Candidates for Onondaga County Executive Spar in Debate Ahead of Election Onondaga County Executive Candidates Debate

With Election Day looming, the candidates made a final pitch to voters.

SYRACUSE, N. Y. (NCC News) — Bill Kinne has made it abundantly clear during his underdog challenge for Onondaga County Executive that he isn’t a fan of Ryan McMahon’s leadership.

Even after an hour-long televised debate on Wednesday, which mostly stayed civil, Kinne couldn’t resist taking one more shot at his opponent, the incumbent McMahon.

“He’s absolutely a bully and a dictator,” Kinne said.

Kinne, a Democrat, says that’s been his experience as a member of the County Legislature working with Republican County Executive McMahon.

Ironically, the debate, which was hosted by CNY Central, was held in the legislature chambers.

“I felt at home here,” said McMahon, who served as the body’s chairman for seven years before being elected as county executive in 2019. “[I’m] certainly used to lively debates here, so today’s debate was nice. It was good to get back to the chambers.”

It was the final face-to-face showdown for the two candidates, and a chance for both to cement their pitch for voters ahead of Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 7. 

McMahon trumpeted his leadership of the county during the pandemic, which struck shortly into his first term, as well as his role in bringing Micron to Central New York. 

“We have a well-managed government here, we are creating economic opportunity like nobody else has in this community,” said McMahon. “We’re going to take those partnerships and take them to the next level and execute on the promise in front of us.”

Kinne, who has served 12 terms in the legislature, representing Syracuse, Geddes, and Solvay, says he would bring a change in leadership to the office.

“I’m transparent, I’m a good listener, and I don’t believe in cronyism,” he said. “That’s the pitch right there.”

The pair butted heads over the financing of the controversial $85 million aquarium slated for development at the Syracuse Inner Harbor. The legislature approved that payment in August of last year by a narrow 9-8 vote.

McMahon was a proponent of the aquarium, saying it would bring tourists and spur development at the Inner Harbor.

Kinne was a ‘no’ vote, arguing that taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill and that the money could be better spent for other purposes.

“He calls it being smart politically, but I think it hurts the taxpayer in the long run,” said Kinne.

McMahon touted his role in landing the chip manufacturer Micron, which pledged to invest $100 billion in constructing a mega-complex of computer chip plants at the White Pine Commerce Park in Clay.

Onondaga County officials spent years developing the site, hoping to lure a major manufacturer like Micron. McMahon criticized Kinne for voting against providing funding that would have turned White Pine into a megasite. 

Kinne thinks the county executive has taken too much credit for the Micron deal.

“[It] absolutely would’ve happened without him,” he said. “To think otherwise is foolishness. He happened to be in the county executive’s seat at the time, and he worked for it, but up until recently, he still said he was everything, [and] did everything for it.”

Since the announcement of the deal in October, McMahon has used a common refrain when discussing the impact it will have on the local economy.

“This is our Erie Canal moment.”

It’s a line he repeated in his closing remarks, comparing the region’s current moment of growth to that of the historical waterway’s debut in 1825, connecting Buffalo to Albany.

Last week, Upstate New York won a nationwide competition to become a tech hub, a distinction that could bring billions of dollars in investment. On Wednesday, TTM Technologies announced it would invest $130 million to build a new facility in DeWitt, which it says will employ about 400 people.

In the race for County Executive, Kinne is considered a longshot, given McMahon’s name recognition and campaign war chest. The incumbent has outspent Kinne by almost half a million dollars, according to CNY Central’s Conor Wight.

Early voting has already begun. A full list of the ten early voting sites and their hours is available on the Onondaga County Board of Elections website.

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