MALONE - Rudy Johnson says he is running for Assembly because he wants to bring "fresh, practical ideas to Albany."
Johnson, of Malone, said at a press conference at the Franklin County Courthouse, announcing his candidacy as a Democrat for New York's 114th Assembly District, that representatives need to stop thinking like politicians and start thinking like "engineers, like small farmers, like business owners."
Johnson started his speech by saying he can understand people's cynicism about government. Many of the political disputes "couldn't be more distant" from people's concerns about jobs and the economy, he said.
Rudy Johnson, center, announces his candidacy for New York’s 114th District Assembly seat at the Franklin County Courthouse Tuesday morning. To his left is Clinton County Democratic Chairman Marty Mannix; to his right is Franklin County Chairman Joe Pickreign.
(Enterprise photo — Nathan Brown)
"Albany seems to be interested in committees, in careers, in re-election campaigns," Johnson said.
Johnson has been endorsed by Franklin County Democratic Chairman Joe Pickreign and Clinton County Chairman Marty Mannix.
Janet Duprey, R-Peru, represents the district now, finishing her second two-year term. David Kimmel of Cadyville has the support of the Franklin County Conservative Party and will challenge Duprey in a Republican primary in September. The district includes all of Franklin and Clinton counties, and the Essex County town of St. Armand.
Johnson moved to the North Country from New Jersey in 1989 to work as an energy analyst out of the Cornell Cooperative Extension office in Malone, doing energy audits of farms and helping them find ways to cut down on energy use. In a prepared statement announcing his candidacy, he said this experience helped him learn the significance of dairy farms and family farms to the area's culture.
Johnson said in his statement he wants to prevent the loss of more public-sector jobs such as at prisons, while preparing for a future high-tech industrial and "green" economy by such means as increased support for training in these trades and expanding local community college curriculums. After Tuesday's event, he said prison closures could happen due to a falling inmate population, but they need to be spread more evenly.
"I think the state needs to treat the North Country fairly," Johnson said. "We shouldn't have to handle the brunt of the cuts."
Part of the reason for this, he said, is political.
"A lot of advocates in other communities that host prisons are showing a louder voice," Johnson said.
The state Assembly has 150 members and a 70 percent Democratic majority. Johnson said he thinks being a member of that majority will give him a "better than equal voice" for the district.
Lyon Mountain Correctional Facility, a minimum-security prison in Clinton County, is in the district and is slated for closure in the governor's, the Assembly's and the Senate's drafts of the state budget. Camp Gabriels, which was also in the district, closed last year.
Johnson said he thinks the state Adirondack Park Agency "hasn't completely represented the interest of North Country residents" and that its role in regulating needs to be examined.
"We need to have control over our own real estate," Johnson said.
Johnson said he has been interested in politics for most of his life. He was Brian Stewart's campaign manager in his run for Supreme Court judge last year, and Johnson also sought the Democratic nomination to run for Congress last year. The Democrats ended up choosing Bill Owens, who went on to win the seat.
Johnson, who is African-American, said he doesn't think racism will play any role in the campaign and that he has found people to be extremely fair in his more than 20 years living here.
Johnson plans to hold another event kicking off his campaign on the steps of the Clinton County Government Center in Plattsburgh at 1 p.m. Thursday.
Contact Nathan Brown at 891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.