Governing style, minimum wage, abortion and who they support for president are almost all of the differences between the two candidates vying to replace Roy McDonald in the 43rd state Senate District.
Saratoga County Clerk Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, and Columbia County town Supervisor Robin Andrews, D-Claverack, squared off in a candidate forum Thursday night in Saratoga Springs, where each laid out their visions to a crowd of about 60 people. The 43rd Senate District includes Saratoga County from Waterford to Moreau and parts of Rensselaer, Columbia and Washington counties.
Marchione emerged as the most high-profile candidate in the race after she defeated two-term incumbent McDonald, R-Saratoga, in the Republican primary. She said she got into that race because of McDonald’s failure to create jobs, his support for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tax compromise in 2011 and his vote on marriage equality. The last issue was key to her primary victory, although there was some built-up resentment already against McDonald among Republicans in the district.
Since that victory, Marchione has focused her message solely on cutting spending at the state level, reducing unfunded mandates at the local level and easing burdens and regulations for small businesses. Those positions are also being espoused by Andrews.
The key differences between the candidates is how they approach these issues, although there are some similarities too.
On state spending, Marchione endorsed a 2 percent spending cap for the state budget and Andrews opposed a cap, arguing she was opposed to any sort of blanket propositions that would tie the state’s hands.
When it comes to easing local government burdens so they can comply with the 2 percent tax cap, Marchione has targeted Medicaid spending as an answer. She said the state should do more to identify fraud in the system and give local governments control over the benefits they offer, which would mean fewer benefits and the program would cost less. At the debate, Andrews didn’t offer any mandates she would cut but reiterated her promise to take a keen look at unfunded mandates to decide what works and what doesn’t.
Andrews also said localities will likely see savings once the governor’s mandate and Medicaid relief task forces report.
Both Marchione and Andrews talked rhetorically Thursday night about regulations facing small businesses, with Andrews noting from personal experience that they are a pain.
Andrews is a budget and planning consultant for large companies, like ESPN, which she said makes her perfect to serve in government, where business people are needed. Marchione countered that as county clerk, where she has turned the department profitable, she has already built up a track record of running government like a business.
Both candidates oppose a legislative pay raise and new gun control legislation. Both are waiting for more information about the health and environmental impacts of hydrofracking before they take a position on the controversial method of producing natural gas.
Andrews is pro-choice and Marchione is pro-life when it comes to abortion.
Marchione supports former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for president and Andrews supports the reelection of President Barack Obama.
Marchione opposed the state raising the minimum wage, arguing it would hurt small businesses, and instead supported having the federal government raise the rate. Andrews said she supported an increase, but wanted it tied to tax credits or certain exemptions for small businesses.
Neither candidate has wanted to talk about issues important to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community during this general election cycle, especially marriage equality, which cost McDonald the Republican nomination. In the candidate forum Thursday night, neither candidate would commit to supporting or opposing additional LGBT rights.
At the forum, the two candidates also failed to explain how they would make college more accessible, as the state’s public education system begins to implement rate increases. Education was an issue Andrews has harped on, saying the funding method for schools needs to be changed.
Republicans make up a plurality of the district and outnumber Democrats by about 12,000 voters, which makes most political observers consider this a conservative district. Additionally, Conservative Party voters outnumber Working Families voters by a margin of about five to one.
One remaining variable in the race is the presence of McDonald on the Independence line. He is not actively campaigning, but in a similar instance in a 2010 Western New York Senate race, the non-campaigning incumbent generated almost 5,000 votes on the Independence line.
There are about 12,000 Independence voters in the district and about 50,000 people who aren’t registered with any party.