morgan said.
And while it appears a Republican will once again be heavily favored to win the 57th District (Young ran unopposed in the most recent election), Morgan said that if residents want any chance at fair representation they will have to send a Democrat to the Senate.
“What we’re facing right now in our region are two realities. One is that the State Senate is solidly Democratic and it will not be changing back soon. The second is that in order for our region to continue to get the resources that it needs, we need a voice in the room when Democrats are plotting the course for our state’s future,” Morgan said. “The party is incredibly New York City-centric. There are not voices from rural regions like ours. So if our voters believe we need help from Albany to continue growing, which I believe we do, what needs to happen is we need to send someone to put our voice at the table.”
Morgan also said that despite his age, he is ready to represent the region in Albany.
“I may be young but I think in this case that’s an asset. I may be only 22, but I know [Chautauqua County Democratic Committee] Chairman Norman Green says ‘I’m 22 going on 40’ and I think a lot of people would feel that way if they get the chance to talk with me and I hope I have the chance to talk with them,” Morgan said.
Meanwhile a date has not been set for when a special election for the 57th district may occur. That decision rests with Governor Andrew Cuomo. If he chooses not to call for a special election, then Young’s replacement will be voted on during the November General election to fill out the remainder of the current term, which ends on December 31, 2020.