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Ostrelich campaigns in Tedisco's hometown

Ostrelich campaigns in Tedisco's hometown

Democrat visiting all 55 towns in 49th Senate district
Ostrelich campaigns in Tedisco's hometown
State Senate challenger Michelle Ostrelich campaigns in Glenville, incumbent James Tedisco's hometown on Aug. 23, 2018.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

49th SENATE DISTRICT -- Democratic state Senate candidate Michelle Ostrelich brought her campaign to Republican incumbent James Tedisco's hometown on Thursday.

The candidate for the 49th state Senate District met with supporters outside a Panera Bread restaurant in Glenville in the afternoon, and planned to do some door-to-door campaigning later.

She said she's hearing a lot about health care, jobs and schools as she conducts a "55 Municipalities in 55 Days" campaign to visit every community in the sprawling district, which stretches from the Schenectady and Saratoga county suburbs to the central and western Adirondacks.

She said health care costs, jobs and schools are the issues she hears about throughout the district. "The approaches may be different, but the problems are all the same," said Ostrelich, an attorney from Niskayuna.

Ostrelich is taking progressive positions on the issues in a year when Democrats have high hopes of making inroads in traditionally Republican districts across the country, including the 49th, which has been Republican for many decades.

"I've been asked so many times if a Democrat can win," Ostrelich said. "My answer is it's a very flippable district, the effort just hasn't been put in."

Glenville is a suburban-rural town of 30,000 in which the GOP has historically dominated, though last November two Democrats were elected to the Town Board, which had been all-Republican. Tedisco, a lifelong Schenectady County resident who has lived in Glenville for a decade, is a familiar figure around town. He served in the Assembly for 34 years, and two years ago was elected to replace GOP-stalwart Sen. Hugh T. Farley after he retired.

"I'm working on a lot of issues, and I appreciate anyone who is interested in the 49th Senate District," Tedisco said Thursday, implicitly criticizing the listening tour. "If you want to know what's going on in the 49th, ask me. I go to 65 events a week, I don't need to conduct a listening tour. She'll find out that people's concerns are that taxes are high, costs are out of control, businesses think workers' compensation is too high."

He has also seized on events like the state's citation of a boy selling lemonade outside the Saratoga County Fair in Ballston Spa, which he called a "microcosm" of state over-regulation.

Tedisco said the 4,000-square-miles is diverse, with suburban and rural areas, and with issues in the remote Adirondacks that include lack of access to broadband internet and even cellphone service. "There are people in parts of my district who rely on smoke signals and homing pigeons," he remarked. "I'm working to represent upstate, and the last thing we need is another representative who will be representing primarily downstate interests."

But Ostrelich said people are looking for a candidate they can get to know, and who shares their values. "I don't think you can ever say you've talked to enough people or heard enough voices," she said.

She said she hears stories about the cost of health care, including high-deductible insurance plans, especially when costs are rising for people on fixed incomes, and people are rationing their own health care services based on cost. She also hears about the need for broadband and cellphone service in the rural parts of the district, she said.

Ostrelich's supporters believe she can make inroads even in places like Glenville.

"I think there's a lot of independent people here," said Linda Reinhart, a registered Republican and former president of the Glenville Senior Citizens.

"There's more of us than you'd think," said town resident and Democrat Rebecca Varno, who met Ostrelich in 2017 when Ostrelich organized a bus to go to the Women's March in New York City.

The listening tour, which is more than half-way through, will also include an event Sept. 2 in Scotia. After that, Ostrelich said she'll be out talking more about her positions and criticizing some of Tedisco's votes, like the one against the Child Victims Act, which would extend by decades the period during which a victim of childhood sexual abuse could bring a lawsuit.

The 49th Senate District includes all or parts of Schenectady, Fulton, Saratoga, Hamilton and Herkimer counties, and it is geographically the second-largest in the state. The district's voter enrollment includes 72,070 Republicans, 59,729 Democrats and 46,785 voters not enrolled in a party, according to the state Board of Elections.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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