Northern Saratoga County and the eastern Adirondacks will have a new state Assembly representative in January, regardless of who wins the 114th Assembly District race.
Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, R-Willsboro, who represented the towns of Hadley, Day, Edinburg and Corinth when they were part of the 113th Assembly District, is retiring after a decade in office.
In the reconfigured and renumbered district, Queensbury town Supervisor Dan Stec is the Republican, Conservative and Independence candidate, and Glens Falls attorney Dennis Tarantino is the Democrat and Working Families candidate.
Meet the candidates
BALLOT LINES: Republican, Conservative, Independence
PROFESSION AND EDUCATION: Queensbury town supervisor, nine years; chairman, Warren County Board of Supervisors. Graduate of Clarkson University, professional engineer
BALLOT LINES: Democrat, Working Families
PROFESSION AND EDUCATION: Lawyer, graduate of Siena College and Albany Law School
Like many rural upstate districts, the 114th has a heavy enrollment advantage for the Republican Party, though many voters have no party affiliation.
Both men say the economy is the most important issue for the district, which represents the eastern Adirondacks, including Warren and Essex counties and part of Washington County. Under redistricting, it lost Hamilton County but gained five rural towns in northern Washington County.
“The big issue we’re talking about is the economy, and especially jobs,” said Stec, 43, Queensbury supervisor for nine years and chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors for the last two years.
Tarantino agreed the economy is the big issue, but said the regional economic development councils set up by Gov. Andrew Cuomo are helping the North Country and are a step in the right direction.
“I think businesses should be taking advantage of it,” he said.
Both men also said something needs to be done to reduce the number of unfunded mandates placed on local government by the state. The candidates differ, however, on whether the minimum wage should be raised above the current $7.25 to stimulate the economy or help low-wage workers.
“I’m opposed to it in this economy,” said Stec, a graduate of Clarkson University and a professional engineer by background. “And the minimum wage would be another mandate imposed by the state. There would be businesses that would hire fewer people.”
Tarantino, 63, of Queensbury, is a graduate of Siena College and Albany Law School who has been a private practice attorney. He said raising the minimum wage to something like $8.50 would benefit the economy.
“It creates disposable income. It lets people feel good about what they do,” he said.
Stec said he would work to reduce the number of state regulations — a particular thorn for many people in the Adirondacks, where Adirondack Park Agency land use rules apply.
“The cost of doing business in New York is too high,” he said.
Stec also said the North Country needs federal and state investment in roads, bridges, water and sewer improvements and in bringing broadband Internet service to more communities.
There are two large paper mills remaining in the district — Finch Paper in Glens Falls and International Paper in Ticonderoga — each of which employs hundreds of people. Stec said efforts to preserve land need to consider their needs.
“I’ve heard from them that they’re having to go farther and father for wood,” Stec said. “Taking working forest out of production affects that.”
Tarantino said the region’s tourism economy would benefit if there were stronger state efforts to protect places like Lake George from invasive plant and marine life species, and that’s something he would support.
He also said there has to be some kind of relief for local governments that are facing growing costs and can’t stay under the 2 percent local property tax cap the state imposed last year. “That has to be addressed in Albany,” he said.
Tarantino, who challenged Sayward and lost in the 2004 Assembly election, said he’s undaunted by the enrollment advantage Republicans hold over Democrats in the new district.
“As I campaign, the message I’m getting is people will vote for the person, not the party,” he said.
The district has just under 133,000 residents, according to the state Board of Elections.