As we considered this year's legislative elections, we thought about the principal issues that the winners would face almost from the moment they arrive in Albany, just over two months from now.
We came up with nine categories, and while the list is hardly exhaustive -- it doesn't, for example, include the internal reforms that both chambers urgently require -- it focuses on issues that are critical to the looming painful budget season and to the scope of the two-year legislative session that begins in January. Here are those issues:
*Experience: Generally speaking, it is better to know how government works.
*Taxes: Lawmakers must resist intense pressure to raise taxes in the nation's highest taxed state.
*Spending: All areas must be subject to potentially significant cuts.
*Member items: Sometimes known as pork barrel spending, this system is designed to bolster incumbents and has become too expensive. It needs to be ended.
*Unfunded mandates: Albany has to pay the costs if it is going to foist requirements on lower governments.
*Redistricting: Gerrymandered district lines discourage competitive elections and prolong the state's decline. The job needs to be done by an independent, nonpartisan committee.
*Budget process reform: Rank-and-file lawmakers need to be more involved in the budget process, which, itself requires more time. The state comptroller should determine the amount of money available to be spent, not the governor and legislators.
*Ethics reform: Legislators now investigate themselves. Authority needs to be given to an independent body.
*District issues and specific goals: A wild card, this category allows candidates to demonstrate their knowledge of state and local needs.
For a look at candidate positions and our evaluations in each race, visit our Web page. Here are our endorsements in Assembly races:
138th DISTRICT: Francine DelMonte. The incumbent's passion for her district and knowledge of issues tilts our endorsement toward her in a difficult decision.
143rd DISTRICT: Dennis H. Gabryszak. The incumbent is finishing his first term. He has the more complete view of the district's needs, and has a more realistic view of the need to cut spending and redistricting reform.
144th DISTRICT: Sam Hoyt. The incumbent, despite this year's ethical issues, is plainly the better choice. Although he believes taxes will have to rise, he favors creative cost-saving measures and cuts in Medicaid. His opponent, Shelia A. Ferrentino, is a real estate agent with some good ideas, but no political experience.
145th DISTRICT: Mark J. Schroeder. The incumbent has repeatedly proved his value to his district. He is its enthusiastic advocate and a Democrat willing to confront the chamber's leadership.
146th DISTRICT: Jack Quinn. A close call, but the two-term incumbent deserves re-election, partly because the Assembly can't afford to lose able Republican members. Although opponent Leonard Kowalski is as right on many issues, Quinn's background and knowledge of the district give him the edge.
147th DISTRICT: Philip A. Jones. The Democratic challenger to incumbent Daniel J. Burling is passionate about the district and has the right approach to most of the issues. While Burling's decision not to meet with the editorial board deprived us of a chance to sound him out, we are impressed by Jones' enthusiasm.
148th DISTRICT: James P. Hayes. The Republican incumbent is a senior member of the minority conference, and has the right approach on the issues facing New York. His challenger, retired lawyer Jerome Schad, is an able man, but doesn't make the case of ousting an important Republican assemblyman.
149th DISTRICT: Joseph M. Giglio. The Republican incumbent does a good job, even according to his challenger Patrick Eaton. Both have strong approaches to the critical issues of the state, a circumstance that gives the advantage to Giglio.
Three incumbent members of the Assembly are running unopposed in other Western New York districts -- Stephen M. Hawley in the 139th District, Crystal D. Peoples in the 141st District and William L. Parment in the 150th District. In two others, there is no major-party opposition; Assemblyman Robin L. Schimminger faces Working Families candidate Janice L. Tennant in the 140th District, and Jane L. Corwin faces Working Families candidate Jeffrey A. Bono III in the 142nd District.
Endorsements by The News editorial board are intended to aid voters in their own evaluations of those seeking office. Whether you agree or disagree with our recommendations, we urge you to vote and take part in our democratic process.