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State Senate Candidate Lunsford Calls on Sen. Funke for Public Debate

August 6, 2018 (Canandaigua, NY) — Jen Lunsford, Democratic candidate for the State Senate’s 55th District, appeared recently in the Ontario County Courthouse—the same site where Susan B. Anthony was tried in 1872 for illegally voting—to respond to her opponent’s transparently self-serving attempts to knock her off the ballot.

Lunsford, an award-winning litigator, appeared in court in response to the boastful, blustering threats made by the Senate Republican Campaign Committee’s downstate attorney—a surrogate for Republican Sen. Rich Funke— who has a long history of using these sorts of tactics against Democratic candidates in vulnerable districts across the state. Similar legal trickery was used in 2016 to eliminate Senator Funke’s competition, resulting in him appearing unopposed on the ballot that November.

But this time, Lunsford was ready for them. “This is schoolyard-style bullying, pure and simple,” said Lunsford. “The qualified voters who signed my ballot petitions are who they said they were. They knew what they were signing. They understood the effect of putting their names on my petitions, and their actions were witnessed by the people who asserted to have witnessed them. This is yet another attempt by Rich Funke and the Senate Republicans to avoid a campaign focused on the issues that matter to the citizens of our district—including Funke’s actual track record as Senator.”

As part of this attempt to disqualify Jen Lunsford, the attorney representing Sen. Funke’s interests issued 16 subpoenas to voters who signed petitions for candidate Lunsford, requiring them to appear at the Ontario County Courthouse, ostensibly to undergo harassing questions from the Republican’s attorney about their participation in the democratic process of signing candidate petitions. According to the Republican counsel, this was just the first of multiple waves of subpoenas he was prepared to file.

Brette McSweeney, president of Eleanor’s Legacy, the statewide Democratic women’s organization, called the Republican tactics “beyond the pale.” “Jen Lunsford obviously has her opponent on the run,” McSweeney said. “The idea that the Republicans are going to subpoena these hardworking people, under threat of arrest, into court on a workday—just to advance their ridiculous claims against a first-time candidate and working mom—is beyond the pale.”

In the interest of saving valuable resources, and protecting voters who signed her petition from spurious courtroom harassment, Lunsford has agreed to appear on the November ballot solely on the Democratic line. But Democrats are strong in the 55th District—where the party holds a 22,000-registered voter advantage, and Hillary Clinton won in 2016 by 18 points.

“Rich Funke and his backers were no doubt hoping to take the easy way out yet again and avoid facing any actual scrutiny of the Senator’s time in office.” Lunsford said. “Unfortunately for him—but fortunately for the people of my district—I won’t back down.” Lunsford Calls for Debate, Citing Sen. Funke’s Track Record of Inaccessibility On August 3, 2018, a letter was sent from the Lunsford campaign to the Funke campaign issuing a debate challenge. That letter is attached here. “Instead of talking about issues that matter, like teacher evaluation reform, Funke is wasting valuable time and money to bully his political opponent,” Lunsford said. “Let’s focus on what voters actually care about. Let’s have a public debate.”

Sen. Funke has not participated in a public debate or held a town hall event for his constituents since taking office in 2014. Voters in the 55th have expressed frustration about his persistent lack of availability to hear their concerns. Organizations including the National Organization for Women and the New York State Union of Teachers have been forced to protest outside his office when denied face-to-face meetings with their elected representative. “Our elected officials owe it to us to be available for questions and feedback—they can’t hide in their offices and only meet with people who agree with them,” said Lunsford. “A public debate during this campaign is the best way for voters to know exactly where their candidates stand. I stand for the working families who don't have the luxury that Rich Funke does to waste time or money,” Lunsford added.

For more information about Jen Lunsford please see her website at

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