Four-term Albany County Legislator Phil Steck feels like it’s time to take on challenges at the state level and is hoping to succeed Bob Reilly, D-Colonie, in the Assembly district that will cover Niskayuna, Colonie and part of Schenectady.
The 52-year-old Steck, a Democrat who is also a civil rights and labor attorney, said he has become intimately familiar with the failings of government, whether it’s crushing bureaucracy, loads of red tape or unfunded mandates, through his role as a county official. Now he wants to bring his perspective to these state issues that have plagued counties for years.
“I think I have reached the limit of what I can do as county legislator,” he said.
Education is one of the focuses of his campaign, said Steck, who has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. His parents and wife have backgrounds in teaching.
“We need to put the [state education] dollars where they belong, which is in educating children. We don’t need to spend unnecessary money on paperwork and bureaucracy,” he said, promising a concrete proposal during his campaign.
One idea he had for reforming the education system is removing some functions from local boards of education and having them done at the county level, as is the practice in some states.
Steck also wants to reform Medicaid, which he said is drowning county budgets all over the state. “The existing system is costing the state billions,” he lamented.
He promised an issue-oriented campaign and said he would simply stack his record up against his opponents, whether in a primary or general election. He said one thing voters could be confident about, whether they liked him or not, is that he would be a hard worker for the district in the Assembly.
Steck added that he was familiar with Schenectady and Niskayuna and their needs and said he was interested in furthering the development of Schenectady’s downtown. If elected, he said he would be interested in putting a district office in Schenectady.
The race to succeed Reilly, who announced his retirement in March, includes a crowded field of interested Democrats. Niskayuna town Supervisor Joe Landry has said he’s considering a run, while Assembly staffer Kevin Frazier has officially announced his candidacy, as has Albany County Legislator and Assembly staffer Tim Nichols.
A primary date has not been set, but it would likely be in August.
Additionally, Republican Jennifer Whalen, who narrowly lost to Reilly in 2010, is considering a run and has created a campaign committee. In her last campaign, the margin of defeat was only about 500 votes, but the district included Clifton Park and Halfmoon, which gave it a Republican enrollment edge.
The newly drawn district has about 5,000 more Democrats than Republicans.
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