JAMESTOWN – The Chautauqua County legislator from Jamestown who’s now seeking the Republican Party’s nomination as candidate for Mayor is relying on his voting record of reducing taxes in county government to convince voters he’s the right man for the job.
In early February current Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi (D) announced he would not be seeking a sixth term in office, opening the door for new leadership in City Hall. One of the individuals who’s come forward to seek the mayoral position is legislator David Wilfong (R-District 11).
Wilfong first ran for an open district 11 seat in the Chautauqua County Legislature in 2011 after former legislator Maria Kindberg (D) opted not to seek reelection. He was defeated that year by Robert Whitney (D). However, he ran once again in 2013 on a platform of selling the Chautauqua County Home in order to reduce property taxes. He defeated Whitney in that rematch and has been reelected twice since then – both in 2015 (defeating Whitney for a second time) and in 2017 (defeating Democratic challenger Frank Besse).
In a recent interview with WRFA, the three-term Republican said that since he joined the County Legislature at the start of 2014, county property taxes have gone down each year and he’s hoping to use that record to help win over voters in November.
“A lot of people don’t realize that at the county level, we have lowered your property taxes for the last five years in a row. So I have a history of making sure I do what the people sent me to Mayville to do,” Wilfong said.
Wilfong, who also currently serves as the chairman of the Chautauqua County Republican Committee, said he’s also shown he’s willing to work with people from the Democratic side of the aisle.
“I’m going to run on my background and the platform I’m going to run on is that I have the knowledge and the skill to reach across the aisle and get things done for the people of Jamestown.”
Wilfong also said he’s well aware of the financial challenges facing the city of Jamestown, which is currently at its constitutional taxing limit and which also has been working under an extremely tight spending plan for the past several years. Still, Wilfong said he does have some cost-saving proposals in mind and he’ll be rolling them out in the coming months. In addition, he said that if elected he’ll also be asking more from the Jamestown City Council.
“One of the things that I’m going to request from the city council is that I need more leadership from them and I need more guidance from them because one of the things I learned, being successful at the county, is we don’t do that by ourselves,” Wilfong said. “Mayor Teresi doesn’t spend a dime. George Borrello, our county executive, doesn’t spend a dime. It’s the city council and the county legislature that okays purchases. So you can say ‘Sam Teresi did this’ or ‘Sam Teresi did that’ but that’s not the truth. The city council is okayed those expenditures.”
Wilfong is also aware that in order for the city to rebound, it will continue to need help from New York State. During the past three budgets the city has requested a total of more than $2.7 million in supplemental state aid to close annual deficits (the state approved the requests in 2017 and 2018 and appears ready to do so again this year).
Wilfong credits the strong relationship mayor Teresi has with fellow Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo in helping to get that aid delivered. But he also hopes the state would continue offering support if he were elected to office.
“Mayor Teresi has been a good steward of reaching out the governor and receiving funding so we can pay our bills. I would just hope that if I was elected governor that same courtesy would be extended. I just hope there wouldn’t be political games going on because I would be a Republican mayor,” Wilfong said.
But before Wilfong can even run as a Republican in the November General Election, he will first likely have to win a primary in June. Both he and first-term city councilman At Large Andrew Liuzzo (R-At Large) are seeking the party’s nod for the mayoral race, with Wilfong being the candidate receiving the endorsement of the Jamestown Republican Committee. Both candidates are in the process of gathering signatures on their election petitions in order to qualify for the June primary.
Meanwhile, the City Democratic Committee has selected local attorney Eddie Sundquist as its endorsed candidate and he appears to be unopposed in seeking the full party’s nomination as a candidate for mayor.