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Republican Dave Catalfamo discusses issues as he seeks New York's 113th State Assembly District in rematch

Dave Catalfamo
Lucas Willard
Dave Catalfamo

Sunday on Midday Magazine WAMC brought you an interview with Democrat Carrie Woerner, who is running for reelection in New York’s 113th State Assembly District.

In a rematch from two years ago, Woerner is being challenged by Dave Catalfamo.

The Republican served under former Governor George Pataki as senior vice president of Empire State Development, and was involved in efforts to attract semiconductor manufacturer GlobalFoundries to Saratoga County.

WAMC's Lucas Willard recently sat down with Catalfamo at WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau at Skidmore College to discuss his second run for the Assembly.

Catalfamo characterized New York’s political system as lacking communication.

I find that on a whole range of issues that everybody is just talking by each other. All rhetoric and garbage and nonsense. And people just want common sense solutions. Nobody I talked to is like, oh, yeah, let's keep that little kid in jail and, you know, poor kid in jail who committed a minor crime, right? That's not what anybody wants. And that's the change that we shouldn't, you know, allow to come back. But we need to keep dangerous people in jail.

Recently, Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul signed a package of 10 gun reforms into law, passed after the recent high-profile mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas.

Woerner broke with her party and voted against legislation raising the age to purchase semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21, claiming it would interfere with hunters and the law wasn’t specific enough.

Catalfamo in May laid out his own plan to address gun violence and improve school safety.

Similar to an item advanced by Democratic legislators, Catalfamo proposed raising the legal age to purchase assault-style weapons from 18 to 21.

Catalfamo explained why he believes his proposal would not have denied anyone’s access to firearms.

Look, I was in the Army, I was shooting an M-16, when I was 17 years old. So there's a part of me that can relate to people who say, ‘Oh, look, you can go in the Army and do this.’ ‘Cause I did that. But I was also from a family where we were taught how to fire a weapon, both my grandfathers did, were responsible, and whatnot. And what we're seeing is it that the kids, the young men who are doing, committing these crimes are from families that don't have that.

And so I'm like, ‘All right.’ I talked to people who were knowledgeable about the Second Amendment, knowledgeable about gun owners and whatnot. And I asked them, I said, ‘What do you think?’ And they're like, ‘Oh, look…’ Most of them think, ‘I don't know, that's gonna make a huge difference.’ But if it stops some knucklehead kid, who, by the way, all the science says they're impulsive. They are impulsive, they're impulsive about killing themselves, and they're impulsive about some of these acts. You know, if we can stop them from getting weapons, and then you know, slow them down…

Because the reality is, the kid from the responsible family, the kid from the family of gun owners who has a hunting culture, or a sports culture, they're gonna have access to those weapons if their family wants them to, they're not going to be denied access to that because the family is going to have them themselves. They will go by them, the father, the grandfather, whatever. So I don't feel like I’m denying anybody's access, you know, to people who, you know, I think, are sportsmen and whatnot. So that's why I came down on that.”

Days after New York took action, a coalition of 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats in the U.S. Senate announced a framework agreement on a gun reform package.

The plan expands background checks for gun purchasers between 18 and 21, boosts funding for mental health, and tightens red flag laws, but specific bill language has not yet been released.

As mass shootings continue, I asked Catalfamo about what he thought about the Senate plan.

Look, I think it's because time that the federal government got its act together on those issues, and on the background check, federal background check issue. But look. Everybody knows, and even Governor Hochul said, we have the toughest gun laws in America, right? Bar none.  Maybe California, I guess you could debate. We have really, really tough gun laws. It's not preventing some of these things. OK. So let's figure out how we prevent them. And I just can't tell you how disappointed, you know, I was that there was not a serious conversation about it. It was just demagoguing there. I mean, there are probably some decent things in there that were cleanups on red flag laws and whatnot. Again, I haven't seen the details of it. But it's just really disappointing to me that it didn't get to improving school safety, rescuing these kids who are desperately lost, and who are a danger to themselves and to others. That the conversation is not happening.

Following the racist shooting in Buffalo, New York Republican Congressman Chris Jacobs of Western New York’s 27th House District announced his support for an assault weapons ban.

Facing intense backlash from his own party, Jacobs soon announced he would not seek reelection.

Catalfamo has had a hand in New York Republican campaigns for years. I asked him about Jacobs’ decision to drop out of the race.

Much as I respect and like Chris, it pissed me off that he didn't stay and fight. And he could have. He could have done a lot of things and been there. And then right now, you'd be having a different conversation about whether or not you know, some of the things that he talked about, could pass in a very red district. But if you don't stay and fight, the conversation doesn't happen.

Is that something that's lacking in your opinion in both parties that there's just no one standing…there's less of a, sort of a standing up of what we think is right, even if it goes against the color of the district?

That, but also Lucas, it goes to that sort of the underlying insidiousness of gerrymandering. You create these districts that are more and more red or blue. And that creates primaries where you got to be far to the left or far to the right to win. And then once you win the primary, you're the elected official.

So that's the insidiousness of gerrymandering, is that it creates a process where 90% of the people who are in the middle who want reasonable, you know, changes and all this stuff, they never get to it, because we're so far polarized.

Catalfamo is running for a district that has been redrawn to favor Democrats. The new 113th includes portions of Saratoga County including the City of Saratoga Springs, as well as Glens Falls in southern Warren County.

Recently, 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 asked Catalfamo about New York’s redistricting process.

It's a constitutional problem, that we allow this process to happen and there's no accountability. Now, think about who's accountable now for the fact that basically, hundreds and thousands of New Yorkers were disenfranchised? Their constitutional rights have been compromised, who's been held responsible?

They broke the law. They broke the New York State Constitution knowingly, knowingly and willfully. That's, you know, that’s so little respect for the rule of law, and yet, you know, ‘Oh, OK, that's just politics.’ It's not just politics.

You know, they passed a constitutional amendment a couple years ago, before saying, ‘We're going to do this process now because we believe all these things are true.’ And then at the first incident, and my opponent voted for it, you know? And that the first instance you get, you basically go, ‘Well, you know what, I want to increase my election chance. And so I'm not actually going to follow the rules. I'm not going to follow what the Constitution says, I'm not going to follow the law. I'm gonna be like, well, you know, how do I make myself safer?’

In Saturday’s interview with Woerner, the incumbent Democrat acknowledged advocating to include Glens Falls in the new 113th.

Catalfamo faulted his opponent for not being vocal enough on a number of issues.

She doesn't say much. She pops up, explains her vote, and most oftentimes, on controversial issues it’s whether or not the speaker said, I can spare your vote or not, frankly, you know. And then on other issues, you know, she actually goes silent on like, you know, and we could talk about that with other issues.

But I feel passionately about, you know, when things happen in our society, in our communities, their job of elected officials is to reflect both what people need and to try to get some solutions, and I don't see it.

Dave Catalfamo is running as a Republican in New York's new 113th State Assembly District. To hear the interview with his Democratic opponent, incumbent Carrie Woerner, visit WAMC.org.

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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