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Son of longtime Assemblyman faces Kent for Nesbitt's seat

For 19 years, Batavia area voters sent a man named Steve Hawley to Albany to represent them in the Assembly.

Now the son of R. Stephen Hawley, Republican Stephen M. Hawley, wants to follow him there.

The younger Hawley will face off on Tuesday against Democrat Gary F. Kent in a special election to fill the seat of Charles H. Nesbitt, the former Assembly minority leader who resigned last year to head the state Tax Appeals Tribunal.

While Republicans outnumber Democrats in the 139th District 37,000 to 21,000, the two are waging a spirited contest. By all accounts it has proven civil, but Kent is hoping that his Democratic label in the overwhelmingly Republican district will actually work in his favor.

"This is really about giving the district more effective representation in an Assembly dominated by Democrats and the likelihood of having a Democratic governor," he said.

Kent, 61, spent 34 years teaching social studies in the Penfield and Kendall districts and two years in the Orleans County Legislature. In Albany, he wants to explore ideas like a single-payer health insurance system, because he recognizes the costs of insurance on local government.

He also is hitching onto the endorsement of Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer, the front-running Democratic candidate for governor. He believes Spitzer will play well this fall in the district -- parts of Genesee, Orleans, Niagara and Monroe counties -- and thinks Spitzer reflects his own "moderate" message.

"People have had it with runaway spending and campaigns financed by big money and payoffs down the road," he said.

Kent also wants a moratorium on assessment increases on homeowners improving their exteriors.

"That could do a lot for the economy statewide, particularly up here," he said, adding he also would seek increased state support for ethanol production.

Kent has spent about $9,000 so far in his effort, according to the state Board of Elections, but says he accepts contributions only from individuals and not corporations or special interests.

Hawley, 58, feels he is at a good point in his family and professional life to follow his father to the Assembly. He says the "lament of Western New York -- property taxes that are way too high and not enough good-paying jobs" -- will dominate his efforts.

"There are lots of ways government can make it less onerous for business to operate in the State of New York," the former Genesee County legislator said.

Hawley, a Batavia insurance and real estate executive, says his insurance business and politics are both "people businesses," adding he thinks he can accomplish his goals despite his Republican label.

"I believe my communication skills and ability to get along with anyone will hold us in good stead," he said.

Hawley, whose last report indicated he has spent about $18,000 on the campaign, wants to push for expansion of the STAR program. He also supports plans to financially reward school districts that cap spending.

He does not plan a long-term career in Albany.

"I won't be a lifer," he said. "That will give me some objectivity."

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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