Shooters group sponsors candidate forum
MONTOUR FALLS--The Schuyler County chapter of S.C.O.P.E., or the Shooters Committee On Political Education, hosted a gun-rights themed political forum for county judge and legislative candidates Thursday, Oct. 10 at the Montour Falls Moose Lodge.
Judge candidates included Matthew Hayden, Steven Getman, Jessica Saks and Daniel Fitzsimmons.
During introductions, Fitzsimmons, who is running under the Home Town Law party, said he would only discuss the law and not politics while adding that he has several guns.
"A firearm is a tool, and if you look at my truck there are a bunch of tools, including a pistol," Fitzsimmons said.
Steven Getman, the current Schuyler County Attorney and the Republican and Libertarian candidate, described himself as a longtime Republican with a concealed carry permit who is also a member of the Federalist society, and multiple sporting clubs.
"I would bring respect for the law and fealty to the Constitution," Getman said.
Matt Hayden, current assistant district attorney for Schuyler County and running as a Democrat, along with WOR/Schuyler First and SAM parties, described himself as a friend of law enforcement.
"I take the second amendment very seriously," Hayden said.
Hayden added that he once worked very hard to return multiple firearms to the original owner from whom the weapons were stolen.
"That homeowner didn't do anything wrong... so I wanted to make sure I got the guns back to that person," Hayden said.
Saks, running under the Independent and About Justice parties, said that while she does not own a gun herself, she does support gun rights.
"We are not a policy making court. If I wanted to make policy I would run for political office. What I want is to make sure everyone is heard," Saks said.
Discussing her experience, Saks said that her current work in the Law Guardian Office as the court appointed attorney for minors while at the same time maintaining a private practice qualified her for the position.
"I pride myself that I have never advertised, and many of my referrals come from opposing council," Saks said.
As the current assistant district attorney, Hayden said he is the only lawyer running who has had experience as a prosecutor and dealing with firearms in a court setting on a consistent basis.
"I go out of my way to make sure that seized guns are then returned to the person after a case is disposed of or returned... to somebody they would allow that gun to go too," Hayden said.
Getman, who is a member of S.C.O.P.E. and the National Rifle Association, said that along with his experience as county attorney he has taught criminal justice and constitutional law.
"The role of a judge is not about who owns guns, though I do. It's not about who goes target shooting, though I do. It's not about hunting. It's about respect for the law," Getman said.
Fitzsimmons touted his experience, which he said outstripped all other candidates except for Hayden specific only to criminal court, and his previous experience as a judge.
"I am the only one who has overseen a jury trial as a judge," Fitzsimmons said.
Fitzsimmons reiterated that 70 percent of cases the county judge, who serves a 10-year term, will oversee are in family court.
"(I have worked) over a thousand family court cases," Fitzsimmons said, while adding he has previously served eight years as a judge.
Mark Rondinaro, a candidate for Legislative District 7, Maggie Coffey and Gary Gray running for a seat from District 8, spoke briefly about themselves and answered questions submitted by S.C.O.P.E. members that mostly centered around gun rights.
It was announced that Paul Bartow, also a candidate for District 7, did not attend because he was traveling out of the country.
Rondinaro spoke about his experiences as an incumbent legislator and his support for the second amendment.
"We are already moving in the right direction," Rondinaro said.
Gray, said he was the Republican endorsed candidate and that his strong history of civil service qualified him for the position.
His opponent Coffey said while she doesn't like talking about herself and saying she was better than other people, she would work hard to improve local residents quality of life if elected. "I think we could use some diversity as I would be the only woman (on the legislature)," Coffey said.
Gesturing to her candidates Coffey said everyone there that evening was eminently qualified for the position they were running for.
"I will say that you have a whole host of candidates who work hard and I am proud to be one of them," Coffey said.
"S.C.O.P.E. is a 501 C4 statewide organization dedicated to second amendment civil rights since 1965. We do this through public education and promoting voter participation," said Les Wilson, Schuyler S.C.O.P.E. chair, before the forum began.
In a recent newsletter S.C.O.P.E. encouraged exploring legislation that would violate the press's first amendment right to cover mass shootings, arguing that doing so would help stop these atrocities more so than expanded gun control. One of the first questions asked of the candidates was whether or not by a show of hand anyone was a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and expanding constitutional protections such as freedom of speech. None of the candidates raised their hands.