Assembly candidate Tim Carpenter has kept a low profile in a headline-grabbing race, but he hopes to change that.
Carpenter will be on the Democratic line in the Nov. 6 election for New York's new 115th Assembly District, which is currently the 114th and represented by Janet Duprey, a Republican from Peru. Duprey is running on the Republican and Independence party lines, while Plattsburgh educator Karen Bisso is running as a Conservative.
Carpenter, 52, has served on the Plattsburgh City Council since 2008 and represents Ward 1, a legislative district that includes the southern part of the city. He's worked as a correction officer at Franklin Correctional Facility in Malone since 1986.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Morris)
The district will take on a slightly different shape next year, losing the Essex County town of St. Armand and gaining new territory in eastern St. Lawrence County.
The Republican Party has had a lock on this Assembly seat since the 1970s. but Carpenter said he will work hard to win over voters. He says he began gearing up his campaign in late September after a bruising Republican primary. He has some work to do: Duprey is a well-known incumbent, and Bisso has been campaigning nonstop since she announced her candidacy in February.
Tim Carpenter, Janet Duprey, Karen Bisso and will square off in a debate hosted by Mountain Lake PBS and the League of Women Voters at 11 a.m. Monday. It's scheduled to air at 8 p.m. the same day.
Mountain Lake Journal anchor and host Thom Hallock will moderate the debate, and questions will come from a panel of journalists as well as a member of the League of Women Voters.
Send a Democrat to Albany?
Carpenter said voters should send him to Albany because he's a Democrat. Round Lake village Trustee Carrie Woerner, running for New York's new 113th Assembly District, made a similar argument during a debate last week. Woerner said downstate Democrats control the Assembly and that it's important to have a voice in the majority.
"If all things are equal and you have a Republican and a Democrat, and there's no difference between those two people, the Democrat is always going to be able to get more, just because of the way the state leans," he said.
Duprey said the Assembly speaker has control over who can introduce legislation, but that doesn't mean Republicans can't get bills to the floor.
"It is possible to get a bill introduced in the Assembly, if the Assembly member doesn't care whose name is first on the bill," she wrote in an email. "While passing legislation is highly visible, one of the most important parts of the Assembly position is being able to work through the system with departments and agencies to solve real problems faced by constituents."
Bisso said Carpenter demonstrates his inexperience on statewide issues by suggesting that a Democrat can get more done in the Assembly than someone from another party.
"It is not about Democrat or Republican," she said in an emailed statement. "It is about region. When (two-thirds) of the Assembly is from NYC or Long Island, the legislation is all geared to benefit them. The downstate Assemblymen want all money to be appropriated for them and then show very little regard for the North Country. If you want proof of this, look at the voting record of Addie Russell, a two-term Democrat in the River District which borders the 115th. She has accomplished little or nothing other than voting on legislation which benefits downstate."
Carpenter said there's more to him than his political affiliation. He said he's also a proud union member and that he knows what it's like to live paycheck-to-paycheck. He added that he's a team player and a facilitator who likes to work with people regardless of their politics.
"I use this analogy a lot: Me and a friend are both going to Albany," Carpenter said. "My friend wants to take the Northway because it's the quickest way. I want to take Route 9 because I like going through the towns and doing the visiting. He's going to tell me how great it is to take the Northway, and I'm going to tell him how great it is to take Route 9, and we're going to argue back and forth.
"But in the end, we both want to go to Albany; our goals are the same."
Carpenter said everyone wants lower taxes, better government services and more jobs. The problem, he said, is people are deeply divided about how to achieve those goals.
"The goal is to unify us and get us together," he said.
If elected, Carpenter said he would bring more unity to the district. He said he wants villages and towns across the region to work together more.
Local workers for local projects
Carpenter also wants to make sure local people are hired for local projects. He said, for example, that if municipal infrastructure needs to be repaired, the state shouldn't pay a company from Vermont to do the work.
"Then the state is paying the workers from out of state, and it's paying the workers here, who could be doing the job, unemployment," Carpenter said. "And the money that we give to people that bring it outside of our community? That money is gone forever."
Bisso and Duprey noted that mechanisms are already in place to make sure local workers are hired for public projects. Bisso cited the National Labor Relations Act, which includes the Project Labor Agreement. She said PLAs include a "vehicle" to require the hiring of local workers.
"While I am not a fan of PLAs, the fact remains again that Mr. Carpenter does not realize that there is already legislation in place to accomplish his goal," Bisso wrote. "However, in the entire 115th district, there are less than a handful of companies which have the resources to build a road or construct a bridge. But the bigger issue at hand is, should we be focusing on temporary taxpayer funded construction jobs or bringing in real industry and businesses which will provide consistent steady employment for the residents of the district?"
Duprey said state law is "very clear that public projects must be awarded to the low bidder.
"However, our obligation with tax dollars is also to assure the money is spent wisely, and the low bid process assures that the least amount of tax dollars will be spent on a particular project," she said. "We need to remember that prohibiting outside firms from bidding in our locality would likewise keep our local firms/companies from bidding on projects in other parts of the state or other states."
Injecting outside money
The North Country has potential "to make something awesome up here," Carpenter said.
"We have lakes, mountains - we have wilderness," he said. "We're a short jaunt away from large cities. We have the perfect area here. We just need to key on it."
Carpenter said he doesn't think the North Country will ever become a "big industrial region," partly because of the Adirondack Park. But he said the area can be a more popular tourist destination, and he thinks that should be one of the primary focuses of elected leaders.
"The key for us to bring in money from outside the area," Carpenter said.
Carpenter again stressed that local people should be given a fair shot at working on public projects before workers are brought in from outside of the region.
Duprey said development is needed to expand the local tax base. She said the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort project in Tupper Lake would add "millions of dollars in taxable assessment (with a PILOT agreement) and hundred of jobs." But she said the approval process with the state Adirondack Park Agency took too long, and now a "frivolous Article 78 lawsuit" is holding up construction.
"It is hard to tell other developers they might want to invest in the Adirondack Park," she said. "On the other hand, the North Country Regional Economic Development Council provides great hope for creating and retaining jobs across the region."
Bisso, however, said the state needs to find a way to lower taxes in general.
"This is (New York) state," she said, "not a cornfield in Iowa. In case Mr. Carpenter doesn't realize it, we are losing the equivalent of the population of Syracuse yearly. Spending more money to develop for a decreasing tax base is not a recipe for success. It is one for disaster. It is not about figuring out how to pay for high taxes. It is about decreasing those taxes in the first place."
With unfunded state mandates, Carpenter pointed out that the state is passing the buck on to local governments and school districts. He said if the state funded those mandates, it would likely increase income and sales taxes.
"Income tax and sales tax affect more people than property tax," Carpenter said. "In truth, just about everyone in the state is going to pay sales tax on whatever they buy. Property tax is only on the property owners. I see the state moving to alleviate sales tax and to alleviate income tax by shifting it into property tax."
Carpenter said getting rid of unfunded mandates will be difficult. He said one way to combat increased property taxes connected with those mandates is to bring in more development.
Contact Chris Morris at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.