Recap: New York State Assembly District 125 Environmental Candidate Forum

June 11, 2020

On May 28th, 2020, the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF) held a candidate forum for New York Assembly District 125, which covers Tompkins County and parts of Cortland County, to replace longtime Assemblymember Barbara Lifton, who is retiring. The forum took place on Zoom ahead of New York’s primary election on June 23rd. NYLCVEF regularly holds candidate forums to provide voters with the opportunity to hear directly from candidates about their stance on important sustainability issues. The Assembly D125 forum featured Sujata Gibson, Beau Harbin, Lisa Hoeschele, Anna Kelles, Jason Leifer, Jordan Lesser, and Seph Murtagh. The forum was moderated by Tom Pudney, Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice.


Sujata Gibson is an activist and local attorney. During the forum, she emphasized the need to focus on food security and hire local workers for green jobs in the region. Gibson supports developing eco-villages that are rural and provide public housing. She believes that the way to combat harmful algal blooms is to help farmers transition to more sustainable farming practices and reduce polluted runoff. Other priorities include building weatherization, clean transportation, and educating the youth about environmental stewardship and growing food.

Beau Harbin is a legislator for District 2 in Cortland County. During the forum, he raised concerns about farmers having the support they need to implement conservation practices, and called for innovative solutions to address water quality issues. Harbin would like to see upgrades to water infrastructure that utilize the power of the region’s river systems. He expressed the need to change the perception of the Green New Deal in rural communities and to pass the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act. Harbin has been working with small manufacturers and businesses in the region to make batteries for renewable energy storage.

Lisa Hoeschele is the Executive Director and CEO of Family & Children’s Counseling Services of Central New York. During the forum, she highlighted that telecommuting and telehealth is something to consider to reduce transportation pollution. Hoeschele is concerned about cheap oil distracting from environmental priorities. She supports a carbon tax and investing the funds into green technology and sustainable development. She supports partnering with community colleges to develop avenues for young people to join the green workforce.

Anna Kelles is a legislator for District 2 in Tompkins County. During the forum, she called for reducing emissions from the transportation and building sectors. She supports providing tax credits and incentives for EVs, upgrading infrastructure for electrification, and generating more renewable energy. She also expressed support for bringing green jobs to disadvantaged communities. She emphasized the importance of helping small farmers transition to sustainable farming practices. Kelles would also like to see upstate high-speed rail, a low carbon fuel standard, and an upgrade to water infrastructure.

Jason Leifer is Dryden Town Supervisor and an attorney. During the forum, he voiced support for using BOCES to train young people in HVAC, weatherization, and rehabilitation of older homes. Leifer would like to see more restoration to stream banks and riparian buffers to improve water quality. In addition, he supports the use of digester systems on farmers that turn waste into renewable gas. He would also like to see more rail trails that encourage biking, improved broadband access so people can telecommute and use telehealth, and more electric vehicle charging stations.

Jordan Lesser currently serves as legal counsel for the New York State Assembly. During the forum, he spoke in support of revamping transportation by increasing rail service, creating bikeable communities, and adopting electric school buses with Volkswagen Settlement funds. Lesser supports a soil health program to reduce nutrients and contaminants from entering water bodies, and lowering the threshold for emissions from power plants. Lastly, he would like to see revenue from a carbon fee invested into disadvantaged communities.

Seph Murtagh currently represents the 2nd Ward on the Ithaca Common Council. During the forum, he called for a streamlined green workforce development track and to prioritize funding for sustainable projects and programs. To meet the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act mandates, Murtagh shared the need to transition heating systems to more sustainable systems. He would like to see more funding for farmers to help them transition to sustainable farming practices and investment in water systems.

Thanks to our partners for helping to make this event a success: Energy21, Sustainable Tompkins, Heat Smart Tompkins, Climate Reality Project NY, League of Women Voters Cortland County, Mothers out Front Tompkins County, and Sierra Club. Remember to cast your ballot for the New York primaries on June 23rd via absentee ballot or at your polling place!

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