This year’s race for the 111th State Assembly seat could easily be mistaken for a hard-fought race for Rotterdam Town Board.
The contest pits longtime incumbent Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, a Democrat, against challenger Paul DeLorenzo, a Republican and attorney at his family law firm. Both candidates are longtime Rotterdam residents and veterans of town politics.
The two men have opposing, and sometimes similar, viewpoints on a variety of local issues. The Gazette spoke to both candidates and has compiled their stances on a few of them below.
Helping businesses affected by COVID
Much of Santabarbara’s platform includes continuations of the work he’s already done as a four-term Assembly member. The incumbent said he has already worked on an emergency loan program and helped provide personal protection equipment (PPE) for small businesses, and said there’s more to be done.
“There’s been a couple of things that we’ve worked on to help businesses reopen,” Santabarbara said. “Certainly the PPE, providing that was important for small businesses, making sure they have what they need as far as equipment, whatever we can do. We’ve been there to supply them with protective equipment, but also to help them to get their plans approved to get reopened. And then, I also created a COVID-19 emergency loan program to help businesses, also not just businesses, but also nonprofits apply.”
For businesses struggling during the pandemic, DeLorenzo said, he’d “listen to and voice the concerns of our constituents.”
“We need to form a committee and talk to all locales of health care businesses and people and go from there,” DeLorenzo said. “That’s the only way you can resolve that. My business neighbors, my neighbors, we talked to them knowing that any input from them is what’s best, that’s what needs to be done in this situation. ”
Both candidates are strong opponents of the state’s new bail reform law and Santabarbara has a record of voting in opposition to the legislation. Delorenzo said we should trust in judges that “know the community.”
“Bail reform should’ve never been brought up,” DeLorenzo said. “What happens is that you see dangerous, vicious, criminals being let out. And you know, there’s been some problems immediately after. There were some violent actions that occurred because of that. Now, what I would say to do with that, is let bail stay the way it is and let the local judges use their discretion, which is why we elected them in the first place.”
Santabarbara elaborated on his history with bail reform.
“I’ve gone toe to toe with the governor on bail reform,” Santabarbara said. “I voted ‘No’ on that bill. And I led a bipartisan charge with Jim Tedisco to repeal bail reform. I believe it’s going to hurt public safety. It’s not in the interest of public safety.”
Santabarbara said schools are currently “in dire need” and are being asked to do a lot. With education budget cuts in districts like Schenectady and beyond, Santabarbara, who has a daughter in the Schalmont Central School District, said he hopes to work with others to restore funding. He emphasized pushing proposals like the School Relief Act of 2020, which he was behind this year.
The act proposes that the New York State Lottery send 60 percent of its earnings to public education instead of the current 30 percent.
“The lottery has a long history that goes back more than 50 years, that talks about funding our schools,” Santabarbara said. “That’s how it was approved on the ballot, it was going to be a way to fund our schools. So when schools are set to reopen, I started to look for solutions. And my proposal says, how about we make it 60 percent, right now when we need it the most we just double that?”
DeLorenzo also said he’d fight to fund education, and his platform touches on providing school programming and after-school activities.
“I don’t even know how to explain it powerfully enough. [We need] education and any opportunity for education as much as we can as a community,” DeLorenzo said. “This is our future at hand. We should help them anyway we can. If there’s aid we can give them if it’s needed, if it’s something we can give them an upper hand on, absolutely we do it.”
Both candidates said they are strong proponents of helping the district’s veterans. Santabarbara, who served in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1990 to 1998, mentioned a bill he sponsored that gives returning veterans college credit for their military service, while DeLorenzo spoke at length about his own plans to serve vets if elected.
“Our veterans have earned our attention and our respect,” DeLorenzo said. “Whatever they need should be given to them, there is no question about it. They fought for me, they fought for my son, they’re gonna fight for his children too. But the point I’m making is, they were there for us, we will be there for them if they need anything; we fund it, if they need help we get it for them.”
Santabarbara spoke about his college-credit bill, as an example of the work he’d do for vets in another term.
“So this legislation allows you to document that and get credit when you return home for your military experience,” Santabarbara said. “And it’s the right thing to do, you know, veterans sacrifice a lot, they fight for us. And when they come back, we need to do right by that, we need to pass legislation like this. And I’m proud of a good record of things that I’ve been able to pass. I work with a local Amvets post here in Rotterdam. I have a lot of veterans bring issues to me that we have been able to pass a lot of bills to address their needs.”
Santabarbara, who has an 18-year-old son with autism, has made advocacy for the disabled one of his primary objectives. While he says he has presented a lot of legislation and worked to bring front and center various resources for the disabled community — including the development of a certified Autism Center at Ellis Hospital — he acknowledged that there’s still more to be done.
“My son can’t talk. So we need to be their voice,” Santabarbara said. “We need to be their voice when they cannot. … The ARCs, they’ve always been underfunded.”
Santabarbara said delivering gloves and masks meant “a lot” to direct-care workers in the field helping those with disabilities.
“There were a number of contracts with organizations like the Center for Disability Services, a number of contracts that were not renewed, yet they actually saved the state money. And people with disabilities are employed at these facilities. And there’s not that many of them.”
DeLorenzo also said he considered it important to assist those with disabilities: “We have to voice their concerns as well. We have to make sure they’re taken care of. Like any other group in our society, 100 percent taken care of. If they can’t work to take care of themselves, we fill the gap and take care of them any way we can.”
What makes you the better candidate
Santabarbara feels his resume speaks to his reliability.
“You’re not gonna find me sitting in an office somewhere,” Santabarbara said. “You’re gonna find me out in our community, in our neighborhoods, finding ways to support our community. And that’s one thing people know about me during my time in office, it’s helping businesses reopen.”
DeLorenzo, a lawyer, said his experience is necessary.
“In the midnight hour, there are times where it appears that the assemblymen weren’t even reading the bills, things are getting snuck into law that should not have been,” DeLorenzo said. “As a lawyer, I know how to read the law and how to interpret the law. And I’ll be there to voice concerns of my constituents as to whether or not that law is appropriate. When it goes to the floor for debate, I will have read that law before it is even voted into law. That’s what I have to offer.”