COOPERSTOWN — Michael Hennessy, a stockbroker and former Oneida County legislator, declared Wednesday that he will challenge veteran Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, in this year’s Democratic primary.
Magee, 74, has held the seat in the state Legislature since January 1991, and has routinely stood challenges from Republican candidates in a district where the GOP has an enrollment edge over Democrats.
The district includes most of Otsego County - including the city and town of Oneonta, as well as Cooperstown, Richfield Springs, Milford, Edmeston, Springfield, Morris and several other towns - all of Madison County and a portion of Oneida County.
In an interview with The Daily Star, Hennessy said Magee’s voting record, including his opposition to an increase in New York’s minimum wage and the Marriage Equality Act legalizing same-sex nuptials, put him out of step with the Democratic Party.
“Every once in a while, it requires a new person to bring new ideas to the forefront,” said Hennessy, 55, a Sherrill city councilor.
Hennessy also said he is firmly opposed to shale gas drilling, saying he believes the technique poses unacceptable risks to drinking water supplies and to the environment. He said he visited drilling sites in Pennsylvania and went away convinced that “we don’t need that kind of change in our lifestyle.”
Contacted by The Daily Star, Magee defended his record, saying his votes “represent the majority of the people in my district.”
“I’ve done a good job and I think I have made a difference,” he added.
Hennessy said he plans to challenge Magee to a series of debates. Magee said he is prepared to debate him as the election season unfolds.
Otsego County Democratic Chairman Richard Abbate said he personally supports Magee and predicted that voters will choose to keep him on the job. Abbate also questioned whether Hennessy can pull together the type of political organization and campaign financing that it would take to threaten the assemblyman’s incumbency.