Candidate Statement: Diane DiStefano

On Tuesday, November 6, two candidates will appear on the ballot seeking the position of Chenango’s County, Surrogate and Family Court Judge – Diane DiStefano on the Democrat and Working Families party lines, and Frank Revoir Jr. on the Republican, Conservative and Independence party lines. Here, in their own words, each candidate makes a final appeal to Chenango County voters.

My name is Diane DiStefano and I am seeking the position of Chenango County Court Judge. I am seeking this position to further my commitment to the families of Chenango County. In Chenango County, the County Court also sets as the Family Court and Surrogate’s Court. I firmly believe that the Family Court setting, which is part of the County Court, affords you the greatest opportunity to make a difference in our county. There is nothing more important than our children, our families – our future. By ensuring the best interests of the children of this county, we are securing our future for generations to come.

I reside in the City of Norwich and am married with two children and three adult step-children. My husband is also my law partner in our private practice in Norwich. I graduated from SUNY Binghamton and Albany Law School. I have been in my current law firm since my first year of law school in 1996. My practice has been devoted to primarily family law. I have assisted hundreds of families in custody and visitation matters. In addition to my private practice, I have also served as an Assistant Chenango County Public Defender for the past six years. My duties consist of representing clients on various criminal matters in local criminal courts and in the County Court. As a public defender, I also represent clients in the Chenango County Family Court at least two full days per week. The volume of cases I have handled, literally thousands in family and criminal court, far exceeds that of my opponent.

In addition to my extensive experience as an attorney, I also have the unique qualification of having previously served as the Guilford Town Justice. I presided over both criminal and civil matters. Having had prior experience as a judge, I am confident that I have the proper temperament, knowledge and experience to be an effective County Court Judge.

The judicial position should not be a political one. Unfortunately, it is. As the Democratic candidate, I face an enrollment disadvantage in Chenango County. Consequently, I have been outnumbered and significantly outspent in this campaign by my opponent. Inasmuch as this campaign should not be about politics, it should not be about who spends the most money, either.

As a judge, one must consider the facts and evidence before you, then apply the law. Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, rich or poor, male or female – this practice does not change. What changes are the individuals appearing before you. The judge must be able to remain impartial without any regard for race, gender, income level, education or other factors.

I have demonstrated my ability to do this throughout my career, starting with my position as a former town judge. The clients assigned to me through the Public Defender’s office qualify for my services based upon their lack of income while my private practice clients pay hundreds and thousands of dollars, depending on the number of hours spent on their case. Neither category of client can be treated differently. I have represented as many males as females. The primary objective – what’s best for the children – never changes.

I am one of the few attorneys in this area that handles contested divorces. I am not afraid to advance a case to trial, if necessary. While plea bargaining and negotiations are important and efficient, there comes a time when you must make the tough decisions. My willingness to handle contested matters and go to trial, qualifies me as the best candidate for this position. A judgeship is not for the most popular person or the person looking to settle everything neatly. Being “too nice” prevents you from being decisive. In addition, I am confident that my demonstrated work ethic will move cases forward in an already congested court calendar. That’s not to say I’ve returned every phone call or am prompt on every single case, however, I am mostly conscientious and sincerely attempt to fulfill all deadlines imposed by the court.

I determined early in this campaign that I would maintain a positive outlook, refrain from any “mud-slinging” and otherwise take the high road. I will admit that some days this has been more difficult than others. I remain committed to winning this election based on my qualifications and goals, even though I have been told by many that this will not be effective. We teach our children to behave this way and I cannot in good conscience act differently. The example we set for our children should be what defines us, not our mistakes in life or our shortcomings.

Many of you know that I am a long distance runner. So much of this campaign is analogous to the marathon process. The training – campaign period – is intense. It requires a huge time and energy commitment. You push yourself farther and father, reaching goals you never thought you would accomplish. You meet people along your route, forming life-long friendships and earning support from strangers. Running is for everyone, Republicans, Democrats, Independents – all parties. In the end, marathon/election day, you are united with thousands that share your common goal. We are in the last stretch of the campaign marathon and I ask that you help us sprint to the finish line by voting for me – voting for families – on November 6th.

For the first time in 27 years, you have a true choice. Thank you to all of those that have supported me so far. For those who are undecided, you have an opportunity to secure your place in history by electing the first female to serve on the County Court bench. For those supporting my opponent, I respect your choice, but ask you to carefully consider all of your options. The GOP has now endorsed two different candidates for this position, but a third option remains. Cross the finish line with me on election day and together we will all win by moving Chenango County in the right direction. Thank you for your support.

Diane DiStefano

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