OTSEGO COUNTY, NY — New York State’s redistricting process has settled with Sullivan County drawn into the 51st Senate District. The new 51st includes the upstate counties of Delaware, …
OTSEGO COUNTY, NY — New York State’s redistricting process has settled with Sullivan County drawn into the 51st Senate District. The new 51st includes the upstate counties of Delaware, Sullivan, Otsego and Schoharie, and parts of Broome, Chenango and Ulster.
Republican Sen. Peter Oberacker knows the area. As the incumbent senator for the old 51st district, he has served much of the area since his election in 2020. Five of the seven counties in the new 51st were already under his jurisdiction, in whole or in part; only Sullivan and Broome are newly added.
Oberacker will be running for re-election in the fall. Sen. Mike Martucci will not be challenging him in that election; Martucci was slated to run in the new 42nd district, although he recently announced that he will not be running. If re-elected, Oberacker will serve as a new senator for Sullivan County, though incumbent for the district as a whole.
Oberacker came up through the ranks of Otsego county government before making his run for the senate. He served first on the town board, then as the supervisor for the Town of Maryland, then became a member of the Otsego County Board of Representatives.
The time spent in municipal government has given him a valuable perspective on how the state’s decrees get implemented at the local level, he said. “I think some of my [fellow] legislators that have not had the pleasure—and I do mean that sincerely—of being a local legislator [sometimes don’t know] when we’re voting on a piece of legislation, what does it really mean to those on Main Street?”
Oberacker’s presence in a rural, upstate community also helps him understand and advocate for the issues that those communities face, he said. “I live it. I feel it. I experience it firsthand.”
That lived experience has informed his legislative priorities. Broadband internet has been a priority over his two years in the Senate in part because he lives in an area without it; he serves as a ranking member of the Internet and Technology Committee, and championed a successful effort to repeal a fiber optic tax that stunted rural broadband growth. He serves as well as a member of his local EMS squad, and has sponsored bills to declare EMS a statewide essential service and to provide volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers with a state income tax exemption.
He also sponsored a bill to provide New Yorkers with relief from the state’s gas tax, an issue he sees as especially relevant for rural communities; while his bill did not go through, he supported a similar effort from the assembly that made it into law.
Fuel expenses will be of continuing concern in future legislative sessions, said Oberacker; he anticipates astronomical costs in the rural communities of the 51st, and considers it important to have a voice in the budget process advocating for relief.
Oberacker said he has paid attention to the issues of substance use disorders, issues of particular concern to upstate counties including Sullivan. He serves as a ranking member of the alcoholism and substance abuse committee and as a member of the joint senate task force on opioids, addiction and overdose prevention, and is focused on supporting longer-term rehabilitation and recovery options.
Oberacker plans to spend time in Sullivan County on the campaign trail. He already has some familiarity with the area through his partnership with Martucci; the two were freshman senators together, he said, and they collaborated just about daily.
He hopes to give his constituents, new and old, a voice in their state government.
“It really is all about the people,” he said. “We are the ones they have access to.”
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