Daily News Online

February 26, 2016

BATAVIA — Income inequality has become of the emerging issues in the Democratic Presidential primaries.

In announcing a campaign for Congress Thursday, Pinnacle Manufacturing Company CEO Diana Kastenbaum of Batavia said a concern for working families goes deeper than a debate question.

“It’s something that I’ve always felt is a moral issue,” Kastenbaum said Thursday. “I have a moral obligation to my employees, to make sure they have a decent wage and that they can support their families, that they have good working conditions and benefits.”

Kastenbaum said it’s not about just giving money away. She knows it’s being earned as she walks through a business that her father Henry, now 91, started from a garage-bound machine shop after serving in the Navy in World War II.

Pinnacle Manufacturing’s work is die casting, a “lost art” of American manufacturing, where the shop floor is lined with sturdy and literally old-school machines, with which a single operator works to turn molten zinc and aluminum into a heavy but precise component for a larger project. The Harvester Avenue facility is it’s own foundry, repair shop and die maker.

“It’s about the people who work, they work very hard,” Kastenbaum said. “My workers are hard-workers, they’re good people just trying to make a go of it, to get ahead. And they need the opportunity.”

Kastenbaum lost a bid for City Council amid a nine-candidate field in 2013 shortly after moving back to her hometown, and has harbored a desire to run for a higher office — one that she feels can play a larger role in aiding small businesses, manufacturers and the people that power them.

She is seeking the Democratic nomination against Republican incumbent Rep. Chris Collins of Clarence, who is seeking a third term, with a campaign she says will follow the mould set by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul in her time in Congress.

Kastenbaum sees the path to victory riding on the support of small donors, a developing campaign team, and in making her presence known and personality shared across in the sprawling district.

She drove through the fog and rain Wednesday to speak with a Democrats group in Canandaigua, one the far end of a multi-colored district map she had on her desk.

“I genuinely like this, I love meeting with people, I love talking with people, listening to them,” Kastenbaum said. “I think people in (the district) have wanted that one-on-one relationship with their Congressperson, and I’m not sure Chris Collins has given that to them.”

“I think that will be the determining factor, going to every single community, town, village, Indian reservation, county and speaking one-on-one or to groups and for them to get to know me, and know I’m on their side, and that I hear them,” she noted later. “I guarantee it will be about their families, their communities, building a better, stronger, western New York.”

Kastenbaum made the decision to run late last year, and began building a campaign after hosting a number of local party leaders in home at Richmond Avenue and Ellicott Avenue she and her husband, entertainer Hiram Kasten, purchased in 2004. They lived for 25 years in California, but spent summers in Batavia before moving back permanently as their daughter Millicent, now a senior at Cornell University, left for college.

Kastenbaum said she’s always been interested and involved in politics, from minoring in political science at The Catholic University of America to working with a national voting rights campaign.

In Batavia, Kastenbaum sees a model for how small businesses can be supported and grow. She left as the city was torn apart by urban renewal and the Main Street shops of her childhood were decimated by the mall, but sees the work of GCEDC in helping businesses move into larger facilities, and the city’s work on targeting brownfield sites for development as the right direction to follow.

“The people in this community really believe in keeping and maintaining businesses and we have the small business leaders that want people to stay here,” Kastenbaum said. “I think they are doing really fine stuff.”

Since returning to Batavia, she has served three-year terms and as vice president on the boards of the Landmark Society of Genesee County and the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council, and has hosted the weekly “Batavia After Breakfast” program on WBTA for the last year.

Kastenbaum will challenge Collins (link)