Candidates in state Senate race argue over wind farms, Empire Zones.
The campaigns for the 48th state Senate District grappled on Thursday, trading charges as the race entered its final days.
Assemblymen Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, and Darrel Aubertine, D-Cape Vincent, are vying for the seat left open by Jim Wright’s resignation in January. Tuesday is election day.
Barclay’s campaign launched a new television spot saying Aubertine voted on bills that would make wind power more lucrative for farmers. Aubertine receives twice-yearly payments from a wind power developer who purchased wind rights on his 500-acre farm.
Aubertine denied any conflict.
Records show that in 2003, 10 days after telling a newspaper a wind power company had approached him about putting turbines on his land, he voted to change New York law so farmers could host wind turbines without increasing their property tax assessment.
On Thursday, Aubertine denied ever voting on wind power issues that might create a conflict.
“No, not at all,” he told a Watertown television station. “I never – one way or the other – certainly not for my personal gain.”
In May 2006, Aubertine said in a Watertown Daily Times story about wind power that he had abstained from “several bills that may or may not have been construed as a benefit to me or my family.”
Aubertine said he collects two $700 payments each year from St. Lawrence Wind Power, which is seeking to develop wind turbines on Cape Vincent. He said he signed a five-year contract about three years ago.
An Aubertine spokesman said that while the farm was Aubertine’s, the land was in his father’s name in 2003. And, he said, Aubertine’s father received about half the payments from the wind power company. Aubertine’s father died in January.
Asked Thursday if he thought it was appropriate to vote on a measure that affected his own property, Aubertine responded: “If it was me alone, no.” But, he said, “It’s not me. It’s the town and dozens of other landowners.”
On Monday, Aubertine told an editorial board meeting at The Post-Standard that if the wind project is developed, his farm could host five to 10 wind turbines that could bring in $50,000 to $100,000 a year.
Aubertine’s campaign countered the Barclay charges with a Thursday news release blasting Barclay for voting against changes to Empire Zone benefits that would make law firms ineligible.
Barclay is a partner in the Syracuse law firm of Hiscock & Barclay, which has received Empire Zone benefits of more than $800,000.
Barclay has said the firm earned the tax breaks by renovating office space, remaining in downtown Syracuse and increasing its number of employees.
Barclay spokesman Chris McKenna said the comparison was “apples and grapefruits,” because the measure Aubertine supported became law, but the measure Barclay was against was a “one-house bill,” a symbolic measure that had no chance of becoming law.
Staff writer Michelle Breidenbach contributed to this report.
By Charles McChesney
22 February 2008
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