Democrat Chad Putman officially kicked off his race for the 49th Senate District on Thursday, charging that the district “needs a champion” and “someone new.”
Putman, who serves as Schenectady’s deputy city clerk, is looking to unseat Republican Sen. Hugh Farley, who has served in the state Senate for 40 years.
During a press conference at Niskayuna Town Hall, Putman said he would fight for campaign finance reform, economic development, education and infrastructure funding, equality, jobs, lower taxes and women’s rights.
“Born and raised in upstate New York, I identify with small town values while recognizing the benefits of a diverse community,” he said Thursday morning surrounded by supporters and local Democratic officials. “As a professional social worker, I’ve been trained to listen first and act with solutions in mind.”
Putman, 40, of Schenectady, knocked Farley’s 20 terms and charged that he has not stood up for his constituents. He described Farley, 84, as an “institution himself.”
“I’m motivated by Senator Farley’s increasing neglect in the district,” he said.
Schenectady County Democratic Committee Chairman Joe Landry, who also serves as Niskayuna supervisor, said Farley hasn’t visited Niskayuna Town Hall in eight years.
“Niskayuna voters want accessible state representatives,” said Landry, who is throwing his support behind Putman. “They want to see and meet their senator, not just wave at him once a year at the annual Niska-Day Parade.”
Supporters stood alongside Putman holding signs that read, “Through with Hugh,” “Chad for Change,” “I’m with Chad” and “Vote 4 Chad.”
Putman’s campaign announcement focused on combatting corruption and pushing for ethics reform. He said he is for term limits and against pay raises for legislators. Putman plans to cap his own campaign donations at $100,000. He said he would not accept donations from corporations or LLCs. He added that he believes millions of dollars are wasted on political campaigns.
“My goal is to secure $100,000 in donations,” he said. “I’m asking the people to come out and make a $20 donation to support my campaign and help me move forward. I believe there are other ways to engage voters to be part of the process rather than sending them junk mail or blasting them with TV commercials.”
The 49th Senate District includes all or parts of Schenectady, Saratoga, Fulton, Hamilton and Herkimer counties.
Farley, a Niskayuna resident, has not yet announced his political plans. He is the most senior member of the state Senate and the third highest-ranking senator.
Putman is the only Democrat running for the seat at this time. Farley is also facing Republican primary challengers Christian Klueg and Nancy Nugent.
In a voicemail on Wednesday, Farley said he plans to announce “about running for re-election” sometime after the presidential primary next month. He could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif said in a statement on Thursday that Farley has done a “tremendous job and absolutely deserves to be re-elected.”
“No one knows who Chad Putman is but he ought to know better than to kick off a political campaign on government grounds,” Reif said. “With an ethical misstep on day one, there’s no telling where his campaign will go from here.”
Putman has served as deputy city clerk for about three years. He is a licensed social worker and serves on the city’s Democratic Committee. Putman is married to Spero Zoulas and is an advocate for equal rights.
Local officials at the press conference on Thursday included U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam; Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie; Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy; and other city and county officials. Ex-Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, a Democrat from Duanesburg, was also in attendance.
Tonko said Putman is “a rising star” and “a natural.” He lauded him for his support for an increase in state education and infrastructure funding, which he said are priorities for the district.
“He knows how to bring people together, build bridges, introduce ideas and inspire legislation through the many campaigns in which he has worked,” Tonko said. “He does it with a sense of vision. He delves into these issues always thinking and always solution-bound.”
Steck said Farley “isn’t about change” but that “we need change.” Steck said Putman would advocate for priorities like increasing the minimum wage and paid family leave.
“We are headed for economic disaster for the middle class,” Steck said. “We need someone who is going to work hard to bring the right economic policies that will make it possible for the middle class to move forward. I could think of no one who would work harder for his constituents. He has proven that with his current position in the city of Schenectady.”
Putman said he would also fight for increased access to substance abuse and mental health services, increased services for seniors and tuition assistance and loan forgiveness programs. He added that he would also work to boost agricultural resources, provide tax cuts for small businesses and capital for start-up companies. He said he would also like to see a vote for constitutional convention on the ballot.
To date, Putman said, he has received endorsements from the state Senate Democratic Committee and the Democratic committees in the city of Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County.
Reach Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro at 395-3114, [email protected] or @HRViccaro on Twitter.