The news this past week would have been enough to make me ill — if I wasn’t already. But I have enough of my own in-house crises that it was a perfect time to ignore the multitude of worries facing Americans and the world.

Australia’s months-long fiery nightmare could be a sign of the times to come — whether or not you believe in climate change.

The escalating threat of a U.S-Iran war is terrifying.

Some U.S. Constitutional crises involving the impeachment of President Donald Trump is almost certain.

But even before delving into the gory details behind these matters, I was swallowing gulps of over-the-counter cold remedies, sinus rinsing like a madman and drinking pots of hot herbal tea, all tactics in a personal war against a particularly nasty malady that arrived with the New Year.

I take all colds and respiratory system threats seriously since a sniffle and hacking cough got away from me four years ago. It escalated in a few weeks into a stubborn case of pneumonia that required massive doses of antibiotics and a long period of recovery in California sunshine.

And this year I feel the need to stay healthy enough to help care for our dog whose twice-broken rear leg requires that he have constant attention and care.

Thank God he only weighs eight pounds and can be carried about tucked under an arm. If he was a Labrador Retriever, I would need to add “back ailment” to my list of mid-winter medical woes.

Helping to take care of his needs (How many times a day does an 8-pound dog really need to go outside?) reminds me of those safety briefings passengers get on commercial airlines before takeoff. You know the drill. The flight attendants demonstrate how the oxygen masks drop from the plane’s overhead compartments in an emergency. Then they emphasize you must put your mask on yourself first before helping anyone else.

Good advice. I could use a sniff of oxygen at the moment.

But earlier this week I was mid-snort in a sinus rinse when a chirping good-news Twitter alert provided a tonic that made me forget my lingering cold, my dog’s healing broken leg, and the grim headlines from that morning’s newspaper.

Leslie Danks Burke — a well-known Finger Lakes community advocate, activist and skilled politician — announced she is jumping into the 2020 race for the State Senate’s 58th district seat. She will be challenging incumbent senator, Tom O’Mara, a Chemung County lawyer.

And she has a really good shot at winning.

The 58th Senate district includes Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, Chemung counties and most of Tompkins. It’s all very familiar territory to Danks Burke who has lived in the region since 2004, making her mark as an attorney and community supporter.

She ran unsuccessfully against O’Mara for the Senate seat in 2016. She outpaced the veteran GOP pol handily in fundraising but lost the election in the heavily registered Republican district.

She then formed the non-partisan Trailblazers Political Action Committee and has been helping elect candidates across the state who are interested in reforming local government.

Trailblazer alums include Doug Avery of the Seneca Falls Town Board.

The news that Danks Burke entered the race provided me with an uplifting political tonic precisely because of her work through Trailblazers and oft-stated, unwavering dedication to open government in New York.

She is a fierce critic of the hidden campaign finance dollars that often pollute the NY state political process.

She also is articulate, an excellent debater and someone who believes government can — and should — be harnessed to help people.

It’s just the kind of good news I needed, a positive distraction from an unrelenting sinus infection and a puppy who can’t understand why we won’t let him play, jump or run circles using his slowly mending broken leg.

Fitzgerald has worked at six newspapers as a writer and editor as well as a correspondent for two news services. He splits his time between Valois, NY and Pt. Richmond, CA. You can email him at and visit his website at

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