Jim Fischer is “chomping at the bit” to have a debate with U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam.
Last week Fischer announced his plan to challenge Tonko in the race for the 20th Congressional District seat. The district covers all of Albany and Schenectady counties and parts of Montgomery, Rensselaer and Saratoga counties.
Fischer, a Republican, said he is running for Congress because he would like to see changes to the Affordable Care Act, Common Core and barriers holding back economic growth.
He believes he can unseat Tonko because he “lives in the real world.” Fischer lives in Ballston Spa with his wife and three children. He owns Crystal Clear Communications in Latham, a wireless communications business he started 24 years ago.
“I know what it means to be a working person with a family,” Fischer said. “I have to worry about finances for my family and for my business. I have a lot more in common with regular working families in this district.”
Lives: Ballston Spa
Grew up: Schenectady
Family: Married; three children
College: B.A. in economics, SUNY College at Cortland
Employment: Founder of Crystal Clear Communications in Latham
Grew up: Amsterdam
Family: Single; no children
College: B.A. in mechanical and industrial engineering, Clarkson University
Previous employment: President and CEO of NYSERDA; New York state Assembly
Tonko, a Democrat, is serving his third term in Congress, representing the Capital Region since 2009. Tonko grew up and still lives in Amsterdam. Before Congress, he was president of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
Tonko confirmed that he is seeking re-election and said he welcomes his opponent because “people deserve a choice” and he looks forward to an “upbeat and positive campaign on the issues.”
“I enjoy the role and I believe that my experience and expertise in issues very critical to growth and jobs in the area are important factors,” Tonko said. “I want to continue to utilize and invest in the economic recovery and quality of life in the region.”
Fischer recently had his health care policy canceled under Obamacare. He said small businesses are negatively affected as well as they work to operate on tight margins.
He knocked Tonko as “one of the biggest advocates and cheerleaders” of Obamacare. Fischer said the act should be changed and offer positive solutions for individuals and small businesses.
“I think Obamacare needs to be revamped,” Fischer said. “If it’s such a great thing once it’s fully implemented, then why is it constantly being delayed? That’s the job of a representative, to do the best thing for the people you represent.”
Tonko said before Obamacare, small businesses were paying 18 percent more on average for health care coverage. He said Obamacare gives businesses a competitive edge to grow.
“Change is always difficult, but as you move forward changes are required,” Tonko said. “The intent is not to hurt business, but to help business. It was important to turn around and make insurance coverage more affordable.”
Tonko said he is focused on pushing investments in the global race for clean energy and high-tech manufacturing. He pointed to General Electric in Schenectady as a key player in the industry.
Tech companies are looking to the Albany area thanks to the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany and computer chip manufacturer GlobalFoundries in Malta, Tonko said.
Fischer said the region’s tech industry has created jobs in the area, but he believes the “Tech Valley” concept should be moved into other areas such as Schenectady and Scotia.
“We need to regionalize that tech approach a bit more,” Fischer said. “But first there are local problems that I would really like to focus on, like our infrastructure needs. These are things that the federal government could be helping us out with, and that’s the kind of thing I would like to work on.”
Fischer said he hasn’t had any communication with Tonko’s office or his staff. Right now, he is focusing on talking with voters and promoting his campaign efforts. All county Republican committees and the Conservative Party have endorsed him.
“I think it is time for a challenge and people are looking for some common-sense leadership,” Fischer said. “I want to offer a new perspective. To me it’s an honor to even have this opportunity to represent people in this region.”