One of the ways I'm introduced to new candidates is from other candidates I know and trust. In the case of Scott Comegys, in rural central New York, we were introduced by the Blue America-endorsed congressional candidate, Steve Holden. He's enthusiastic about Scott and now that I've also met him, I can understand why. Both a former manager for the University of Rochester Medical Center transportation department and an alpaca farmer in Palmyra, Scott has also been working as a contact tracer for New York Public Health Department since the pandemic began. As a community organizer, Scott is the chairman of his town's Democratic Party and the chair of Wayne County's strategic planning committee. He's also an Indivisible member and a member of Wayne Action for Racial Equality.
When we first talked we spent a lot of time discussing hopelessness and hope in rural communities where people sometimes feel left behind-- and where people have increasingly turned to Republicans and QAnon-type conspiracy theories. In 2020, Wayne County, where Scott is running voted for Trump, 58.6% to 39.0%. Scott wrote a guest post introducing himself as his district below, Please give it a read and, if you would like to see Scott in office and like to see a stronger and more progressive Democratic bench in central New York, please consider contributing to his campaign here or by clicking on the Blue America 2022 legislative thermometer above.
Hope-- In Wayne County, NY
by Scott Comegys
One can look at Wayne County, see the vacant storefronts, the disused farm fields, and the statistics of poverty throughout the county and say that this is an area that is following trends in rural areas all of over the nation. There are several areas of poverty clustered around Wayne County. There is a lack of access to quality healthcare, good paying jobs, and infrastructure like broadband communications. There is a sense of isolation and a lack of opportunity unless you are wealthy. There is anger and frustration with how the state government serves the people, disengaging many from the political process, and often inspiring the loud and divisive voices opposing any progress the state makes. However, despite this depiction, there is hope that, with a progressive advocate working for them in the state house, Wayne County and all of the people residing there can prosper and be included as a partner with the New York state community moving forward and act as a catalyst for the progressive movement’s success nationally.
The people of Wayne County are proud of the work they do and honestly want nothing more than simply to get on with their lives with no barriers in their way to success. Yet in their struggle to succeed in their lives they are met with many barriers and a perception that there is no help to remove those barriers. The continually rising costs of healthcare, lack of good paying jobs, lack of supportive infrastructure, and the damage caused by the results of Climate Disruption like flooding, toxic algal blooms, and storm damage are a few of the very real barriers faced, but much of their anxiety and anger is directed at the state government for high taxes and regulation.
Rural areas like Wayne County are often associated with people who pride themselves on their self-sufficiency, not needing anyone’s help to achieve their goals. As such the people are prey to messages from conservative parties that blame their struggles on the workings of “big government” interfering with their lives. For some this messaging serves to fuel opposition to any government proposal that does not include the phrase “tax cut” or the word “deregulation.” For others it creates a feeling of hopelessness about the situation ever changing for the better, and disengages them from the processes that are supposed to serve them. In both cases this messaging creates further division, isolation, and anger that results in elected officials who fail to see the whole community they are supposed to serve, and serve only a segment of the population intent on opposing progress.
That opposition is seen in the votes from the state assemblymember who represents us, who votes “Nay” to every budget, the Reproductive Health Act, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, police and justice reform, voting and election reform, housing justice, decriminalization and legalization of marijuana, and may other initiatives that do, actually, benefit the people in the district.
The progressives in the area, lacking the support of the larger mainstream Democratic Party or progressive movement, silence themselves in the area, focusing only on what they can do in the national arena.
Now is the time to change that.
For the past 4 years I have been building a growing coalition of people in Wayne County who are tired of not being served, who support a more progressive agenda as one that serves everyone (as opposed to only a segment), and who see that the area has not been left behind by the greater government as much as it is excluded from the greater government by the actions of those who are supposed to serve us. We’ve been able to organize to enact police reforms, expanded mental healthcare, and provide food for those in need. We’ve inspired progressive Democrats to run for local offices in races that hadn’t seen a challenger in decades and increased engagement from people who had lost hope in the process.
Progress is actually at the heart of Wayne County and rural America and it is at the state and local level that progressive policies make the most impact and set the stage for the national movement.
The rural perspective shared by the majority of those living in areas like Wayne County is, despite the assertions of those currently in office, not simply one of rugged individualism overcoming all challenges. The rural perspective is actually one that adds practicality to idealism in order to move forward and get things done. It is one that builds communities so that we can achieve together what we cannot achieve alone. The rural perspective is one of practical innovation, stewardship, and collaboration to achieve goals that provide for generations. It is one of compassion for neighbors and seeks to include everyone in success. It offers hope for the future. The true rural perspective is about as progressive as one can get.
I see, when looking at Wayne County, an area that contributes to the state through agriculture, energy generation, and manufacturing and technology. I see an area with wondrous natural beauty and habitat for wildlife to be conserved, explored, and appreciated. I see an area rich in history that contributes to how this nation was formed and developed from the people of the Haudenosaunee through those fighting for Independence, helping with the Underground Railroad and fighting through the War between the States, to those developing engineering feats like the Erie Canal and some of the first tech factories to achieve carbon neutral operations, and creating the towns and villages that brought prosperity. I see an area with people who should be recognized for their talents, work, and passion and who should be encouraged to do and succeed more as part of the larger state community. I see an area that contributes to the hope of our state thriving now and in the future.
What the people need for this to happen is a state government that is a good partner to serve with them and will support the community by working to eliminate the barriers to success that exist and by creating a more stable foundation on which to grow.
The state government can directly help with investing in infrastructure that serves to connect us and that addresses the issues of Climate Disruption, education that encourages creative and critical thinking, offering healthcare security both with a universal, single payer coverage plan and by investing directly in the expansion of healthcare centers so that every community has ready access to high quality healthcare, and by ensuring that people have protections that enable them to live their lives with confidence and dignity. The state government can encourage ecotourism and historical tourism. The state government can set up new incentives for entrepreneurs to start new farms and businesses with low interest start up loans, restructuring taxes and fees to balance the burden, and let the people get themselves to work that they want to engage in. The state can reform its systems to eliminate discrimination and injustice in order to ensure that everyone has the opportunity and ability to achieve their fullest potential.
By sharing this vision with the people of Wayne County and the surrounding rural counties of the Finger Lakes in New York State and by leading this movement in rural New York State, we can restore hope and reverse the trends that have created anger and division. With the right support we can have representation that doesn’t act to keep us separate from the larger New York State Community, but includes us. By doing so the state of New York can achieve a unity and progress that serves as a model for the entire nation and can serve as inspiration for a greater movement that allows our nation to become the United States it is meant to be.