Over the past decade, Montgomery and Schenectady counties have each had an assemblyman occupy what is now the state’s 111th Assembly District.
Democrat and Amsterdam native Paul Tonko held the seat for 25 years until he left to take a position heading the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority in 2007. George Amedore Jr., a Republican from Rotterdam, won the seat in a special election and decided to vacate it this year in order to run for the state Senate’s newly created 46th District seat.
Now voters will have a choice between two candidates with county government backgrounds to pick as their next representative to the state Assembly. Republican Tom Quackenbush, the former chairman of Montgomery County’s Board of Supervisors and the town of Minden’s top executive, is facing Democrat Angelo Santabarbara, Rotterdam’s representative to the Schenectady County Legislature.
The 111th includes all of Montgomery County and the towns of Duanesburg, Princetown and Rotterdam and part of the city of Schenectady in Schenectady County. The district also includes the Albany County towns of Knox and Berne.
Meet the candidates
Thomas L. Quackenbush
Ballot lines: Republican, Conservative
Education: Herkimer County Community College; SUNY Institute of Technology at Utica-Rome
Experience: Mayor of Fort Plain, Minden town supervisor, chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors in 2006 and 2011; Teamsters Local 294 business agent
Ballot Lines: Democratic, Independence, Working Families
Education: Bachelor of Science degree from SUNY Albany
Experience: Schenectady County Legislator since 2007; serves on the board of directors for the Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region; president, Capital District chapter of the New York State Society of Professional Engineers; licensed real estate professional
For Santabarbara, a 40-year-old licensed engineer, the run for the Assembly is his second in two years. He challenged Amedore for the seat in 2010, but was handily defeated by the incumbent.
This time, Santabarbara is running on a platform of helping to alleviate the burden families are feeling from high property taxes. Among the issues he’s stumping for, Santabarbara said he supports raising the minimum wage and creating good-paying jobs to prevent an exodus from New York of young people entering the workforce.
But above all, Santabarbara said, he would work toward lowering taxes. He touted his record of not supporting tax increases as a county legislator and pledged to bring the same attitude to Albany.
“Families have been forced to live within their means, and government needs to do the same,” he said. “Raising taxes is not the answer.”
Quackenbush, a 48-year-old business agent for Teamsters Local 294, said he favors a “step aside” approach toward government when it comes to allowing the private sector to create jobs and believes reducing regulations would help make the state more business friendly. He is also advocating for mandate relief and points to his record testifying as a member of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s relief council on how mandates negatively affect municipal government.
Quackenbush is making tax relief and reform a central part of his campaign. He’s proposing to shift the cost of funding schools to the state’s broad-based income tax, which would lower the burden on property owners.
111th Assembly District Candidate Forum
The League of Women Voters of Schenectady County, the Chamber of Schenectady County and the American Association of University Women hosted a recent candidate forum for Quackenbush and Santabarbara.
Watch their opening and closing remarks
In this clip they discuss county run nursing homes and Medicaid.
In the final clip they discuss taxes and campaign finance reform.
“This would release nearly 60 percent of the tax bill people would have to pay, which would go a long way for struggling families,” he said. “If everyone paid a little piece, being that nearly everyone uses the school system, everyone should pay.”
To spur economic development in a district largely characterized by its post-industrial towns and cities, Quackenbush advocates a policy of “economic gardening.” He said reducing regulations for small business helps revitalize downtown areas, which in turn bring economic development.
“We have to reduce state rules and regulations to allow businesses to expand and invest in these areas,” he said. “It also starts by reforming the property tax system to allow families to make those investments.”
Santabarbara offered a five-point plan to help stimulate economic development across the district, which includes a swath of the Mohawk Valley. If elected, he would advocate for tax cuts to businesses hiring new employees or unemployed workers and boost public-private cooperative efforts to help make the region a hub for more new energy jobs.
Santabarbara also said he’d offer tax incentives for farmers, market the Town of Florida Industrial Park and establish a back-to-work program focused on retraining the district’s unemployed workers for jobs in the new economy.
“I will take my experience as an engineer to the state Assembly to find real solutions to our problems and work with businesses to create good-paying jobs for our hard-working families,” he said.
Both candidates support the state tax cap, but Santabarbara said the cap should be coupled with “relief from burdensome unfunded mandates” that put a strain on municipal governments.
Quackenbush also believes the state needs to implement mandate relief and that Albany needs to continue to tighten its fiscal belt. He said the tax cap by itself cannot work unless its coupled with a plan to combat rising property taxes.
“The solution begins by giving counties the flexibility they need to solve local problems with local solutions through the enactment of comprehensive unfunded mandate relief,” he said.