The First Amendment comes with great responsibility. One of those responsibilities is that we make sure to provide the best information possible during political campaigns so voters can make an informed decision.

That remains our goal today.

Part of that mission this year will be our co-sponsorship of a debate between the two candidates for Oneida County executive — incumbent Anthony J. Picente, a Republican, and challenger Michael Hennessy, a Democrat. Working with us on this is the League of Women Voters of the Utica/Rome Metro Area.

The debate is scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Utica Maennerchor Hall in Marcy. It is expected to last an hour and a half.

Admission is free and all are welcome.

The debate will provide an opportunity to hear from the two candidates. Picente — seeking his fourth term — is the 13th county executive and the longest serving in the county’s history. He was appointed in 2006 to fill out the term of former County Executive Joseph Griffo after Griffo was elected to the state Senate.

Picente was then elected to a full four-year term in 2007, defeating Democratic challenger Leon R. Koziol. He was re-elected in 2011, defeating Rodger Potocki, who ran on the Conservative line. In 2015, Picente ran unopposed.

Hennessy is no stranger to Oneida County politics. He served three terms — from 2005-2011 — on the Oneida County Board of Legislators. He also ran unsuccessfully for the county executive seat in 1997, losing to Ralph Eannace Jr. He also ran an unsuccessful campaign against state Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, in 2010.

This year's contested election provides an opportunity for public debate on the issues and we strongly encourage attendance Tuesday. Moderator will be Ray Durso, executive director of Genesis. Three representatives from local media will provide questions. Those panelists are Amy Neff Roth of the Observer-Dispatch, Ben Dennis of WUTR-TV and Jeff Monaski of WIBX radio.

The public will also have an opportunity to submit questions, some of which will be addressed during the final segment of the debate.

It should be noted that only those individuals specifically authorized by the League of Women Voters are permitted to record this event.

Tuesday's debate is an opportunity for voters to get to hear from the candidates firsthand on issues that will be affecting them ranging from nanotechnology and the new downtown Utica hospital to growth in downtown Rome and at Griffiss Business and Technology Park and beyond. Come and listen — what the candidates have to say can help you make an informed decision Nov. 5.

 

DEBATE TUESDAY

• What: Debate between candidates for Oneida County executive - incumbent Anthony J. Picente, R,C, I, and challenger Michael J. Hennessy, D, L, S.

• When: Tuesday, 7 to 8:30 p.m.

• Where: Utica Maennerchor Hall, 5535 Flanagan Road, Marcy. (three blocks west of the north-south arterial off River Road). The site is handicap accessible with plenty of parking adjacent to the building.

• Sponsors:  League of Women Voters of the Utica/Rome Metro Area and The Observer-Dispatch.

• Admission: Free.