2018 has been a great year for Chemung County.  With an unprecedented number of candidates running for local office, a much needed examination of how our government functions is underway. It has encouraged many serious discussions about who we are and how we can improve the way business is done in our community.

Unfortunately, the tenor of these discussions has recently begun to shift, moving away from a valuable assessment of the issues to personal attacks on the candidates. With divisiveness dominating political discourse at the state and national levels, we should try as hard as we can to avoid falling into a similar pattern here.

I believe anyone who runs for local office deserves respect, as I have learned firsthand just how difficult it can be.

This level of respect extends to my opponent, Cornelius “Neil” Millken. Dr. Milliken has served in the Chemung County Legislature since 2012 when he was appointed after his father, Cornelius “Connie” Milliken, passed away. Connie Milliken had been a member of the legislature since 1974, the year it was created. In total, they have represented our community for the past 46 years, something that should be commended. I am not running because of what they did or failed to do, but rather because I feel I have the skills, desire and drive to make a positive difference in local government.

However, I was disappointed to learn that this respect does not appear to be mutual. Dr. Milliken recently sent a letter to all of the members of the Conservative Party who live in our district wherein he questioned my genuineness and fitness for office.  I sent a follow-up letter to them. Copies of both letters are set forth below.

I am sharing these letters for two reasons. First, the purpose of this blog from the start has been to shed light on what is happening in the 7th District and in Chemung County, and disappointing political maneuvers like this fall squarely into that category.

Second, and much more importantly, we have just over two weeks to go before the election. I hope that all candidates commit to a continued discussion of the issues, but pledge to avoid personal attacks. Let’s not waste all of the positive momentum we have in Chemung County right now!

Thanks for reading,


Neil Letter


Dear ___________:

My name is Christina Bruner Sonsire, and I am a candidate to represent you on the Chemung County Legislature.

Although I am a Democrat, I have also been endorsed by the Conservative Party in this election, confirmation that conservative political leaders recognize I am the type of person who can genuinely work across party lines to get things done for the good of our community.

This is what those leaders have said:

  • New York State Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long: “We are very interested in seeing how Christina’s philosophy about government translates into action once she is elected. The Conservative Party recognizes that the only way we are going to get our state and nation back on track is by electing qualified, strong leaders who are willing to stand up against corruption and the status quo. Christina has shown us she has the potential to help lead Chemung County in the right direction, and we are extremely proud to support her efforts.”
  • Chemung County Conservative Party Chairman Louis DeCicco: “Christina has a very unique way of approaching political matters. One of the reasons Christina has such a successful law practice is that she is able to look at problems from all sides and find solutions that work. She is not afraid to take hard stands, even if they are unpopular. These are traits that will make her one heck of a legislator.”
  • Town of Elmira Conservative Party Chairman Joseph Coletta: “Christina is not afraid to speak out in order to hold governmental officials accountable while still attempting to foster genuine cooperation – qualities we desperately need in order to help our community begin to thrive. Christina will be a tremendous enhancement to the Chemung County Legislature as well as to the Town of Elmira.”

Neil Milliken, the current 7th District Legislator, recently sent you a letter questioning my commitment to responsible government, mentioning my interest in the New York Health Act (NYHA), representation of Rev. Gary McCaslin, and desire to strengthen the legislature by invoking the powers it has under our County Charter.

The NYHA is a proposal to significantly overhaul healthcare in our state. It could provide a crucial benefit to our community: relief from the burden of reimbursing Albany for Medicaid costs. Medicaid reimbursement accounts for nearly 60% of Chemung County’s budget. The NYHA would eliminate much of that cost, replacing it with a progressive payroll tax that targets New York’s highest earners instead of struggling upstate communities. As local lawmakers agree Medicaid reimbursement is one of the biggest impediments to economic growth in our community, all solutions – including the NYHA – should be part of the discussion.

My representation of Rev. Gary McCaslin is similarly grounded on a desire for responsible government. I served as an Assistant District Attorney in Chemung County for many years. Prosecuting someone who picked up signs for multiple candidates from a state highway – where signs were not permitted to be placed – five days after an election is a complete waste of taxpayer dollars and law enforcement time, particularly when we have so many serious crime issues in our community.

Finally, Chemung County legislators make much more money per number of constituents than anywhere else in the state. I intend to introduce a resolution to reduce their pay if I am elected, and I will also work hard to use all of the powers under our County Charter, including the ability to hold hearings and appoint citizen commissions to examine issues when appropriate. Our legislature has been an underused body for way too long. If I am elected, I will work hard to make sure the issues that matter to you are vigorously represented.

As recently as 2015 I was a member of the Chemung County Republican Party’s Executive Committee. My decision to join the Democratic Party has nothing to do with local politics, as I am committed to work with whoever is at the table. There is no question that a nonpartisan approach to county government is the best way to get things done.

I sincerely thank you for considering me for this position.

Very truly yours,

Christina Sonsire