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State Senator Dan Stec discusses New York GOP gubernatorial race and district issues

New York 45th District Republican Senator Dan Stec discusses border issues in Plattsburgh
Pat Bradley
New York 45th District Republican Senator Dan Stec (file)

New York state Senator Dan Stec of the 45th district is an outspoken supporter of the state Republican agenda. He is supporting presumptive gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin, a Long Island Congressman. With four candidates vying for the GOP nomination at the convention starting Monday, Stec tells WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley he would support any of them over Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul.

Lee Zeldin and Rob Astorino both have the advantage of a lengthy public service record that they can point to. And I think certainly Lee Zeldin’s time in Congress, his leadership there and his time in the service in the Army is appealing to me. You know somebody who's no nonsense, you know, get the job done. He's just, you know, proven leader. And I think, you know, coming out of Long Island representing the district that he does the public has had an opportunity to observe him and to see how he operates. You know, he's not in a ruby red part of the state. He's in a purple part of the state and he's winning elections there. So I think that tells me that here's somebody that's electable statewide. I know that he's gotten most of the support announced already. I think that he is certainly the, he will be the candidate that comes out of the convention. You know, as was  Kathy Hochul, no surprise that she came out of their convention. So I suspect that at the end of the day those will be the two at the top of the ticket. And, uh, Harry Wilson, he's getting in a little late. The week of the convention is not a good time to announce that you want to run for governor. Whereas I know that Lee Zeldin has been crisscrossing the state for over a year. I've seen him in my district in the North Country numerous times.  So that and as screwed up as the Democrats have this state, it's gonna be a good year to run as a Republican. He just needs to continue to work hard. And, you know, Governor Pataki he was able to, you know, this is a blue state but Republicans have won the mansion every once in a while.

Well, Dan Stec, you mentioned with Lee Zeldin and Rob Astorino, two of the Republicans that are running, that you appreciate their time serving in the legislature and their time in military service and such. But Harry Wilson he's never served in office before. Even if he had joined the race earlier do you think he would have a chance?

Oh, well like I said I think any of the four that have announced would be a better governor than Governor Holchul. Harry Wilson’s skill set, as you know is a well known, successful, highly successful businessman and running state government is business or at least some of us believe it should be viewed like a business. We have a budget that we should, you know, a budget matters. We should be constrained by financial realities. I'm not sure everyone that holds some of these offices, my colleagues, all realize that, you know, there's a dollars and cents to doing and we can't say yes to everything. And Harry Wilson has certainly a strong skill set as a business person that he would certainly be somebody that could help turn the state around.

Lee Zeldin, who is considered the front runner and is expected to receive the Republican endorsement during the convention, announced his running mate. And that is a New York City Police Deputy Inspector and commanding officer of the 75th precinct. Alison Esposito. Do you know very much about her at all?

I don't. I'm not surprised at all that Lee Zeldin picked somebody with a strong law enforcement background, because in addition to the age old issues of what Democrats in the state have done in the area of taxation and regulation, I mean, those are age old issues that the electorate always doesn't get excited about. The electorate is very excited about a couple of things right now. One of them is COVID. And the other one is criminal justice, and what in what one party rule in the last couple of years has taken the state on a very different and dangerous course when it comes to public safety. And those numbers are starting to play out. We're seeing a spike in crime numbers in the state, certainly more in the urban areas than in the rural areas. And so for him to pick, you know, a career NYPD professional like he did here, that's living the realities of what state law changes have meant in New York City the last few years strong pick, and, you know, I'd love to see a lieutenant governor debate because the current lieutenant governor is a defund the police guy. He is an anti-police guy. Our public safety used to be and ought to be a given, a bedrock, you know unchanging, reliable, as reliable as Tuesday follows Monday. And that is not how it's been lately and that's because we tinkered with it. We thought we were smarter and and everyone's a victim. The the police are the bad guy and every criminal is really a victim of something. I think the public's had it with that attitude coming from the left and I think they're gonna pay a steep price for it in November and that may include the governor's mansion.

Well along the lines of public safety, but not the gubernatorial race. We have several prison facilities that are slated to close and that date is coming up very soon. You've been highly critical of the closure of Moriah Shock. I've heard something about a ‘soft closure’ or something. What have you heard? What's going on there?

I don't know if that's an official state of New York term but I know what you're talking about. And the town supervisor down in Moriah, Tom Scozzafava, a good friend of mine and a really good public servant. And of course growing up there and being a longtime supervisor and he used to work in Moriah Shock. So he knows it both as its town supervisor but also as somebody that's worked inside and a lot of his constituents work there. And he, like myself, Assemblyman Simpson, we've all been lobbying in Albany to do something. We know that the state has an awful track record. They’ll announced a closure. They’ll close the prison and the prison will rot. It'll turn into a blighted property. It happened in Lyon Mountain. It happened in Chateaugay. It happened in Camp Gabriel's. We're trying to avoid that. And the other argument is that we still have a need for the services. There’s six that are slated for close and you know what any legislator is going to advocate for theirs. It is a big hit to the local economy. You're uprooting lives, the employees, the impact that it has on the tax base. I understand that, you know, advocates in New York City that are all about criminal justice, they don't care. That's not their concern and maybe nor should it be alright. So I understand that they don't want to hear that argument. But it is a real argument. But the other argument in this case, and I happen to be the senator that's representing Moriah Shock, is that it is unique from the others that are being closed. The others that are being closed are your traditional prisons. But Moriah Shock wasn't just about heads and beds. It was a unique program treating low level offenders before they graduated to more serious crime. It is catching them nipping problem in the bud before it got out of control, where they were giving a heavy dose of discipline, that's the shock part is like your boot camp style. So it wasn't your traditional incarceration. Drug and alcohol treatment. A lot of professional services brought in there to try to avoid future costs from people that are heading down a path. And so it is a unique program. And for that reason, we're like let's find a way. We still have these problems out there. Just because you make something not illegal doesn't mean it's not still happening and it doesn't mean it's desirable. So there's still drug and alcohol problems and everything that goes along with those things. And now, instead of these guys landing in Moriah Shock, and hopefully a good portion of them getting straightened out, they're just getting released back on the street and at best they're going to keep doing their current behavior. At worst they're going to get emboldened. And oh, by the way, by the other criminal justice changes that we've done they're going to get further emboldened to say how much can I get away with in New York State. And, and and now instead of nipping a problem in the bud at a low cost to the taxpayers financially, they go on to develop their criminal career and do more serious crime and now somebody is going to pay for that down the road too. So that's why I felt so passionate that, you know, we've got a unique situation. This is what everyone that doesn't like incarceration would point to Moriah Shock and say that's what we want. So then keep it open. And that, you know, that's the point that we're trying to make.

So what is it about this ‘soft’ situation?

So, one of the points we’re making in our arguments down in Albany was, look, if you close the doors and you empty it, and right now there are no inmates at Moriah Shock. There's zero inmates there today. But if you close the doors and walk away, like you did in Lyon Mountain, like you did in Chateaugay, like you did in Camp Gabriel's, the building's gonna fall apart. If you don't heat the building, if you don't power the building and you just walk away from it in six months it looks like it's been there for 10 years. And so if you're ever going to use these buildings again you've got to keep them open. It sounds like they are keeping power on and some level of maintenance to make sure that it doesn't fall apart. So I applaud that. And that tells me that maybe somebody in Albany is trying to figure out, alright, what are we going to do with this facility? We have an asset. The taxpayers own this real estate. There's value to this real estate. The taxpayers own it. Let's treat it with respect. Let's not walk away from it and let it rot. I'm encouraged that they aren't going to throw the circuit breakers and walk away.

Dan Stec is a Republican serving his first term in the New York Senate. He previously served in the state Assembly and was chair of the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

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