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DiPietro and Wochensky argue taxes, attendance in battle for Assembly seat

Luke Wochensky took a 250-mile tour of the 147th Assembly District on a red Farmall 400 tractor, meeting voters in southern Erie and Wyoming counties.

His opponent, incumbent Assemblyman David DiPietro, said he has put more than 9,000 miles on his vehicle traveling around the district since June.

Each documents campaign events on Twitter and Facebook.

This is how you campaign in 30 rural towns and 14 villages in 2018.

DiPietro, 58, the former mayor of East Aurora, is in the Republican minority in the state Assembly. But his district is overwhelmingly Republican, and he has been unopposed in the last two elections. His bid for a fourth term has become one of the more spirited races this year, with each candidate throwing charges at the other over payment of taxes and work ethic.

DiPietro's campaign manager is Michael R. Caputo, the public relations consultant and Republican operative who worked on the Trump campaign and testified before a Congressional panel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Wochensky, 38, who grew up in Colden and played on the Springville Griffith High School state championship football team, graduated from law school in Russia and worked representing mainly companies from the United States and Europe in Russian arbitration. He left the company to campaign full time, he said.

Wochensky criticizes DiPietro attendance, voting record

"I have never represented a Russian individual or Russian state-owned or Russian-owned company," he said.

But his time in Russia led his opponent to try and get him thrown off the ballot for not living five consecutive years in New York State, which is required to run for the Assembly. A State Supreme Court justice ruled in Wochensky's favor, but Wochensky's testimony was fodder for opposition research. He said he was advised by his accountant he did not have to pay New York State taxes in 2014 and 2015, and the judge ruled that he was a legal resident of the state for electoral purposes.

But DiPietro said he should have paid taxes if he was a resident.

"Is he a tax cheat or a liar?" DiPietro said.

"I paid all the taxes that are due," Wochensky said.

DiPietro released his tax returns for five years by showing them to reporters, and called on Wochensky to do the same. Wochensky called it smoke and mirrors and a witch hunt, and refused.

DiPietro releases tax returns, challenges Wochensky to release his

"What they want to do is exactly what I’m running against, this type of politics," he said.

Wochensky has bipartisan support, with endorsements from the GOP chairman of the Wyoming County Board of Supervisors as well as a retired highway superintendent in Colden.

He has criticized DiPietro for missing votes, and said the incumbent has the worst attendance in the Assembly, based on a review of records of reimbursements Assembly members get for being in Albany.

DiPietro vehemently disagrees with those assessments, and is proud that he spends little time in Albany. The Assembly was in session about 65 days, he said. He typically drives to the capital Monday mornings for sessions that begin Monday afternoon. After they conclude the next afternoon, he returns home, he said.

"I’m saving the taxpayers money," DiPietro said. "I don’t stay an extra day."

Wochensky said his opponent doesn't have a record he can run on.

"He hasn’t proposed any bills that have passed. You can propose the repeal of the SAFE Act as many times as you want. It’s not going to happen," Wochensky said.

Not having bills pass is a function of being in the minority in the State Assembly, where a Republican-sponsored measure has not passed in decades, DiPietro notes.

"If we have a bill that we like, we give it over to a Democrat," DiPietro said. "It's tough to be a Republican (in the Democratic Assembly), but there are ways to get things done."

Wochensky said if he was elected, he would be in the position to gain strength from the majority.

"I think I can take a clear role as a representative of the rural parts of the state. In order to do that, I believe the majority will recognize that it is important that we get some things done in the district," he said.

 

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