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Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin hopes to hold off Democratic challenger Gwen Wright


Early voting has begun in the election for Rensselaer County Executive.

Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin is an outspoken Republican who is running for a second four-year term. The former state Assemblyman who maintains a vituperative social media presence recently released his proposed $362 million budget for 2022 that features a 10 percent reduction in property taxes. In an interview, McLaughlin says that despite the pandemic, the county is on solid footing.

“We've cut taxes for years in a row, we've paved by far a record number of roads. And that's not even close. I mean 170 miles of roads, paved in four years is an unbelievable achievement: that's 50% of our county roads, which is something I wanted to do. Our fire training tower, Mercy Services Training Center is underway. That's fulfilling a promise I made. Strongest bond rating in County history. We're in the top five as far as financially strong counties go. In fact, the Comptroller's report rates us at a 'zero' for financial stress. So the county is under no financial stress at all. So I just think our response to COVID has been compassionate and common sense. We protected our seniors at the manor saying no to Cuomo's order to accept positive COVID transfers. We rejected that order and protected our folks. So I think people are responding well to that. And as we go door to door, which I'll be doing later today, we're just getting an overwhelming response about a great job that we're doing. I think we're in good shape.”

Challenger Gwen Wright, a resident of Schodack, recently served as Executive Director of the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. The Democrat and currently serves on the board of directors of Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood and the Center for Women and Government in Civil Society. She says she's learned a lot from campaigning door-to-door.

"One is that people are not, that there's not a lot of awareness that there is an election, particularly a county election. It's really interesting that people focus a lot on the big races, presidential, governor, and that kind of thing, Senate, Congressmen, Congresspeople, but the local races are less of an issue. And secondly, people seem to be really interested in hearing from the candidate. And by that I mean, because they're not aware that there is a race, being able to hear from a candidate not only that there's a race, but what some of the issues are and to hear, to get their input in what some of their concerns are, has been really interesting and helpful," said Wright.

In his budget address, McLaughlin stressed that sales tax revenues have continued to exceed expectations.

“Even during the pandemic, sales tax has been very strong in this county. Mortgage tax also performed really well which is good news for our partners, our partners at the local level as we share that revenue with them. We expect mortgage taxes to again be healthy during 2022, which is further good news," said McLaughlin

Wright says she has the skills to work well with diverse populations, and that county government should work with municipalities and lead by example.

"For example, we've seen coming into Rensselaer County, filmmakers. Well, that's the kind of a little known fact. And I think we could expand upon that to really highlight again, downtown Troy. Its history. Its historical benefits. I think that we can work more closely with tourist industry to really highlight some of those, to really highlight with Rensselaer County as a destination," said Wright.

As far as turnout, the Rensselaer County Board of Elections says there are "no fixed numbers" yet. Early voting continues through Halloween. Election Day is Tuesday, November 2nd.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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