A newcomer to the state political scene is taking on a longtime incumbent with wide name recognition.
Democrat Michele Draves, in her first bid for a state office, is trying to capture votes as James N. Tedisco’s Assembly district is redrawn.
Tedisco, R-Glenville, is seeking his 16th two-year term in the chamber.
Generating jobs and improving the state’s economy is a big priority for both.
Meet the candidates
Ballot line: Democrat
Education/Experience: Attended National Labor College Leadership Institute and Schenectady County Community College. Vice chairwoman of the Scotia-Glenville Democratic Committee; vice president of the Coalition of Labor Union Women; former AFL-CIO community services liaison for the United Way of the Greater Capital Region
Personal: Married with twin sons in preschool; lives in Glenville
James N. Tedisco
Ballot lines: Republican, Conservative, Independence
Education/Experience: Bachelor’s degree in psychology, Union College; master’s degree in special education, College of Saint Rose. State Assembly member; former Schenectady City Council member; former special education teacher, resource room instructor and varsity basketball coach at Bethlehem Central High School; former guidance counselor, varsity basketball coach and athletic director at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School
Personal: Married; lives in Glenville
“We have to get our workers back on the job,” Draves said.
Tedisco said that can happen by reducing regulatory burdens that create “obstacles” to getting business done, and by reforming the business tax code.
The two candidates have run a civil campaign that generated little controversy, but they differ on a number of issues, including how the state should fund education, raise the minimum wage and structure the income tax.
“Mr. Tedisco is a very nice guy, but I don’t agree with some of his votes while in the Legislature,” Draves said.
On education, Tedisco would push the Legislature to change the funding formula for school districts to benefit high-need, low-wealth districts, one of the priorities in his five-point campaign plan.
Education funding would be Draves’ biggest priority if she wins the Nov. 6 election. She noted that the state’s schools have lost about 30,000 jobs in the last few years, and criticized Tedisco for his vote against reinstating the so-called Millionaire’s Tax, saying that taxing the rich more would increase the state coffers by about $2 billion, and that could be used for education funding.
But getting more money isn’t the answer, Tedisco said — cutting spending is.
“It’s that altered reality that you always have a revenue problem, when you really have a spending priority problem.”
Tedisco noted he was part of a “historic reform in tax code” that passed last year, instituting the lowest personal income tax rate for the state’s middle class in 58 years.
“I’m for a fair tax code, where everybody pays their fair share,” he said.
On the minimum wage and business growth, Draves would like to see a minimum wage hike higher than the $8.50 that is proposed in current legislation. The minimum wage is currently $7.25.
“I think it needs to be brought up to a livable wage and it needs to be passed with indexing for inflation,” Draves said. “If we start paying our employees more they’re going to invest more into the community.”
In the Assembly, Tedisco is working on a bill that would provide regulatory reform for businesses while also raising the minimum wage, so that businesses can pay more without getting squeezed as much by the extra expense.
As part of his five-point plan, Tedisco also aims to fix the state’s infrastructure and he favors getting rid of some mandates for schools and local governments, including having the state take over 25 percent of the burden of Medicaid payments, which would allow counties to cut expenses. He also wants to freeze and then cut property taxes.
Draves says she’s in favor of equal rights, including marriage equality and women’s health care.
Tedisco touted accomplishments: lobbying successfully for the governor to rewrite administrative guidelines that will take away someone’s driver’s license after one dangerous driving and three drunk driving convictions; the recent property tax cap bill; saving taxpayers $50 million a year because he pushed for the Assembly to abandon use of paper documents and go digital; coming up with the idea to sell used state resources online rather than letting them rot in a warehouse; and his most often-cited accomplishment, maneuvering the passage of Buster’s Law, which established a felony-level animal cruelty charge. He was formerly the Assembly minority leader, the most powerful Republican in the chamber.
Because of his incumbent advantage, Tedisco has a lot more money at his disposal.
“I’ve been outspent almost 10 times over,” Draves admitted.
The 112th Assembly District includes the Schenectady County town of Glenville and the Saratoga County towns of Ballston, Charlton, Clifton Park, Galway, Greenfield, Halfmoon, Milton and Providence.