What state government needs is someone who can bring fresh perspective to the table, who cares about the people he grew up with and whom he is anxious to serve, someone who is reasonable and willing to find compromise, someone with integrity and someone who personally understands the issues facing his district.
In that, voters in the 118th Assembly District have Keith Rubino, a 29-year-old moderate Democrat who grew up in Herkimer and who has spent the past 10 years working with people with disabilities.
Like Rubino, Republican candidate Robert Smullen would be new to elected office.
Smullen, a 23-year-Marine veteran, has held various leadership positions in the military and in state and federal government, including serving as the former executive director of the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District.
He says his experience would help him get attention for voters in the Democrat-controlled Assembly in a more effective way than his younger opponent.
During a meeting with our editorial board, Rubino was solid in his understanding and concern about the local issues facing the residents of the 118th District, such as rural poverty, the need for broadband access and cell phone service, less expensive health care and economic development.
He pitches himself as an everyday man that voters need, and he thinks state politicians should be talking more about local issues that directly affect people’s lives than national issues and doing more to solve them.
To improve citizens’ access to government, he supports “semi-open” party primaries, automatic voter registration and the need to inspire young people, something he believes he can do.
He also says he’s not the typical big-city Democrat, many of whom in the Assembly focus on downstate issues to the detriment of upstate.
And he’s already demonstrating independence by criticizing some aspects of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s leadership and vowing not to vote the Democratic party line if doing so would hurt his constituents.
One issue of importance to local residents is the SAFE Act. Rubino said he would support repealing portions of the act, but not throwing it out.
Smullen, on the other hand, vowed to push for the repeal and replacement of the SAFE Act, a position we found unrealistic and impractical, especially coming from a Republican.
A major concern we had with Smullen is his ongoing legal troubles concerning his attempt to receive a military combat veterans tax exemption in two communities where he claimed residence, Niskayuna and Johnstown.
In July, Smullen was charged with a felony count of filing of a false instrument, and the charge will likely still be pending on Election Day.
On one hand, Smullen’s claim that the dual filing represented a simple “paperwork issue” might be understandable. Not everyone knows every law.
But given his experience in government, the attention to detail he demonstrated in his military service, and the fact that other owners of multiple properties are hardly ever charged with felonies for seeking multiple exemptions, his claims of an innocent oversight raises serious doubts.
In addition, in an era when everyone is concerned about corruption and ethics in state government, it would be difficult for us not to give proportionate weight to a criminal charge for someone seeking to enter the Legislature and who could be removed from office if convicted.
For his part, and to his credit, Rubino has refused to make the criminal charge an issue. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t one.
Smullen’s impressive degree of experience made the editorial board’s decision more difficult. But his criminal case, along with his sometimes weak grasp of specific issues such as the school aid formula, were big strikes against him.
Keith Rubino has demonstrated an understanding of the issues facing the district and a willingness to wade into the grassroots with his constituents to personally address their problems.
Voters in the 118th Assembly District should select the candidate who is willing and able to work the hardest to improve their lives.
That candidate is Keith Rubino.