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Incumbent Democrat Steck faces challenge from Republican Velella in New York’s new 110th Assembly district

NYS Assemblyman Phil Steck is being challenged in the 110th district by Alexandra Velella
NYS Democratic Assemblyman Phil Steck is being challenged in the 110th district by Republican Alexandra Velella.

Incumbent New York State Assemblyman Phil Steck is being challenged in the 110th district by Alexandra Velella in Tuesday’s election.

The race for the newly drawn 110th district is expected to be close. The district includes the Albany County town of Colonie, parts of Guilderland and the Schenectady County town of Niskayuna as well as a portion of the City of Schenectady. Although Democrats outnumber Republicans by about two to one, Steck says he isn't taking votes for granted.

"My district was changed in a way that makes my position less certain," said Steck. "And the top of the ticket is less certain. I mean, there's a big difference between running with, say Barack Obama, than running with Kathy Hochul. It may turn out just fine. But certainly, there is the potential there for the governor not to do as well as other leaders of the ticket have done in my district."

Steck was an Albany County legislator for more than a decade before his election to the Assembly in 2012. Both Steck and Velella are attorneys.

She is the daughter of Bronx Republican Guy Velella, who served nearly three decades in both the Assembly and Senate. Velella says her run was prompted by what she perceives as "failed policies that have made New York unsafe and unaffordable."

“I have seen this community and the state devolve because of soft on crime policies of a single party Democrat rule," Velella said. "And I've seen inflation ravaging our community and our state. I've seen empty promises from our leaders. I see cost of living shooting through the roof and its impacting people on a level that I never even imagined possible. The gas prices, grocery prices, heating your home, the winter is coming. And our gas and electric bills have already gone up significantly.”

Steck characterizes himself as "one of the most independent members of the state legislature" who takes the job seriously. He says feedback from his constituents has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I have been doing door to door campaigning, as I always do since August second," said Steck. "And I have to be honest, this is the most positive response I've ever received in any of my campaigns, at the doors. There are even Republicans saying that because of the what's become of the Republican Party with the January 6 insurrection, and the behavior of former President Trump that they can't vote for Republicans, that's what I'm getting at the door.”

Velella counts herself among Republicans she feels are being unfairly portrayed as "uncaring" about the issues this election cycle.

“And that couldn't be further from the truth, especially with the young people from the Republican and Conservative party who are on the ballot this year, all throughout New York state fighting these entrenched you know, career politicians with gigantic war chests to fight against us," Velella said. "We care about those issues, too. We know they're important, but we also know that every single person regardless of race, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual orientation, whatever the case may be. Those people deserve to be safe in their communities, to be able to put gas in their cars, to be able to heat their homes, to be able to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table. Right now, none of that is possible in the state of New York.”

On the issue of criminal justice reforms, Steck pointed out that he did not vote for bail reform when it was first presented. He says the 110th is one of the safest areas of the state.

“There's been a lot of discussion of rising crime," said Steck. "I certainly can remember meeting someone at the door in Guilderland who was concerned about crime in New York City, but not in Guilderland. So and I do have one area of my district, which is Woodlawn in Schenectady, I have had concerns about crime and Woodlawn and we are going to address that. I proposed to the mayor that there'll be an increase between police patrols and Woodlawn, I know that's been a subject of conversation with the Woodlawn neighborhood association. So certainly the Republicans have raised the specter of crime.”

Steck adds that it isn't appropriate to "put fear in the hearts of the citizens of Colonie, Niskayuna and Guilderland."

Velella argues the fear is there and it is justified.

“Just the other day, Friday night on Wolf Road, my paralegal’s boyfriend left the bank and was followed to their home in Guilderland and robbed at knifepoint by three men in their driveway," Velella said. "It's happening here, people are feeling it. People are feeling it in their wallets. They're feeling it when their children are going out. And they're concerned about their safety. They're concerned about their own safety when they're going out. Crimes are happening in the area in broad daylight. It is not just a New York City problem and is not just a downtown Albany or Downtown Schenectady problem, it is everywhere. And it is because criminals have been empowered by the existing political elite.”

Velella will also appear on the Conservative Party line.

Steck also is backed by the Working Families Party.

Polls will be open 6 to 9 on Tuesday.

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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