A longtime New York Republican strategist is running for State Assembly against a three-term Democratic incumbent for a seat representing Saratoga and Washington Counties. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports on the race for New York’s 113th State Assembly District.
Dave Catalfamo, a former aide to Governor George Pataki and a Republican campaign consultant, is on the ballot himself this time. Currently Oneida County’s Economic Development Director, he said he decided to run for New York’s 113th Assembly District as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March.
Catalfamo, who is trying to unseat three-term Democratic incumbent Carrie Woerner, says he is running on two big questions:
“How are we going to handle the economic calamities that has brought on upon us – in part by the fiscal management which started us in the hole but obviously has been exacerbated by the coronavirus – and also, are we as a society going to turn our back on our police and start having lawless communities where there are violent felons out on the street and crime gets out of control again?”
Woerner, who has won the district despite a Republican registration advantage, says voters have re-elected her because of her willingness to listen and work on their behalf.
“I can’t tell you how many people have my cellphone number. They know how to reach me and they know that if they reach out to me, I will do everything I can to solve whatever problem they are facing,” said Woerner.
Catalfamo criticizes the Democrat-controlled state legislature for handing Governor Andrew Cuomo emergency powers at the beginning of the pandemic. Woerner said giving the executive branch expanded powers during the emergency was necessary to prevent “too many cooks in the kitchen.”
“And I think that that was necessary to respond to the crisis. I would have to say that I think it has gone on too long,” said Woerner.
As New York State remains billions of dollars in the hole as state leaders await a stalled COVID-19 relief bill from Congress, lawmakers are trying to find ways to bridge the gap.
The governor has said 20 percent across-the-board cuts in state spending will be necessary if the aid doesn’t come through.
Woerner criticized the cuts, pointing out schools in lower-income districts that rely more heavily on state aid are adversely affected. Districts have laid off teachers, staff and limited in-person schooling.
Catalfamo calls the cuts “lazy” but says he thinks they are a necessity.
“No one, again, no one wants this stuff. But you can’t make up the fact that you don’t have revenue. The problem with just doing a hold on reimbursement of spending is it doesn’t actually correct anything structurally for the next couple of years,” said Catalfamo.
Woerner also says spending needs to be cut, but says government’s essential functions should be funded – education, infrastructure, and public safety.
Woerner is skeptical of a tax on so-called “ultra-millionaires” but does support collecting revenues via a Wall Street stock transfer tax.
“You have to look at risk versus reward, and I think the trade-off of risk vs. reward, it leans on the reward side,” said Woerner.
As Catalfamo touts endorsements from police unions and frames his campaign around supporting public safety, Woerner says she will “always be a friend to law enforcement.”
Over the last several months, Catalfamo has accused Woener of acting unethically in introducing a bill pushed by Todd Garofano, the Executive Director of a trade group representing spa and salon owners.
Woerner’s legislative director is Garofano’s son, Chris. Catalfamo alleges special treatment.
“It’s lazy, it’s ridiculous, and if she’s running her office like that – about something that’s an obvious conflict, you don’t get any clearer than that – then what else is going on there?” asks Catalfamo.
Woerner has defended her office’s handling of Garofano’s request, who she says is very proud of his son.
“And chose to send a quick email to his son and say, ‘Can you get a meeting for me with your boss?’ And he tossed it over to the scheduler, and just like what we do with everyone who comes to my office and wants a meeting, he got a meeting,” said Woerner.