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Progressive Activist Challenges Republican Incumbent In New York's 112th State Assembly District

Composite of images from NY Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh and Joe Seeman for Assembly

A progressive activist is challenging a two-term incumbent in New York’s suburban 112th State Assembly District.

Activist Joe Seeman has organized demonstrations and protests across the Capital Region for years, and in January announced his candidacy for state Assembly.

The Ballston Spa Democrat is framing his run around the presidential election. Seeman asks supporters to vote “Joe to Joe,” referencing Vice President Biden, and has been trying to tie incumbent Republican Mary Beth Walsh to President Donald Trump.

“It’s a matter of patriotism, it’s about loyalty to the people. That’s what this race is all about. I’m loyal to America, I’m loyal to the people. My opponent is loyal to Trump, Putin, and the billionaires,” said Seeman.

Walsh says she’s focused on the district — which includes portions of Schenectady and Saratoga counties — and that her number one reason for running for re-election is her care for the community.

“My opponent is…appears to me to be somebody who is very concerned about national politics. That’s what he’s about. If you take a look at anything that he really puts out there, he’s not really focused so much on the community or even the state,” said Walsh.

Walsh, who is seeking a third term, says while she supports some of the president’s platform – his work on the economy, renegotiating trade deals, and border security – she doesn’t agree with the president’s tweets and polarizing messaging.

“I don’t think we need that right now. That’s certainly not the way that I try to operate,” said Walsh.

Seeman’s progressive platform includes universal healthcare, confronting climate change, and closing corporate tax loopholes.

Some Democrats have proposed raising taxes on so-called “ultra-millionaires.” Seeman supports taxing the wealthy as New York state faces a fiscal crisis exasperated by the pandemic.  

“We’re talking about making the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share and that’s how the 99 percent of us don’t get ripped off,” said Seeman.

Seeman recently joined Democratic State Assemblyman Phil Steck of Colonie to advocate for a stock transfer tax of .25 percent on the Wall Street transactions.

Walsh, of Burnt Hills, has resisted raising taxes, though in a time of COVID she says nothing is “off the table.”

Walsh does support a reprioritizing of the state’s spending and points to a recent Medicaid audit by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli that found more than $700 million in “unnecessary, improper, or questionable payments.”

“That would just be one example of trying to look wherever we can for greater financial and management controls on some of these big programs before we start looking to start dig deeper into the pockets of taxpayers,” said Walsh.

Both candidates say they are focused on funding schools, as districts face layoffs and reductions under a proposed 20 percent cutback in state aid as federal COVID-19 relief stalls in Congress.

As voters consider their candidates, Seeman, a retired software engineer who has not held elected office, points to his long career as an activist.

“I’ve got a history of decades as a fighter for the 99 percent, fighter to protect our environment, our healthcare, fighter to protect our democracy, fighting against corruption.”

Seeman has said he would be a more effective candidate as a member of the Assembly majority.

While Walsh says the Democrat-controlled state government lacks a sense of balance, she said she’s proud of her role in the minority.

“It’s important for me as a member in the minority in the Assembly to work across the aisle to try to find that common ground, to try to find majority sponsors for the ideas that I’ve got. I’ve done that, I feel that that’s an important piece. Because the bottom line for me is that if you don’t really care who gets the credit, you can get a lot done,” said Walsh.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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