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NYS Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner discusses issues as she seeks reelection

Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner
Dave Lucas
Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (WAMC file photo)

New York State Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner is running for reelection.

The Democrat from the 113th Assembly District has represented portions of Saratoga and Washington Counties for four terms.

In a rematch of 2020, Woerner is facing Republican Dave Catalfamo in November to represent a newly drawn district.

WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard asked Woerner about the new 113th that includes parts of Saratoga and the City of Glens Falls in Warren County. We spoke just days after a mid-level court ruled the Assembly districts drawn and approved by Democrats were unconstitutional, but will remain in place for this year’s election.

I'm kind of a bloom where you're planted person. And I think honestly that as an elected official the job is to represent fully and to the best of your ability the 100, and in my case, 135,000 people that I represent, no matter where they live, what kind of community they're in, how far you have to drive or how close they are to where you live. And so, so I will, you know, this year, I'm going to run in the way that the district is designed. And if two years from now, it's a different set of lines, I'm going to run, and I'm going to work just as hard for those folks. If, if it was up to me, I would have kept the existing district and added Glens Falls, because I, I have grown to really love all of those communities in Washington County that I no longer represent, and, and really feel that they are an integral part of the Washington County economy. And, you know, as you…and I think Glens Falls, and Saratoga Springs, then that part of Saratoga County, and Washington County are all connected in a single economy. So, to me, it makes sense to connect all of these communities. I would have gladly gone from 130,000 to, you know, to 150,000 if I could have kept them. So we’ll bloom where we’re planted.

I think it's worth noting that the existing 113th that is going away in a few months, leans Republican, and the what is generally a pretty purple-ish kind of district, but historically, I believe has leaned Republican. The newer district leans more Democrat. The legislature did draw these maps that the governor approved, which is controlled by Democrats. So did you provide any of that input saying, you know, “It'd be nice to have Glens Falls in this district, the new 113th?”

Certainly, you know, when I was asked my opinion as to as to what I thought about the, you know, what would be an appropriate way to change…because when we looked at the, when we looked at the numbers, based on the census, the existing district I needed to change, there were two there were too many people in the existing district. And because Saratoga County is the only part of New York State that grew…So when asked if they if the district lines had to change, what would I see as being appropriate? I said, I thought Glens Falls and Saratoga Springs, as two small cities would be well connected to one another. They both have, you know, transit. They both have transit issues, because we don't have sufficient transit. There's a single economy that connects them. There are people who live in Glens Falls who work in Saratoga County. The northern Saratoga County residents tend to go to Glens Falls Hospital for their health care. So there are even though it's a separate MSA, the reality is those communities from Saratoga Springs up to Glens Falls tend to…you know, there's a blurring of the lines, there's a lot of common interest and Saratoga County goes into Glens Falls, Glens Falls comes into Saratoga County. So to me, that made sense that if we were going to reconstitute it to link those two, two cities, because there are common interests, as well as common issues.

At the end of its session, the state legislature approved a package of 10 gun reforms in the wake of shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas. Woerner voted against a provision that raises the legal age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21. She explained why she voted against the bill ultimately signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul.

There's a difference between voting on a bill and voting on concept. So the concept, which is what the governor spoke about, and that she illustrated by carrying a semi-automatic assault style firearm, was that for semi-automatic assault style rifles, we were going to raise the age from 18 to 21.

And conceptually, I think that's a smart idea. I think many people have come to understand that youthful brains are not fully developed until they're well into their 20s. And so we want people who have the capacity to be responsible to have firearms. We want people who don't have the capacity to be responsible to not have firearms, particularly the kind of firearms that are represented by those assault style firearms.

But that's not the bill we voted on. The bill we voted on said semi-automatic rifles, and that term semi-automatic rifle encompasses far more than the assault style weapons. It encompasses a traditional deer rifle, the kind of things that the families that are in the 113th Assembly District who hunt deer every fall…they use semi-automatic deer rifles.

And by semi-automatic, what we mean is that you load two shots into the rifle. You aim, you fire the first one. And then the second round is automatically chambered so that you don't have to re-aim. Why is that important? Deers move and the sound is going to is going to startle them, and it's going to start them moving. So you want to take the second shot very fast after the first one.

These are not firearms that can be modified to have a high capacity magazine. They don't have the same they don't have the same accelerant that the assault style rifles have. But that term “semi-automatic rifle” incorporates the standard rifle that everybody uses for hunting deer. So had the bill been written to say “semi-automatic assault style firearm,” I would have voted yes. But that's not what the bill said.

And so…I don't think that was even the intent. But that's the way the bill was written. And as a result of that it will impact hunters across the state, law abiding citizens who fully have the capacity to own, to store, and to use firearms responsibly and do so all the time. And I don't think we want to, I don't think we want to make life hard for them. I don't think we're trying to punish them. But that, in my opinion, is what the bill did, because it didn't use precise language.

Would you support amending that bill in the next session?

Absolutely. And if the sponsor doesn't do that herself, I will introduce that legislation.

Woerner’s district is home to the semiconductor fab GlobalFoundries, which – with the help of federal dollars – is planning to build a second fab on its Malta campus, now its world headquarters.

Woerner was a co-sponsor of the Green CHIPS Act, which would provide up to $500 million in tax credits per year for 20 years to support semiconductor manufacturing.

Woerner was asked about the legislation and the concern that it represents a corporate giveaway expressed by some lawmakers – including Democrat Phil Steck of the nearby 110th District.

You know, I've been educating leadership in the Assembly for years now on what has happened with the incentives that were provided to Global Foundries. And I'm not going to get the numbers exactly right. But they prompt…for the incentives that they received, which at the time back in the early 2000s was as was heralded as probably the largest package ever, they think they committed 1,500 jobs, and let's say $8 billion of private investment. They've created 3000 jobs, and they've invested closer to $15 billion.

So it has driven more private investment, and it has created more jobs than was committed. So for the right company that is in the right space where we have a workforce that can pick up those jobs, it is a successful combination.

And so I think that the education that I provided to the leadership to the… not just the elected leadership, but also the staff leadership…helped them to see that. And so when the opportunity came up to pass this bill, I think our house was ready to take that step, despite the fact that people do raise important questions about whether tax incentives, or corporate tax incentives are the best use of taxpayer dollars. But I think they that with respect to semiconductors, particularly, we have a great example to point to.

Woerner, whose district is largely rural, also discussed her recently approved NY Textile Act, which is aimed at supporting the upstate plant and animal textile industry in a state that includes the fashion capital of the world – New York City.

My textile bill, which I'm happy to say passed both houses and with any luck, the governor will sign, has no fiscal impact. All it does is incorporate textiles into existing economic development, state procurement and Ag and Markets programs, to raise up the visibility and to bring some focus to this industry as an opportunity and a growth industry for our upstate farmers and manufacturers connected to a strong fashion industry in the city.

Though Woerner is facing a repeat challenge from Dave Catalfamo this year, she had little to say about running against the Republican again this year.

 I'm going to be out in the community listening to people, talking to people working on solutions to the problems that they identify. And that's what I do. He's going to do what he's going to do. But I'm going to do the things that that my constituents have always counted on me to do and hopefully that will persuade them to reelect me.

Woerner won the 2020 race by 10 points.

To hear from Catalfamo, tune into Midday Magazine on Sunday.

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.