For the first time in 10 years, voters in Essex, Warren and Saratoga counties won't see Teresa Sayward's name on the ballot when they head to the polls on Nov. 6.
Queensbury town Supervisor Dan Stec will be on the Republican, Conservative and Independence party lines, while Glens Falls attorney Dennis Tarantino will be on the Democratic and Working Families party lines. They're both ramping up their campaigns as the general election draws near, and they've already faced off in their first debate, held at Queensbury High School last week.
The current 113th Assembly District has been represented by Sayward, a Republican from Willsboro, since 2003. She will step down at the end of the year to spend more time with her family. The district will become the 114th next year, changing slightly to lose Hamilton County and include the Essex County town of St. Armand as well as several towns in Washington County.
(Enterprise photos — Chris Morris)
In addition to his position as Queensbury supervisor, Stec also chairs the Warren County Board of Supervisors and serves on the Capital Region Economic Development Council. He's been active on the campaign trail since announcing his candidacy in March, visiting municipal boards across the district and meeting with constituents at fairs, festivals and other community events.
"New York families are facing many challenges due to the recovering economy and the high cost of living, and I have direct experience in addressing those challenges and know how we can turn our state around," Stec told the Enterprise. "I am experienced, and I have the energy to handle the toughest challenges ahead.
Stec has support from many Republican officials across the district, including town supervisors in Moriah, North Elba and St. Armand. Last week, he was endorsed by the pro-business group Unshackle Upstate.
Tarantino's campaign has steadily picked up steam since he officially announced his candidacy in June. He has also made the rounds at county fairs and community events, and he's been endorsed by the United Transportation Workers Union.
Tarantino owns Maple Abstract and Realty Corporation and is sole proprietor of the Kenneally and Tarantino law firm, both in Glens Falls. He said he would go to Albany with a "fresh set of eyes" because of his private-sector experience.
"I've never had to make a living with a public salary," he said. "There's nothing wrong with that, but there's a difference when you come out of the private sector. ... We've got to get something done. We just can't go down there, punch the clock, come home and whine to our constituents and think we did our job."
This is Stec's first full campaign for a statewide office; Tarantino ran unsuccessfully against Sayward in 2004.
If elected, Stec said his priorities are simple: Improve the economy by creating a more business-friendly climate, allowing employers to expand and hire; lower the cost of living by finding ways to permanently decrease property taxes, mainly by getting rid of unfunded state mandates on local governments and school districts; and strengthen state ethics laws "so that taxpayer money can't be used to cover up the crimes of Albany politicians." Those priorities comprise a three-step plan that Stec said would get New York on the right track.
Tarantino said he wants to promote job growth, improve the quality of life for North Country residents and reduce taxes.
"You can't ignore the fact that people are not making enough money here in the district," he said. "It starts with the minimum wage, which I strongly support (raising), and it goes into the middle class: You've got people unemployed and under-employed."
Business development and mandate relief are also important, Tarantino said.
Tarantino and Stec are both optimistic about the direction the North Country is headed, especially when it comes to the new Regional Economic Development Councils.
"What's happening up here in the North Country is exciting," Stec said. "There is great opportunity to harness what is best about our region for economic growth. I worked with Gov. Cuomo on his Regional Economic Development Council. We worked diligently to identify the strengths of our region and how we can wisely invest state funding to grow and create jobs.
"This recent investment is significant, but is only one part of turning our economy around," Stec added. "We need to go further and cut the rest of the red tape holding back New York's economy."
Tarantino said the economic councils have put local communities in charge of economic development.
"It's, 'Tell us what you need, and we'll give you state funding for it,'" he said, "if you can generate jobs and keep jobs and train people and get the work force out there.
"But I think there's a lot more room for improvement. We're not anywhere close to where we should be."
Tarantino said he wants to build on the state's momentum.
Nationally, the unemployment rate was 8.1 percent in August. In New York state, it was 9.1 percent. In the 114th District, the unemployment rate ranged from as low as 6.9 percent in Saratoga County and as high as 8.7 percent in Essex County.
For Tarantino and Stec, those numbers are too high.
"I think what is unique to our region is that many businesses in our communities are not only subject to the usual barrage of state regulatory agencies, but also have to contend with rigorous rules set forth by the Adirondack Park Agency," Stec said. "New York has one of the most hostile business climates in the nation. All that red tape amounts to slower economic growth, costly business expenses and, worst of all, stagnant job growth."
Tarantino said people want to live in the North Country. The problem, he said, is that living here isn't always a realistic option.
"You start with the premise that people want to stay here, but if the businesses have too many regulations, if the state of New York, our bureaucracy, is too tough to get through with the red tape, we're not going to have businesses here," Tarantino said. "We're not going to have jobs. People are not going to get re-employed as they should be. We have to make government more business friendly. ... I think the (Cuomo) administration wants to do that."
Tarantino said the state needs to rethink how it trains its work force. He said public schools and community colleges need to look at the types of industry coming into the area, like the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant in the Saratoga County town of Malta, and develop educational programming that prepares students for jobs in those fields.
"So get the funding for the schools, and take a look at that kind of a potential growth of jobs," Tarantino said. "I think it mixes well."
To tackle the unemployment problem, Stec said he would set up regional roundtables with business owners "to find out what exactly is holding them back, and sponsor and support legislation that will remove those barriers to economic growth. He said his three-step plan would also help address unemployment.
Stec added that improving the region's public infrastructure would also help attract new businesses.
"Our road infrastructure at all government levels has been underfunded and is in desperate need of attention," he said. "Additionally, but less obvious, is the state's aging and deteriorating water and wastewater infrastructure. These are both absolutely critical to business growth and left unaddressed will cause costs to skyrocket and businesses to leave."
Stec said improving cell phone and broadband internet service is also important.
"Not only are our businesses at a critical disadvantage with inadequate access to these communications systems, but they are part of our everyday home lives and important public safety resources," he said.
Contact Chris Morris at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.