Albany County legislator Sam Fein is looking to unseat incumbent John McDonald in today's Democratic primary to represent the 108th district in the New York state Assembly.
Fein just turned 30, grew up in Massachusetts and moved to the Capital Region in 2008. The 2012 Union College grad was elected to the Albany County Legislature in 2015 and is now serving a second four-year term.
"We've been working hard, talking to voters, making phone calls, sending out mailers, getting our message out there and we've been having really good conversations, really good reactions. I think people are ready for change, people are sick of the status quo, people are looking towards the future and how we can really create a scoiety that works for everyone."
McDonald, a former Cohoes mayor, is going for a fifth term in the 108th district, which includes parts of Albany, Rensselaer and Saratoga Counties. He says he’s running on his record, which includes support for education, affordable housing, blight removal and climate change.
"I have focused primarily on doing my job and serving my constituents, which is what I've done throughout the eight years in the Assembly. I know what it takes, I know that difficult decisions have to be made, and to be honest with you, my opponent really hasn't presented a decent argument. Many people know I am out in the community extremely regularly, both pre-COVID and now during COVID. I just think I am the better candidate for the position."
Fein says he’s a leader who will stand up for progressive issues that impact working families including universal health and child care.
"People should vote for me because right now we're in a moment where we have an opportunity to create real change in this state and in this country, with everything going on right now, people protesting, demanding change to address racial injustices. We're in a global health pandemic that exposed the weaknesses in our economic system, inequities in our system, and it's time for change."
McDonald, who is also a licensed pharmacist, believes he is critically situated to deal with the fallout from the pandemic.
"We are going to be going through a very difficult time. A lot of health care decisions are going to be made. I'm the only practicing health care professional in the legislature. We also are gonna have some very difficult economic times and I've been down this road before. Was there in 2001 with 9/11, was there in 2008, 2009, with the last recession."
Both candidates addressed the George Floyd protests during a recent debate hosted by the League of Women Voters. McDonald :
"Legislation that Pat Fahy and I worked on together to bring lead money to the city of Albany to help them to help residents who are struggling with mental health and behavioral issues by not becoming arrested but are getting support and treatment. We need to find more programs like that."
Fein says "we have to put more money into our communities."
"People are protesting because of an unjust system. An unjust system that has left so many communities negelected for so long, so many people living in poverty without opportunity, and if we want to address that, we're going to have to address in investing Black and brown communities throughout the state and especially throughout the 108th district."
On voting reform, Fein and McDonald both say they would support a constitutional amendment that would allow voters to obtain a "no excuse" absentee ballot. Polls are open until 9 p.m. Absentee ballots can be postmarked as late as today.