As the bus made its final approach into Olean from Belmont, Gov. Pataki ambled to the front and squatted down to take a seat right next to the door. "You can see more from here," he explained.
The scene the governor saw as he headed into downtown Olean was similar to the view he would have gotten in any number of upstate cities: vacant storefronts mixed in with businesses struggling to stay afloat.
But as could be expected with the election less than 11 weeks away, the governor, on a Republican campaign caravan that made five stops in the Southern Tier on Friday, wasn't in Olean to talk about vacant storefronts. He was in Olean, Jamestown, Belmont, Horseheads and Corning to sell the accomplishments of his first 3 1/2 years in office.
"In 1994, we were having doubts about the future," Pataki told several hundred people in front of the Allegany Courthouse in Belmont. "We are changing the state. It is a much better place, a place where you can look to the future with confidence."
The governor, accompanied by lieutenant governor candidate Mary Donohue, Rep. Amo Houghton, R-Corning, Attorney General Dennis Vacco, GOP comptroller candidate Bruce Blakeman and local Republican candidates for the State Senate and Assembly, followed a time-honored campaign script.
The crowds were mobilized. Most wore buttons supporting a favorite candidate, with Houghton buttons seeming to dominate. Campaign placards were waved by faces which reappeared down the road at the next stop. And bands played a variety of uplifting songs, like, "It's a Small World," and the old Coke commercial that starts, "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony."
At first, the candidates took turns lauding each other, with Houghton saying, "The greatest thing the governor has done is give us faith and pointed us to the future."
Pataki touted his own record on job creation, tax relief for the elderly, and crime and welfare reduction.
"We have a very simple philosophy," he said. "We're going to do what's right for the people who obey the law and pay their taxes."
The governor devoted much of his speech to employment, mentioning the more than 300,000 new jobs created in the state since 1995.
But statistics suggest upstate is lagging behind the rest of New York. The average monthly employment in upstate's 52 counties increased 0.71 percent during the first half of 1998, below the national average of 2.68 percent.
One local woman, who refused to identify herself because she said she was a government employee, walked away unconvinced the prosperity felt in other parts of the state and country was being felt locally.
"It's the same old, same old," she said of the governor's speech. "Tell me where the jobs are in Allegany County? What kind of jobs are they creating? Service jobs that pay $5.15 an hour? They haven't done anything for us around here."
That's not true, the governor said. "Upstate New York today now has more jobs than it has ever had in its history," he said. "Instead of losing 40,000 manufacturing jobs a year, as we did every year in the '90s under (former governor Mario) Cuomo, last year for the first time in over a decade we had an increase in manufacturing jobs."
"We honestly believe that we have the work force, the quality of life, the infrastructure and the access to markets that, with a competitive economic climate, we can attract manufacturing," he continued.
Houghton's focus was not on manufacturing jobs, but on jobs created through technological changes in the workplace and market.
"We don't need to recreate (concrete) plants or steel mills," he said. "We've got land, technology and great skills. We could develop a whole new service industry because people don't have to live within reach of their customers."
The candidates' messages were greeted with hearty applause, not surprising from a crowd of mostly Republicans in a traditional GOP stronghold.
Still, at least one self-described Democrat also liked what he heard.
"He's terrific," said Jim Saxton, referring to Houghton. "He's done a wonderful job. We're fortunate to have him."
And Pataki "has done a lot of positive things for the area," the 49-year-old Hornell resident said. "More so than any other governor that's been in there."