State Assemblyman Gary Finch, R-Springport, is seeking re-election for another term and has no challenger in the fall.
Finch has been in the State Assembly since 1999. He is also a mortician and owner of Brew-Finch Funeral Homes. “When I was 18 or 19, I had two options: it was either funeral director, or something in political science or law,” Finch said in a recent interview. “And it turns out I was fortunate enough to do both.”
After redistricting in 2012, he now represents the 126th State Assembly District. This district – the former 123rd State Assembly District – covers 1,611 square miles including portions of the following counties: Cayuga, Onondaga, Chenango, and Cortland. In the 126th Assembly District the Republican Party has an advantage in voter enrollment. Of the district’s 91,712 voters, 31 percent are Democrats; 37 percent are Republicans; and 23 percent are unaffiliated with a party.
The general election is Nov. 4, 2014. As of late March no challenger had declared an interest in the race. Finch is also endorsed by the Conservative and Independence parties.
Running without facing a challenger is financially easier for an incumbent, said Syracuse University political science professor Kristi Andersen. It is less expensive because the incumbent candidate only “really needs enough advertising and signs to remind voters that there is an election and they are running,” Andersen said in a recent email interview.
Finch is a lifelong Central New York resident. He was born in Auburn and attended Cayuga Community College. In 1966, he earned a degree in mortuary science from the Simmons School of Mortuary Science in Syracuse. In 1989, he graduated from SUNY Empire College with a bachelor’s degree in public administration and political theory from SUNY Empire College.
Despite differences in political affiliation, Finch cites Democrat John F. Kennedy as a major political influence on his life during his college years in the 1960s. “He was a young vibrant president who represented a lot of the future and change. He was an influence, no question about it,” Finch said.
The emergence and climax of the Civil Rights Movement, President Kennedy’s election and assassination and the War in Vietnam created a time of change and turmoil for the country. But the upheaval inspired him, Finch said, as he “decided somehow that even in a small way, you can make a difference.”
In 1979, Finch held his first public office. He was a trustee in the village of Aurora, N.Y., and in 1982, he was elected as the village mayor. At Cayuga College, he has also been chair of the Board of Trustees.
In the State Assembly, Finch is the assistant minority leader, along with Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, R-Batavia, of the 139th State Assembly District.
Finch is on the Assembly’s committees on Agriculture, Energy, Environmental Conservation, Corrections and on Insurance and Rules. Finch has served on the Education Committee.
(Jess Marshalek is a graduate student in magazine, newspaper and online journalism.)