2020 Candidate Surveys

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO – Election Day is Tuesday, November 3. EARLY Voting Period Starts October 24. Review candidate’s responses below before heading to the polls.

At ASI, advocacy for the arts and cultural sector is an important part of what we do in service of the area’s independent artists, 500+ not for profit cultural organizations, their thousands of employees, and the hundreds of thousands who invest in the cultural sector through their attendance, service, and donations.

Each election cycle, Arts Services Inc. poses a series of questions to candidates running for elected office across the region, focusing on the legislative and executive branches. Arts and culture is an important contributor to the area’s economic development, tourism, quality of life, education, and national identity. With severe impacts from COVID-19 and half the arts industry unable to reopen per state guidelines, support for this essential industry is vital. As such, ASI feels it is important to gauge our candidates’ views on key issues that directly impact the arts and cultural sector.

Survey responses are distributed unedited (except for those answers that exceed the word limit in the optional comment section) in various local Western New York media sources prior to the general election. Those candidates who do not respond are listed in the publications and noted as “Chose not to respond to survey.”

This year, all candidates’ answers will be made available throughout the election season electronically via Rise Collaborative, ASI, The Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance, The Cultural Alliance of Niagara, and many cultural organizations and our community partners. It is estimated that this survey is seen by well over 75,000 constituents of the arts and cultural community and others.

This year ASI has sent surveys to candidates in the following races:

  • U.S. House of Representatives/Congress
  • NYS Senate
  • NYS Assembly
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO – Below are the candidate’s responses. Read their stance on key arts and culture issues before you go to the polls on November 3!

U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES / CONGRESS

District 26

Name: Brian Higgins
Democrat
Current Occupation & Employer: Member of Congress, U.S. House of Representatives

The current 2020 funding of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is $162.2 million, equaling $0.49 per American resident (328.2 million residents in total). Knowing that COVID-19 will critically impact the federal budget in 2021 would you support a plan to maintain federal arts funding at this level, so that arts organizations in your district can present accessible arts programs for all of its residents? Many of these arts programs will relate to the aftermath of impacts by COVID-19 and see an increase in need (for example: arts and healthcare, arts and mental health, arts and low-income residents, and arts and education, to name a few).

Yes

Several federal and statewide COVID-19 plans and task forces address sectors other than nonprofit arts, and many times the arts are considered under the context of tourism only. If elected, would you advocate for the inclusion of a federal and NYS nonprofit arts task force, which could assist with arts reopening procedures and sustainability practices and serve as expert partners to state representatives when making statewide decisions in relation to arts business?

Yes

*****

Name: Ricky Donovan Sr.
Republican

Chose not to respond
_____________________________________________________________________________________

District 27

Name: Chris Jacobs
Republican
Current Occupation & Employer: U.S. Congressman & Business Owner

The current 2020 funding of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is $162.2 million, equaling $0.49 per American resident (328.2 million residents in total). Knowing that COVID-19 will critically impact the federal budget in 2021 would you support a plan to maintain federal arts funding at this level, so that arts organizations in your district can present accessible arts programs for all of its residents? Many of these arts programs will relate to the aftermath of impacts by COVID-19 and see an increase in need (for example: arts and healthcare, arts and mental health, arts and low-income residents, and arts and education, to name a few).

Yes

Several federal and statewide COVID-19 plans and task forces address sectors other than nonprofit arts, and many times the arts are considered under the context of tourism only. If elected, would you advocate for the inclusion of a federal and NYS nonprofit arts task force, which could assist with arts reopening procedures and sustainability practices and serve as expert partners to state representatives when making statewide decisions in relation to arts business?

Yes

*****

Name: Nate McMurray
Democrat

Chose not to respond

NYS SENATE

District 59

Name: Patrick Gallivan
Republican

Chose not to respond

*****

Name: Jason Klimek
Democrat

Chose not to respond
_____________________________________________________________________________________

District 60

Name: Sean M. Ryan
Democrat
Current Occupation & Employer: New York State Assemblymember

The current 2020 funding of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) is $46.9 million, equaling $2.41 per NYS resident. Knowing that COVID-19 will critically impact the state budget in 2021 would you support a plan to maintain state arts funding at this level, so that arts organizations in your district can present accessible arts programs for all of its residents? Many of these arts programs will relate to the aftermath of impacts by COVID-19 (for example: arts and healthcare, arts and mental health, arts and low-income residents, and arts and education, to name a few).

Yes

Several statewide COVID-19 plans and task forces address sectors other than nonprofit arts, and many times the arts are considered under the context of tourism only. If elected, would you advocate for the inclusion of a NYS nonprofit arts task force, which could assist with arts reopening procedures and sustainability practices and serve as expert partners to state representatives when making statewide decisions in relation to arts business?

Yes

Optional Comment: The arts are incredible important to our society. In the State Senate, I will be a champion for arts organizations here in Western New York and across our state.

*****

Name: Joshua Mertzlufft
Republican
Current Occupation & Employer: Patent Attorney

The current 2020 funding of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) is $46.9 million, equaling $2.41 per NYS resident. Knowing that COVID-19 will critically impact the state budget in 2021 would you support a plan to maintain state arts funding at this level, so that arts organizations in your district can present accessible arts programs for all of its residents? Many of these arts programs will relate to the aftermath of impacts by COVID-19 (for example: arts and healthcare, arts and mental health, arts and low-income residents, and arts and education, to name a few).

Yes

Several statewide COVID-19 plans and task forces address sectors other than nonprofit arts, and many times the arts are considered under the context of tourism only. If elected, would you advocate for the inclusion of a NYS nonprofit arts task force, which could assist with arts reopening procedures and sustainability practices and serve as expert partners to state representatives when making statewide decisions in relation to arts business?

Yes

_____________________________________________________________________________________

District 61

Name: Ed Rath
Republican
Current Occupation & Employer: Erie County Legislator

The current 2020 funding of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) is $46.9 million, equaling $2.41 per NYS resident. Knowing that COVID-19 will critically impact the state budget in 2021 would you support a plan to maintain state arts funding at this level, so that arts organizations in your district can present accessible arts programs for all of its residents? Many of these arts programs will relate to the aftermath of impacts by COVID-19 (for example: arts and healthcare, arts and mental health, arts and low-income residents, and arts and education, to name a few).

Yes

Several statewide COVID-19 plans and task forces address sectors other than nonprofit arts, and many times the arts are considered under the context of tourism only. If elected, would you advocate for the inclusion of a NYS nonprofit arts task force, which could assist with arts reopening procedures and sustainability practices and serve as expert partners to state representatives when making statewide decisions in relation to arts business?

Yes

*****

Name: Jacqualine G Berger
Democrat
Current Occupation & Employer: Faculty/Mentor SUNY Empire State College Elected Official – Amherst Town Board Member and Deputy Supervisor

The current 2020 funding of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) is $46.9 million, equaling $2.41 per NYS resident. Knowing that COVID-19 will critically impact the state budget in 2021 would you support a plan to maintain state arts funding at this level, so that arts organizations in your district can present accessible arts programs for all of its residents? Many of these arts programs will relate to the aftermath of impacts by COVID-19 (for example: arts and healthcare, arts and mental health, arts and low-income residents, and arts and education, to name a few).

Yes

Optional Comment: I actively support the arts in Western New York. I have colleagues and friends that are artists and I assist and support them when I can. I have worked with students who are getting degrees in the arts including one who wrote, directed and produced a documentary and others who worked on degrees in a variety of fields in the arts. I appreciate the value and importance of the arts in helping people deal with the crisis and in the recovery process. It is a critical service for everyone including children. We need to fund and support the arts!

Several statewide COVID-19 plans and task forces address sectors other than nonprofit arts, and many times the arts are considered under the context of tourism only. If elected, would you advocate for the inclusion of a NYS nonprofit arts task force, which could assist with arts reopening procedures and sustainability practices and serve as expert partners to state representatives when making statewide decisions in relation to arts business?

Yes

Optional Comment: There should be an arts task force. In the town of Amherst we have created working groups to discuss concerns and challenges. We have representatives from the arts including performing arts and museums. We have discussed reopening and safety procedures as well as sustainability of programs. It is important to engage the arts programs in making decisions about their programs. It is important to engage all sectors in New York moving forward and I would be a strong voice for the arts.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

District 62

Name: Robert Ortt
Republican

Chose not to respond

_____________________________________________________________________________________

District 63

Name: Tim Kennedy
Democrat

Chose not to respond

NYS ASSEMBLY

District 140

Name: William Conrad
Democrat
Current Occupation & Employer: Teacher / Ken Ton Schools

The current 2020 funding of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) is $46.9 million, equaling $2.41 per NYS resident. Knowing that COVID-19 will critically impact the state budget in 2021 would you support a plan to maintain state arts funding at this level, so that arts organizations in your district can present accessible arts programs for all of its residents? Many of these arts programs will relate to the aftermath of impacts by COVID-19 (for example: arts and healthcare, arts and mental health, arts and low-income residents, and arts and education, to name a few).

Yes

Several statewide COVID-19 plans and task forces address sectors other than nonprofit arts, and many times the arts are considered under the context of tourism only. If elected, would you advocate for the inclusion of a NYS nonprofit arts task force, which could assist with arts reopening procedures and sustainability practices and serve as expert partners to state representatives when making statewide decisions in relation to arts business?

Yes

*****

Name: Robert E. Pecoraro
Republican
Current Occupation & Employer: Alderman-at-Large City of North Tonawanda

The current 2020 funding of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) is $46.9 million, equaling $2.41 per NYS resident. Knowing that COVID-19 will critically impact the state budget in 2021 would you support a plan to maintain state arts funding at this level, so that arts organizations in your district can present accessible arts programs for all of its residents? Many of these arts programs will relate to the aftermath of impacts by COVID-19 (for example: arts and healthcare, arts and mental health, arts and low-income residents, and arts and education, to name a few).

Yes

Optional Comment: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the negative of not having an active arts and cultural engagement in the normally active environment and I support the current funding of the NYS Council on the Arts.

Several statewide COVID-19 plans and task forces address sectors other than nonprofit arts, and many times the arts are considered under the context of tourism only. If elected, would you advocate for the inclusion of a NYS nonprofit arts task force, which could assist with arts reopening procedures and sustainability practices and serve as expert partners to state representatives when making statewide decisions in relation to arts business?

Yes

_____________________________________________________________________________________

District 141

Name: Crystal D. Peoples
Democrat

Chose not to respond

*****

Name: Sean Miles
Republican

Chose not to respond

_____________________________________________________________________________________

District 142

Name: Patrick Burke
Democrat
Current Occupation & Employer: NYS Assembly

The current 2020 funding of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) is $46.9 million, equaling $2.41 per NYS resident. Knowing that COVID-19 will critically impact the state budget in 2021 would you support a plan to maintain state arts funding at this level, so that arts organizations in your district can present accessible arts programs for all of its residents? Many of these arts programs will relate to the aftermath of impacts by COVID-19 (for example: arts and healthcare, arts and mental health, arts and low-income residents, and arts and education, to name a few).

No

Optional Comment: I have a well established record of supporting the arts but right now, I have constituents who are food and housing insecure due to the pandemic. I cannot make funding commitments while we work through the public health, budgetary, and economic consequences of Covid 19. The federal government has abandoned New York in our greatest hour of need. I am doing everything I can to put pressure on them so we can properly fund our needed programs which include the arts.

Several statewide COVID-19 plans and task forces address sectors other than nonprofit arts, and many times the arts are considered under the context of tourism only. If elected, would you advocate for the inclusion of a NYS nonprofit arts task force, which could assist with arts reopening procedures and sustainability practices and serve as expert partners to state representatives when making statewide decisions in relation to arts business?

Yes

*****

Name: Matthew Szalkowski
Republican

Chose not to respond

_____________________________________________________________________________________

District 143

Name: Monica Wallace
Democrat
Current Occupation & Employer: NYS Assemblymember, District 143

The current 2020 funding of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) is $46.9 million, equaling $2.41 per NYS resident. Knowing that COVID-19 will critically impact the state budget in 2021 would you support a plan to maintain state arts funding at this level, so that arts organizations in your district can present accessible arts programs for all of its residents? Many of these arts programs will relate to the aftermath of impacts by COVID-19 (for example: arts and healthcare, arts and mental health, arts and low-income residents, and arts and education, to name a few).

Yes

Several statewide COVID-19 plans and task forces address sectors other than nonprofit arts, and many times the arts are considered under the context of tourism only. If elected, would you advocate for the inclusion of a NYS nonprofit arts task force, which could assist with arts reopening procedures and sustainability practices and serve as expert partners to state representatives when making statewide decisions in relation to arts business?

Yes

*****

Name: Frank Smierciak II
Republican
Current Occupation & Employer: NA

The current 2020 funding of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) is $46.9 million, equaling $2.41 per NYS resident. Knowing that COVID-19 will critically impact the state budget in 2021 would you support a plan to maintain state arts funding at this level, so that arts organizations in your district can present accessible arts programs for all of its residents? Many of these arts programs will relate to the aftermath of impacts by COVID-19 (for example: arts and healthcare, arts and mental health, arts and low-income residents, and arts and education, to name a few).

Yes

Several statewide COVID-19 plans and task forces address sectors other than nonprofit arts, and many times the arts are considered under the context of tourism only. If elected, would you advocate for the inclusion of a NYS nonprofit arts task force, which could assist with arts reopening procedures and sustainability practices and serve as expert partners to state representatives when making statewide decisions in relation to arts business?

Yes

_____________________________________________________________________________________

District 144

Name: Michael J. Norris
Republican

Chose not to respond

_____________________________________________________________________________________

District 145

Name: Angelo J Morinello
Republican
Current Occupation & Employer: Ny Assemblyman 145

The current 2020 funding of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) is $46.9 million, equaling $2.41 per NYS resident. Knowing that COVID-19 will critically impact the state budget in 2021 would you support a plan to maintain state arts funding at this level, so that arts organizations in your district can present accessible arts programs for all of its residents? Many of these arts programs will relate to the aftermath of impacts by COVID-19 (for example: arts and healthcare, arts and mental health, arts and low-income residents, and arts and education, to name a few).

Yes

Several statewide COVID-19 plans and task forces address sectors other than nonprofit arts, and many times the arts are considered under the context of tourism only. If elected, would you advocate for the inclusion of a NYS nonprofit arts task force, which could assist with arts reopening procedures and sustainability practices and serve as expert partners to state representatives when making statewide decisions in relation to arts business?

Yes

_____________________________________________________________________________________

District 146

Name: Karen McMahon
Democrat
Current Occupation & Employer: Assembly Member – New York State

The current 2020 funding of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) is $46.9 million, equaling $2.41 per NYS resident. Knowing that COVID-19 will critically impact the state budget in 2021 would you support a plan to maintain state arts funding at this level, so that arts organizations in your district can present accessible arts programs for all of its residents? Many of these arts programs will relate to the aftermath of impacts by COVID-19 (for example: arts and healthcare, arts and mental health, arts and low-income residents, and arts and education, to name a few).

Yes

Optional Comment: There will be very difficult budget decisions next year in the wake of the pandemic. I will do all I can to advocate for NYSCA funding and for keeping the arts an important and vital part of life in New York State.

Several statewide COVID-19 plans and task forces address sectors other than nonprofit arts, and many times the arts are considered under the context of tourism only. If elected, would you advocate for the inclusion of a NYS nonprofit arts task force, which could assist with arts reopening procedures and sustainability practices and serve as expert partners to state representatives when making statewide decisions in relation to arts business?

Yes

Optional Comment: I would support an arts task force to help reopen arts institutions safely and responsibly and to provide stability to the industry.

*****

Name: Robin Wolfgang
Republican
Current Occupation & Employer: Citibank, Communications Officer

The current 2020 funding of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) is $46.9 million, equaling $2.41 per NYS resident. Knowing that COVID-19 will critically impact the state budget in 2021 would you support a plan to maintain state arts funding at this level, so that arts organizations in your district can present accessible arts programs for all of its residents? Many of these arts programs will relate to the aftermath of impacts by COVID-19 (for example: arts and healthcare, arts and mental health, arts and low-income residents, and arts and education, to name a few).

Yes

Optional Comment: I support the arts and have since I started on the youth board of the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. Over my career, I have also served on such board of directors as Studio Arena Theater, Keenan Center and Artpark.

Several statewide COVID-19 plans and task forces address sectors other than nonprofit arts, and many times the arts are considered under the context of tourism only. If elected, would you advocate for the inclusion of a NYS nonprofit arts task force, which could assist with arts reopening procedures and sustainability practices and serve as expert partners to state representatives when making statewide decisions in relation to arts business?

Yes

_____________________________________________________________________________________

District 147

Name: David J. DiPietro
Republican

Chose not to respond

_____________________________________________________________________________________

District 149

Name: Jonathan Rivera
Democrat

Chose not to respond

*****

Name: Joseph Totaro
Republican

Chose not to respond

VIEW PAST CANDIDATE SURVEY RESPONSES

2018 Candidate Survey Responses

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2017 Candidate Survey Responses

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2016 Candidate Survey Responses

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2015 Candidate Survey Responses

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2014 Candidate Survey Responses

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2013 Niagara Falls City Council Candidate Survey Responses

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2013 ASI Candidate Survey: The Arts in Our Community (as published in Artvoice)

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