Last week, Southern Tier Republican leaders announced that Fred Akshar, the Broome County undersheriff, is their choice to run for the State Senate in the November election to fill the vacancy that was created when former Senator Tom Libous was convicted of lying to federal investigators. The Democrats have nominated former Broome County Executive and former state DMV Commissioner Barbara Fiala.

Akshar, 36, is a 13-year veteran of the Broome County Sheriff’s Office; he was appointed undersheriff in May. He is secretary of the Broome County Republican Party and a 2000 graduate of SUNY Broome.

The stakes in this race are high, because the Senate Republicans currently hold 31 of the 61 occupied Senate seats, one short of an outright majority. Republicans control the Senate only because one Democrat, Brooklyn Senator Simcha Felder, votes with them. Former Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos remains in the Senate, but he faces a trial on corruption charges in the fall. If convicted, he would lose his seat as well.

Unshackle Upstate will be highlighting our high-profile issues – the property tax cap, mandate relief, economic development and natural gas development, among others – to determine where the candidates stand. In short, we’re looking for a Senate candidate who will be a champion for the Southern Tier and for Upstate.