By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — In just three days, a one-time Tonawanda councilman will challenge the area’s most veteran state assemblyman, Robin Schimminger, for his seat in the 140th district.
And although no one has been able to beat Schimminger since he was first elected in 1976, Chuck Gilbert believes he is the man for the job.
“After 36 years of the same person in office, we need someone who is willing to fight for the community,” Gilbert said. “And I will do that.”
Gilbert, 41, is a lifelong resident of the area, graduated from Tonawanda High School and now works as an electrician. Schimminger, 65, has also resided in the district his entire life, barring the three years he spent at New York University’s law school after graduating from Cardinal O’Hara and Canisius College.
The district in question covers the city and town of Tonawanda, Kenmore and a small portion of northern Buffalo.
Schmminger, 65, seems confident about the race and spoke to his accomplishments in the past two years, which he believes will carry him through.
He pointed to the new Materials Informatics program at the University at Buffalo, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s investment, Billion for Buffalo, as well as his leadership in writing a bill for the Innovate NY Fund — a $26 million program to support job creation and innovation in the state.
Schimminger also prides himself on being appointed as the chair of the economic development, job creation, commerce and industry committee.
But Gilbert has come out attacking Schimminger, arguing the veteran has downstate interests at heart and has not done anything for small businesses in the area.
Gilbert, who lost a close election to retain his city council seat last year, is running with much less experience than his opponent, but he doesn’t believe that will hurt his possible performance as a politician.
“How much experience did the founding fathers have,” Gilbert said. “I worked as a lone Republican on the council and what matters is how hard I am going to work. I will stay as late as possible to do good for the community.”
Gilbert said his first action as assemblyman will be to propose a 10 percent pay cut for state senators and assemblymen.
“It will show we are serious about turning the community around and sustaining it,” he said.
The race hasn’t seen much publicity, with door-to-door visiting and lawn signs dominating most of the campaigns.
Almost half Gilbert’s campaign funds came from his own pocket. According to the New York State Board of Elections, Gilbert has reported a total of $10,559. He hasn’t filed any expense reports.
And although Schimminger has much more money to spend, with his account totaling over $315,000 in the 11-day pre-election report, he’s reportedly spent about $11,870 in the past month.
He has been helped by a number of endorsements, including The Business Council of New York State and Unschackle Upstate, while Gilbert has been endorsed by the Working Families Party.Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.