A problem solver and a long-tenured public servant are the competing choices for voters in the 20th Congressional District on Election Day.
Glenville Republican Bob Dieterich says his experience in the military and as a local banker make him well equipped to replace U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, who is finishing up his second term as a congressman. The two are running in the revamped 20th Congressional District, which includes all or parts of Schenectady, Saratoga, Albany, Montgomery and Rensselaer counties.
Tonko is asking for another term to continue to pursue what he describes as progressive policies designed to boost the number of middle-class residents. His focus is on investing in the Capital Region, with further development of the growing high-tech industries, expanding existing manufacturing and building up the public sector workforce by hiring more teachers and first responders.
Meet the candidates
LINES: Democratic, Working Families, Independence
EDUCATION: Graduated from Clarkson University with a degree in mechanical and industrial engineering
EXPERIENCE: Elected to Montgomery County Board of Supervisors in 1974; served 25 years as state assemblyman starting in 1983; former president and CEO of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority; congressman since 2009
LINES: Republican, Conservative
EDUCATION:Graduated Scotia-Glenville High School, AAS from SUNY Delhi, bachelor of science in management from SUNY Plattsburgh.
EXPERIENCE: Commissioned officer from Academy of Military Science; senior vice president & CFO, 1st National Bank of Scotia; finance chair at Scotia United Methodist Church; vice chairman of Glenville Zoning Board; served 10 years in Air National Guard (109th Airlift Wing); served 13 years as member of Glenville Rotary Club
He is a big promoter of the Capital Region as “Tech Valley,” with the Albany NanoCollege and GlobalFoundries serving as successful examples of the public-private partnerships he would help foster.
Tonko wants these investments to be in conjunction with tax cuts for the middle class and a small tax increase on people making more than $250,000 annually, who make up about 3 percent of the district’s population.
He argued that those tax increases are a responsible way to keep government debt from growing. He said austerity measures would be a misguided attempt to balance the budget because they would hinder growth.
Dieterich, from his experience as chief financial officer at First National Bank of Scotia, said the federal government is the biggest stumbling block for private sector growth. He identified the national debt, regulations, taxes and a general lack of predictability from the federal government as factors that hinder efforts to expand companies and deal with the country’s unemployment problem.
In particular, he wants federal representatives to be realistic about what the country can afford. Dieterich said spending priorities should be identified and ways to pay for them. He said this would end the current trend of passing bills off to future generations because politicians can’t make hard choices.
Dieterich added that this approach would lead eventually to balancing the budget. “I know how to do that. I’ve worked on that kind of stuff,” he said.
And although it might add more uncertainty for small businesses, he said it might make sense to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known commonly as ObamaCare. The massive program doesn’t do enough to bring down health care costs, he said.
Dieterich said there are worthwhile provisions in the ACA, but a recent estimate of its costs indicates to him it isn’t worth increases taxes and a bigger deficit.
Tonko maintains that the ACA broke the failing status quo of health care and created a more effective way to ensure that people receive insurance. He added that because the ACA is being implemented in stages, it is a work in progress that hasn’t fully realized its potential. “They need time to further develop,” he said, highlighting the benefits of purchasing health insurance through health exchanges that won’t be fully implemented until 2014.
He also wants to refine the program, such as bulk purchasing of prescription drugs as a way to save almost $60 billion over the next decade.
A Twitter debate between the two candidates was hosted by the Daily Gazette and can be found on the Capital Region Scene blog, where a Dieterich television ad and Tonko television ad can also be found.