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David Sager, left, the Democratic candidate is taking on John Bonacic, the Republican incumbent, for the Senate seat for our area.

Shaping up as a ‘Goliathian’ challenge

David Sager takes on John Bonacic

Sager: "I can do more at the state level"

By Jeanne Sager
October 29, 2010 — Editor’s Note: Despite the last name in common, the candidate and reporter are not related.
JEFFERSONVILLE – David Sager can’t sit at home anymore.
The Democratic candidate for State Senate is a county native. He was raised in Rock Hill. He graduated from Monticello High School.
He and wife Michelle are raising their two children in Jeffersonville, where Sager runs his own chiropractic office.
And after a decade of county service – first as chiropractor and more recently as District 1 legislator – he knows what the county needs most. And that’s help from the state.
“With my work at the county, I’ve seen so much is dictated by the state,” Sager said. “The unfunded mandates are killing us. The games they play are literally killing our communities.
“People have said they will miss me if I leave the legislature, and that’s great to hear, but I can do more at a state level,” he continued.
Specifically, Sager has taken on the mantle of making changes in Albany that he says incumbent John Bonacic hasn’t done.
A member of the state legislature for some 20 years, Bonacic ranks 52nd out of 62 state senators in the number of bills introduced. In contrast, Bonacic is ranked 21st out of 62 senators in terms of the size of his payroll.
They’re figures Sager rolls off readily. They’re figures that frustrate Sager.
After all, he’s the candidate who refused to take a pay raise himself for the legislator’s position for the county. He’s the candidate whose work has resulted in a renewed focus on ethics in Sullivan County government. He’s the candidate who championed efforts to have illegal voters stricken from the register in Sullivan County – a project that has resulted in a new policy for the Board of Elections’ voter challenge process.
And he’s the candidate who has done it all as part of just a part-time job. At the end of the day, he still needed to put in full days at his own small business to keep food on the table for his family.
“We’re real people,” Sager said. “I am who I am, pimples and all.”
If his work at the county has opened his eyes to the way Albany ties the hands of county governments, it’s at home that Albany’s failings are compounded.
It’s as a small business owner and resident that Sager feels the weight of mandates he says are put upon the communities by the state with no funding. It’s as a homeowner that he feels property taxes in New York State are out of control, as a parent that he feels the weight of cuts in public education, and as a community member that he sees a region torn apart by the threat of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
While he was calling for the state to slow down, do scientific research and determine whether there can even be drilling that’s safe for the community, Bonacic was assuming what Sager called a “rather pro-drilling stance.”
It was only after the groundswell of indignation began that Sager says Bonacic switched tack on the issue.
“I think it shows a lack of credibility,” Sager said. “Where was he on the moratorium? Did he sponsor it? Did he co-sponsor it?
“I’ve never wavered. I’ve taken heat from people in this community who are very pro-gas drilling, but I believe it’s my job as a public official to protect the public interest.”
That means waiting until there’s sound science that can prove the people in the Marcellus Shale are safe, Sager said.
It means moving monies into public education rather than away from it. When Sager threw himself into the fight to try to keep the Duggan Elementary School in District 1 open, Bonacic refused to get involved. It was a turning point for both men - and one of the chief issues that threw Sager into a race he calls a literal “Dave vs. Goliath.”
Bonacic has become popular for bringing grants to county projects, Sager concedes, but at what cost?
“He’s helped build a lot of nice sidewalks in Sullivan County,” Sager said.
“But he’s purely pork barrel,” he continued, pointing to Bonacic’s lack of sponsored bills and substantial salary.
“We have to get away from politicians and back to public service,” Sager added. “I want to leave a legacy for my boys, and not a legacy of wealth. I want them to see your dad is courageous and he gave you a good moral compass.
“I’m not here to get rich. I’m here to put my best foot forward, to shake things up, to make a better New York.”

Bonacic eager to keep working

By Dan Hust
SULLIVAN COUNTY — NYS Senator John Bonacic recognizes Albany has not necessarily made Sullivan County’s plight better.
“There is pain out there in my district,” he acknowledges. “And when my constituents are in pain, I’m in pain.”
But Bonacic does not consider himself part of the problem, instead blaming the state’s woes – and what he says were the largest tax hikes in New York’s history – on the Democrats currently in charge.
“We want to get the Senate back for the Republicans,” the 11-term Republican senator explains, “so that there’s checks and balances.”
The lifelong politician and attorney is in a fierce battle with Democratic Sullivan County Legislator David Sager to represent the 42nd Senate District, which encompasses all of Sullivan and Delaware counties, most of Ulster, and the westernmost sections of Orange County, including the cities of Middletown and Port Jervis.
At 68, his fervor for the job has not dimmed from when he first entered state politics 20 years ago. The job, however, has only gotten more demanding.
“These are the worst economic times I’ve seen in my entire life,” Bonacic admits.
Sullivan County has been hit particularly hard, and Bonacic wants to ease that suffering through property tax reform.
“When we were in the majority in the Senate, we passed it three times,” he recalls. “But we couldn’t move it in the Assembly. [Assembly Speaker] Shelly Silver doesn’t want it.”
Bonacic says he’ll try again, along with pushing for stricter rules with tax-exempt properties, which he says unfairly shift the tax burden.
“The other thing is jobs,” he says.
To the senator’s thinking, that means employee tax credits, a lightened regulatory burden, and basically getting out of the way of business, especially small business.
“The government can never bring the U.S. back into prosperity,” he remarks.
That said, Bonacic’s proud of his bipartisan record in state government, insisting he does not approach the job with a personal agenda.
He says he has Republicans, Democrats and Independence party members all on his staff, telling them they’re free to do what they wish on their own time so long as they’re loyal to him when on the clock.
His opponent has accused some of his staff of unduly interfering in Sager’s campaign efforts, but Bonacic reiterates that he doesn’t tell his crew what to do during off-hours.
“This Sager always shoots from the hip and can’t prove anything he says,” the senator charges.
Bonacic’s equally dismissive of Sager’s ethics reform platform, charging in campaign literature that Sager’s no model himself.
“The guy has an angry temperament that can explode anytime,” he adds.
Bonacic agrees with Sager that people want an ethically honest representative, but he says he’s the right choice.
“It goes to the essence of who we are,” the senator explains. “We’re different in temperament and how we’ve lived our lives.”
That difference is no more evident than with gas drilling, which Bonacic supports – though he claims to want the same high standards Sager is demanding.
“We cannot rush into drilling,” he states. “Nothing is worth sacrificing the safety and quality of our water. If gas drilling occurs, it needs to be on our terms and done right.”

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