Democrat challenges Blankenbush for Assembly


LEE — There’s a Democrat running for the state’s 117th Assembly District, and his name is William “Wil” A. Fiacco, II.

Mr. Fiacco, an insurance mediator in Lee, Oneida County, said he wants to pose a real challenge to incumbent Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, who has gone without a Democratic challenger for more than a decade.

“Kenneth Blankenbush has run unchallenged for five terms, and I thought that was ridiculous,” he said. “We need a Democrat on the ballot. So I presented myself basically as a warm body.”

Mr. Fiacco has no history in electoral politics, and had expected to run a relatively quiet campaign. But he was almost immediately endorsed for the seat by the Oneida County Democratic Committee, and received the endorsements of the St. Lawrence and Jefferson County Democratic committees shortly after.

He said he’d pursue the Lewis County Democratic Committee’s support to achieve uniform support across the district, if only he could reach someone. The committee has been in disarray and there’s no clear leader there, he said.

Mr. Fiacco said he believes it’s time for a change, and he’s hearing from other voters in the 117th Assembly District that Mr. Blankenbush has been ineffective in his last two terms in office.

Mr. Fiacco said he believes the biggest issue facing the country right now is extremism. Polarization between the two major parties has hit an all-time high, and political violence has become disturbingly prevalent.

Mr. Fiacco said he lost two friends in the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, which saw domestic terrorists use a truck bomb to destroy the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people and injuring more than 680.

“When that happened, I knew domestic terrorism was going to become a problem,” he said.

Then Jan. 6, 2021, happened, when supporters of former President Donald J. Trump stormed the Capitol in Washington while Congress conducted a ceremonial count of the electoral ballots. Attempting to stop the count and prevent Congress’s certification of President Joseph R. Biden’s win, the rioters called for the death of Vice President Michael R. Pence, House Speaker Nancy P. Pelosi, D-Calif., and some members of Congress.

“When the insurrection happened at the Capitol, that’s when I decided it was time to get more Democrats in office,” he said. “The Republicans are doing nothing but causing harm to this country with their policies.”

Mr. Fiacco said his goal is to represent a more reasonable option to voters, away from the extremes of the Democratic and Republican parties alike.

He describes himself as a moderate, and sees equal harm in the “Trump extremism and Q-Anon extremism happening on the right, and the rise in socialism and communism on the left.”

“Those two extremes nobody wants,” he said.

Mr. Fiacco supports some gun restrictions, like background checks and safety courses, legal marijuana and describes himself as proudly pro-capitalism.

He said legal marijuana, well-integrated into the region’s agricultural economy, could be a boon for many farm owners and the local economy on a larger scale.

Mr. Fiacco has the support of Blue Collar Politics, an organization put together by former north country congressional candidate Lonny W. Koons. Besides Mr. Fiacco, the organization has endorsed candidates including Lewis County Sheriff Michael P. Carpinelli in his unsuccessful run for governor, Watertown City Councilman Cliff G. Olney III and a candidate for a Massachusetts congressional seat.

Mr. Fiacco said he isn’t very familiar with the other candidates backed by Blue Collar Politics, but he and Mr. Koons agreed on the need for more moderation in politics.

“He just wanted to reach out to candidates that were more moderate in their ideals, to get people working together,” he said.

Mr. Fiacco said he has gotten to know a great deal of the 117th District, and hopes to learn more about it over the course of his campaign.

Mr. Fiacco is the only Democrat to register to run for the 117th Assembly District, and will appear on the ballot on the Democratic line and an independent line in the November election.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

I write about north country politics, Jefferson County and the northern shoreline towns of Lyme, Cape Vincent, Clayton and Alexandria Bay

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