Two candidates vying for New York’s sprawling 49th state Senate district seat met for a voter forum last night in Clifton Park.
The 49th Senate District stretches from the Capital Region suburbs into the Central Adirondacks. Republican Jim Tedisco, who was elected to the seat two years ago after a long career in the state Assembly, is facing a challenge from Democrat Michelle Ostrelich, a political newcomer.
At the forum hosted by the League of Women Voters and the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County, Ostrelich said the residents of the district have demands of their representatives in Albany.
“We want civility in our leaders, transparency in our government, and the security of knowing that our hard-earned tax dollars are being invested back in our communities,” said Ostrelich.
In an election year where control of the state Senate hangs in the balance, Tedisco said a Republican majority is the last check-and-balance against one-party Democratic rule.
“The fact of the matter is, this may be the most important election ever in the history of New York state. We’re talking about maybe not having representative democracy anymore,” said Tedisco.
The candidates were asked about the upstate vs. downstate dynamic in state government. Democrats outweigh Republicans two to one in the Assembly, with a significant portion coming from the greater New York City area.
Tedisco described a Senate majority predominantly made up of upstate lawmakers as the “last bastion” against taxes and regulations.
The Republican came armed with stories of his supporters, including a Ballston Spa family whose son’s lemonade stand was shut down by state health department employee. The incident last summer eventually drew the attention of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who offered to pay the fees to reopen the stand.
The family has since appeared in Tedisco’s campaign ads. He uses the story as an example of government overreach.
“When has anybody in this room needed a permit to sell lemonade? I never did. Is that what the state of New York has come to? Is that the overreach right now? We need a voice for upstate New York. If I read this endorsement by the Gazette, one of our papers, I am that voice for upstate New York.”
“The truth is that family was raising money to help a family with healthcare costs. You know what an upstate value is? Making sure that families don’t file for bankruptcy because they can’t afford their mortgage and their medical bills,” said Ostrelich.
Ostrelich supports universal healthcare, something Tedisco dismisses as impossible.
Tedisco repeated a campaign statement about Vermont abandoning a single-payer system after one year due to high costs.
The Vermont legislature and then-Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin explored a single-payer system but it was never implemented and ultimately was abandoned. The state is now considering an “all-payer” model.
Tedisco said current health care policy doesn’t work.
“Young people were never going to spend $5,000 to $10,000 to buy insurance. They’re young. They’re healthy. They pay the penalty, $600. And what happened, for the catastrophic illnesses for seniors and for others who go beyond the copays and their limits, they were forced to come up with insurance policies which were very costly.”
Tedisco’s proposals for healthcare include an Elderly Dental Insurance Coverage program, health savings accounts for young people, tort reform, best practices for health care providers, and allowing insurance companies to operate across state lines.
Ostrelich dismissed Tedisco’s proposals and favors a single-payer system.
“Our health insurance system is broken and Senator Tedisco’s piecemeal sort of, I don’t know, small band-aids on the problem is nowhere near the holistic response that we could have in New York,” said Ostrelich.
She says New Yorkers are already paying for universal health care and that it is about “capturing the costs” of healthcare coverage.
The candidates also discussed gun control, education funding, broadband, taxes, women’s reproductive rights, and the Child Victims Act.
You can listen to the entire forum here: