Hydrofracking, job creation, health care and the recently created tax cap were just a few of the issues that came up at a forum on Wednesday night that put on display the five candidates vying to represent Colonie, Niskayuna and part of Schenectady in the Assembly.
Four Democrats and one Republican hoping to succeed Assemblyman Bob Reilly, D-Colonie, took questions for about an hour at The Holiday Inn of Colonie, where the Colonie Chamber of Commerce, League of Women Voters of Albany County and Spotlight News had put together a voter forum. The Democratic participants were Assembly staffer Kevin Frazier, Niskayuna Supervisor Joe Landry, Albany County Legislator Tim Nichols and Albany County Legislator Phil Steck; the Republican was Colonie attorney Jennifer Whalen, who narrowly lost to Reilly in 2010.
The first issue that sparked a difference of opinion was over hydrofracking. All the Democrats voiced opposition, with Landry even citing plans for a possible moratorium on the drilling in Niskayuna, but Whalen said that it should be pursued if it can be done safely following certain state guidelines.
The next difference of opinion was over what prepares a candidate to serve in the Assembly, with Nichols and Frazier highlighting their time behind the scenes in the Assembly. Steck said his outsider approach was better, Landry noted that he has served at various levels and Whalen focused on her role as an attorney for the state.
All the candidates said they would oppose giving pay raises to state legislators and they all supported raising the minimum wage.
As to whether they would support keeping Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, in power, all the Democrats said they would wait until all the facts were revealed regarding his role in negotiations surrounding a sexual harassment incident involving a downstate Assembly member before deciding his fate.
When asked about how to create jobs, Whalen focused on targeted tax incentives, Landry advocated for expanding research investments, Frazier backed high-tech investment, Nichols backed the cooperative efforts of the governor’s regional councils and Steck called for shifting the burden of Medicaid off the counties so they could have funds for targeted economic investment.
While all the candidates endorsed expanding health care access, only Frazier, Nichols and Steck were open to a single-payer system in the state, in which the government acts as the health insurer. Whalen was very opposed to this idea, arguing it is a bad system, and Landry said other health care access issues should be addressed.
Regarding life under the recently imposed property tax cap, all the candidates said municipalities need some relief, whether it is additional aid, less responsibility for Medicaid or reduced mandate requirements.
The only contentious moment was at the end of the night when Landry criticized Steck for adopting a budget that exceeded the tax cap. Steck countered that Niskayuna was only able to stay under the cap because it doesn’t pay for Medicaid and noted that Schenectady County has very high taxes because of Medicaid costs.
On Sept. 13 the four Democrats will meet in their party’s primary; Whalen, Steck, Landry and Frazier will compete for the Independence Party nomination; and Landry is mounting a write-in campaign for the Working Families Party nomination against endorsed candidate Steck.
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Categories: Schenectady County