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Tresidder questions Ritchie’s official promotion

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CANTON - When it comes to campaign literature being paid for by taxpayer dollars, Amy M. Tresidder knows it when she sees it — and says she sees it all the time from her Nov. 6 opponent, state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton.

“These fliers are blatantly campaign material,” Mrs. Tresidder said Monday at a news conference outside the Dulles State Office Building.

The fliers tout the work that Mrs. Ritchie has done in Albany, including literature about the state’s property tax cap and about the jobs that New York has created since Mrs. Ritchie has been in office. Mrs. Ritchie, holding a puppy, stands with an older woman in a photograph on one flier. On the top right corner is the notation that the postage was paid by the New York state Senate.

The spat over campaign materials is not unusual in the world of politics — in fact, Mrs. Ritchie made similar claims about her 2010 opponent, then-state Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine. Incumbents have the tools of their position at their disposal, and challengers seek to blunt that advantage by pointing it out. But among political circles, Mrs. Ritchie in particular has received a heightened level of criticism for alleged self-promotion.

According to Mrs. Ritchie, that criticism hasn’t extended to an all-important group: her constituents.

“Every person that I hear from is thrilled to know what’s going on, thrilled to know what I’m doing,” Mrs. Ritchie said.

From October 2011 to March 2012, Mrs. Ritchie’s office spent about $48,000 on bulk mailings. Her mailing expenses put her in the middle of the pack among 61 state senators. In the same time period from 2009 to 2010, Mr. Aubertine spent about $28,000 on bulk mailing and about $27,000 on a newsletter.

Mrs. Ritchie’s interview with the Times alone served to rebut another criticism among Democrats in general and Mrs. Tresidder in particular: that she talks to the press only through spokesmen.

“I’ve never heard from her, except through the mail,” said Ronald P. Cole, the acting Jefferson County Democratic Committee chairman, who attended Mrs. Tresidder’s campaign event.

Said Mrs. Ritchie: “It’s absolutely ridiculous. I am out seven days a week, pretty much 12 hours a day, out talking to the people that I represent.”

Indeed, while her tenure got off to something of a rocky start with the press, she has been more frequently accessible to reporters in the second half of her two-year term.

Mrs. Ritchie acknowledged that in her first term, she struggled to find a balance with a bevy of new responsibilities. Prior to winning a state Senate seat, Mrs. Ritchie was a county clerk.

“I will tell you, when I first took office, I had literally hundreds of requests on a daily basis to meet with everyone,” Mrs. Ritchie said. “If there was one challenge, it was trying to balance how to squeeze everyone in in the course of the day.”

For her part, Mrs. Tresidder said, she’ll soon start contacting constituents of the 48th Senate District by mail. Her campaign has struggled to raise money, but she said that a recent golf fundraiser in Oswego County went well. She acknowledges that she’s a long-shot candidate, but she wouldn’t raise six figures on the race, something she called an “obscene” amount of money. The previous campaign between Mrs. Ritchie and Mr. Aubertine surpassed seven figures.

“I am committed to raising a reasonable amount,” Mrs. Tresidder said.

The two candidates will be able to duke it out in person at candidate forums in Oswego and St. Lawrence counties. Mrs. Tresidder said she wants another formal debate, too.

At 2 p.m. Oct. 9, the candidates will participate in a WRVO forum at Penfield Hall on the SUNY Oswego campus. At 11 a.m. Oct. 26, the candidates will participate in a League of Women Voters forum at the WCKN studios at Clarkson University, Potsdam.

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