108TH ASSEMBLY DISTRICT Voters have a choice between experience and new ideas in the race to succeed retiring long-time Assemblyman Ron Canestrari, D-Cohoes.
Democrat John McDonald, the mayor of Cohoes, and Libertarian James Campbell, an unemployed veteran, are running in the 108th Assembly District, which stretches from Waterford down to the city of Rensselaer.
“I think I am the best person for the job because of my experience,” said McDonald, who is a mayor, pharmacist and business owner. He secured the Democratic nomination in September, after handily winning a primary election against Carolyn McLaughlin.
Meet the candidates
Ballot line: Libertarian
Education: Classes at Hudson Valley Community College and ITT Tech; currently working on bachelor’s degree at Excelsior College
Experience: Army veteran; has worked for General Electric, Starfire Systems and the Ron Paul campaign
Ballot Lines: Democrat, Independence
Education: Bachelor of science in pharmaceutical sciences from the Albany College of Pharmacy
Experience: Served as mayor of Cohoes since 2000 and is president and owner of Marra’s Pharmacy
McDonald, 50, said that experience matters when choosing a representative, because it ensures an effective and knowledgeable legislator. His own experience has taught him to work with others and given him insight into the challenges faced by local governments and small business owners.
In particular, his experience in the health care field will allow him to focus on this important topic in the Assembly. McDonald said the next few years are critical for the state, noting the adoption of a health exchange system, and said he could be a leader in this area in the Assembly.
Campbell, 37, said he is running to prevent a “coronation” of McDonald, who would be more of the same in the Assembly. He said he shares the perspective of other people in the state struggling to find a job and will be a fierce advocate for them in the Assembly.
“I have a plan based off economics,” said Campbell, who wants to cut taxes, eliminate waste and tap new revenue sources in the state.
On the revenue side, he would like to see hydrofracking, mixed martial arts and industrial hemp legalized. MMA would be a boon for the Times Union Center in Albany and the local climate is perfect for growing hemp, he said.
Additionally, he wants to eliminate state bureaucracies that perform duties also overseen by a similar federal or county agency and wants to have the state Department of Transportation absorb the Thruway Authority.
After these changes are made, Campbell said the state’s personal income tax could be eliminated and the state’s corporate taxes could be cut in half.
For his part, McDonald is focused on growing jobs by harnessing the high-tech industries and higher education centers in and around his district. He said it is important to create a well-qualified work force, which means ensuring that college is affordable and that older people have opportunities to get back to school for new job training.
McDonald is also focused on reforming the state’s aid formula for education, as he says Capital Region school districts aren’t getting their fair share. He said it might not be realistic to increase the total being spent on education, but argued that the distribution formula has to be reworked to benefit schools with higher need for state funds.
On hydrofracking, McDonald is waiting for further proof that the practice is safe before supporting it.
Because the 108th Assembly District has an overwhelming Democratic edge, Campbell is realistic about his chances of winning. He contends that whatever the outcome on Election Day, his presence in the race has altered the conversation, with people questioning ideas about spending and taxes that they previously took for granted.
“I am enlightening people about the waste [in state government],” he said, noting that his message really resonates with people when he talks to them.
McLaughlin will appear on the ballot under the Working Families line, but she has not been actively campaigning for office.