Jim Barber’s hat is officially in the ring.
The Fultonham farmer and longtime ag leader on Saturday launched his campaign for the Democratic nomination for the 51st State Senate seat held by Jim Seward.
With about 80 party faithful and supporters looking on at Barber’s Family Farm, Mr. Barber pledged “to build bridges, not barriers.”
He was introduced by Congressman Paul Tonko, who represented Schoharie County in the state assembly and later Congress until the district was redrawn.
“Jim will speak for the issues of Upstate New York,” Congressman Tonko said. “He’ll be the first working farmer in the State Senate.”
Mr. Barber was the state Executive Director for the USDA’s Farm Service Agency for seven years and a special assistant to the state Ag and Markets Director for two years.
He also developed the first Farm to School food program that later served as a national model.
Hardly a politician, Mr. Barber has run for only one post––a seat on the Middleburgh school board, which he won, as his wife Cindy laughingly pointed out.
But he’s been deeply involved in farm issues and state issues, and he touched on several.
“I want to support family farms, quality education and protecting our land and water,” Mr. Barber said.
He also called for helping struggling hospitals, affordable health care, complete broadband and affordable day care.
The campaign launch returned several times to farm issues. Congressman Tonko said that when he represented Schoharie County, he often turned to Mr. Barber for advice on ag matters..
“And even when he wasn’t in my district, I called him for advice because he knows ag issues well,” Congressman Tonko said.
Mr. Barber returned the favor, saying he sought advice from Congressman Tonko when he considered running for the Senate seat.
Congressman Tonko pointed to the Barber family history––five generations-plus working the Fultonham farm. He also noted his close relationship with Mr. Barber’s parents, Roger and Grace, and their dedication to farming.
Those work ethics are apparent in Mr. Barber, Congressman Tonko said.
Mr. Barber agreed.
“Serving in the State Senate will be an extension of what I’ve done all my life––work hard to get things done,” Mr. Barber said.
Schoharie County Democratic Chairman Cliff Hay was at the launch. He said Mr. Barber was the only candidate for the Democratic nomination so far.
Several at the event wondered whether Senator Seward would seek re-election. In office since 1987, he’s recently battled cancer.
Contacted Monday, Jeff Bishop on Senator Seward’s staff said “there’s been no announcement yet, but the Senator fully expects to run.”