An Albany County legislator will try to unseat the incumbent in the Democratic primary to represent the 108th district in the New York State Assembly.
Facing a primary challenge from second-term Albany County Legislator Sam Fein, New York state Assemblyman John McDonald says he’s confident voters will back him on June 23rd. He will be going for a fifth term in the 108th district, which includes parts of Albany, Rensselaer and Saratoga Counties. He says he'll run on his record, which includes support for education, affordable housing, blight removal and climate change. "But at the end of the day, I always focus on those kitchen table issues, the issues that people worry about the most, what's over their roof? What's the opportunity for their children in the future? where they're gonna work, how they're gonna afford college, how we're gonna deal with the opioid crisis. I have very much engaged in all those issues since I've started representing the residents of the 108th Assembly district and I will continue to do so."
McDonald notes the public has overwhelmingly re-elected him several times. The 57-year-old Cohoes native is a 1985 Albany College of Pharmacy grad who runs Marra's Pharmacy. He also served as Cohoes Mayor from 1999 to 2012.
Fein’s 6th legislature district includes several downtown Albany neighborhoods. "You know, when I look around our communities, it's clear that our communities are in crisis. People are struggling. There's so much wealth and prosperity in this region, but people, people in Albany, Cohoes, Troy or anywhere in the district aren't experiencing. You know, I speak to people who can't afford childcare for their kids. I spoke to someone whose son was working two jobs, and can barely afford rent. If you walk around a lot of communities in the district. You can see they've been destabilized from years of discriminatory housing policies that made it so that people who live in African American communities couldn't get access to loans to purchase homes and sharing that financial stability that so many people have.:"
Fein, who is 29, grew up in Massachusetts and moved to the Capital Region in 2008. The 2012 Union college grad was first elected to the Albany County Legislature in 2015 and is now serving a second four-year term. Fein says he's ready to hit the sidewalk: "Well, we're gonna work hard throughout the campaign. We have a bold message. We'll really touch some of the issues that matter to people. We're gonna go door-to-door, we're gonna talk to the voters, and, you know, it's gonna be really a community-based campaign."
McDonald doesn't fear a primary challenge. He defeated then-Albany Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin in the 2012 Democratic primary. The state legislature is in session until June 2nd, with the primary three weeks later. "I never worry about campaigning. When you run every two years some people say you're always campaigning. I've always said it a little bit differently I'm always working. And my work will resonate with the voters."
A staunch anti-tobacco legislator, McDonald backed raising New York's smoking age from 18 to 21. In what he called a “very difficult decision,” Fein voted against Local Law E, which would have banned flavored tobacco and vape products from Albany County Store Shelves, saying he didn’t want to limit African Americans’ access to menthol cigarettes.