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By Harold Rook

The following is an abbreviated transcription of an interview conducted over Zoom on October 14th, 2020.

Harold Rook: “Tell us a little about yourself.”

Tom Quiter: “I was born a farm boy, always lived on some kind of farm. If we weren’t farming for business, we were farming for ourselves. Putting away our own food saved [us] a lot of money [and] allowed us to bring the house up to par… farming is in my blood. I was born with a condition called osteogenesis imperfecta… I’ve had over a thousand fractures by the time I was eighteen. I still graduated high school with an Advanced Regents Diploma on time. I was accepted to and went to Alfred State College for Architecture. Unfortunately, the accessibility wasn’t there for the curriculum, so, you know, after a year I said ‘to heck with it, I’m not going to keep this up if they’re not going to let me pass. So then I came home… and not being the kind of person to sit around and do nothing, I’ve always volunteered for my community, everything from helping the women’s auxiliary fire department… I was the vice president of the local co-op that we tried to get off the ground, to help local producers of goods sell their wares. I am on the board for the Catskill Center for Independence, they’re a nonprofit that serves those with disabilities… Mainly what I’ve been doing… is reaching out to individuals who have been failed by the system. A lot of people don’t understand that these systems we have here in New York sound nice, they sound like they help everybody, but they don’t… I find individuals who aren’t getting what they need… and I help them find those solutions outside the systems, or I help them work with the systems to get through them, because of how complicated they are… It takes very little to reach out to help someone, and our state fails at it constantly. They spend an awful lot of money… you spend all this money, and you get a very poor return, as far as the community is concerned. I also happen to counsel those with addiction problems that are around me. When our systems of punishment come down on someone with a problem like addiction, they get a stigma in our communities. The number one thing that’s necessary for people with these problems to heal and find their function and value in their community is to be accepted, and find a place.”

Harold Rook: Who, or what, do you see as your inspiration for going into politics?

Tom Quiter: “Probably my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Mason. He was very big in teaching us about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, why our country was founded. I don’t know what his political affiliation was, but he instilled in us a responsibility for our communities, and what happens in government. We like to blame the government for everything, but it’s really our choice. We get to vote. It’s important that we pay attention to who we’re voting for, and what they’ve done. I would like to see our press release the voting record of every candidate for every election cycle. People need to be aware of what these people are doing and why.”

Harold Rook: “Why should voters consider voting for you, for State Senator, as a third party Libertarian candidate?”

Tom Quiter: “Well, they should consider voting for me for a few reasons. One, I’m a man of the community. That’s all I do in life. That’s all I’m about. Someone that actually wants to help everyone, not just a few people with money. As far as the third party goes, it’s an interesting situation. We have the right and the left… and the problem there is, that those are two extremes, and there are a lot of people that are right in the middle… you really need more options, you need more people chiming in with different perspectives. More innovation, more discussion about the problems we have. With two parties, that just doesn’t happen. So why vote for me? I don’t want anything, I just want to help. That’s all I’m here for.”

Harold Rook: “What should college students know when considering whether or not to vote for you?”

Tom Quiter: “They should know that our communities are what’s important, and the current systems that we pay to help our communities are extremely inefficient; they spend way more money than what gets put back into the community. We really need more economic freedom.”

Harold Rook: “You seem to indicate a lot about taking an active role in your community. As State Senator, what role would you play in both the legislature and your community? Will it change?”

Tom Quiter: “My passion is helping people, so every free minute I have will be spent doing that. What we see with incumbents is, they give them a salary, and they’re only required to work six months a year. I work every day, no matter what. I don’t need to be paid to do that. So, as senator, I’m not going to seek endorsements merely to bring me money for my campaign, or for my personal glamour. I don’t have that kind of an ego. What I’ll be doing is what I’ve been doing on this campaign: reaching out to various groups, disability groups, marginalized communities of all kinds, local communities. I want to listen to everybody. What we find is that our incumbents in particular fail to do that. Our politicians need to be more connected with our communities… They need to build a large and intelligent team behind them, because one person can’t do everything. I’ve got thirty-five-ish volunteers… in the main campaign. My policy team is always hungry… There’s nobody that I wouldn’t listen to and there’s nobody that I wouldn’t talk to. I’ve said it a few times, I really want to be the most accessible candidate, and, if elected, senator out there.”

Harold Rook: “What is the first thing you will do if elected into office?”

Tom Quiter: “The first thing I would do is take that podium and talk, out loud, about the problems that I’m aware of in our communities, for those with disabilities, marginalized groups, you name it, and talk about how the economy is the way to drive that forward… The smaller farmer is at a severe disadvantage because the state is taking from our communities and giving it to the larger farmers. One of the things we’ve seen is that large dairy farms are heavily subsidized, and yet we’re dumping millions of gallons of milk every year. When our food system was in trouble because of COVID-19, we were dumping millions of gallons of milk. That doesn’t make any sense. The price of milk has largely stayed the same. I would seek a farm fresh New York initiative… if it’s made in New York, you should only have to follow New York guidelines… The USDA guidelines add on cost. District 52 is somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters agricultural land—something that can be very productive. Small farms are the way to do that. Farm-to-table is a good way to go about appropriately deregulating… it’s a good way to utilize resources we have in this district. That produces a higher quality product, that brings in higher price, that’s in high demand. There’s nothing about that that’s not good for our economy.”

Harold Rook: “You mentioned before, actually a couple of times, that COVID-19 is playing a role in this. As State Senator, how would you handle COVID-19, and what do you think of Andrew Cuomo’s policies regarding it?”

Tom Quiter: “Fining people during a pandemic when they’re out of work is one of the first things they did… when New York rolled out it’s $1,000 fines for no mask and not social distancing, Mexico, their police would stop you, hand you a mask, and inform you of the situation. When you try to tell a large group of people what to do, only a certain percentage of them are actually going to listen. A percentage of them are going to rebel, that’s how people are. If you come down with force, you are going to guarantee that a fairly significant portion are not going to do what you’re telling them to do. But when you give advice, you’ll have a larger amount of people who will listen, who will take those precautions. I’m not a COVID-19 denier, I’m at risk. I have an aid, for physical things like cleaning… he was not advised until late April to use PPE… While at the same time the governor denied cargo ships full of PPE that were at the docks in New York City, because the FDA hadn’t given them approval. And not long after [Cuomo] stated advocating for cloth masks, which are not FDA approved… What should the governor have done here? Should he have said ‘no, we don’t want things that help,’ while also fining people for not having those things? Or should he have accepted it, and maybe gone against the federal government—which is what the state government is supposed to do in situations that are necessary—and let them come in? He didn’t even have to pay for it; it was donated. Another thing that really upset me was, our state government is very anti-gun right now, and when were running low on ventilators… [Cuomo] did not allow Remington, typically a gun company, to produce ventilators. Instead, he went on TV, and stated that he was going to use the National Guard… to seize PPE from upstate hospitals and facilities. That’s not how our government is supposed to act. He also did not allow distilleries to create hand sanitizer. Instead, he used prison labor. He shut down those distilleries, stopped them from adapting their business and doing something that would help, and made prison labor do it.”

Harold Rook: “How will you, as a Libertarian, handle Republican and Democratic colleagues?”

Tom Quiter: “Well, I’ve already been doing that. They’re pretty easy to talk to if you see them as humans. We have some very good discussions. Libertarians are about having those discussions… I think it’s pretty easy to talk to people, I think it’s pretty easy to make sense if you take the time to do it. I honestly believe that having a discussion… will do more good than anything else.”

Harold Rook: “Recently, it has been announced that Binghamton University is under investigation for issues related to freedom of speech. What are your views on freedom of speech on college campuses?”

Tom Quiter: “It’s the same as anywhere else. It’s in the Constitution, read it! Everyone should have freedom of speech… everyone should have a voice, everyone should be heard, everyone should be represented…”

Harold Rook: “Do you have any overarching message to provide to our audience?”

Tom Quiter: “I do… we need more economic freedom. Our state is underwater, our budget is stripped, and by 2023 the feds won’t be able to bail us out. What’s the solution? We are the solution. We are all in this together. When we don’t address everybody, and when we don’t address everybody’s needs to have freedom to their own resources… that’s a suppression of our right to pursue happiness. Given the freedom to do what we see as right, most people do what is right. When it comes to the economic situation, we are the solution… Help your neighbor, help your community… Try not to let all the stresses that are handed down to us prevent you from being a good person, and doing what’s right.”

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