On Thursday, Republican voters will decide whom they want to represent their party in the race for New York's new 115th Assembly District.
Three candidates will appear on the ballot in the Republican primary: incumbent Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, Plattsburgh educator Karen Bisso and Cadyville businessman David Kimmel. The general election will be a two- or three-way race, as the Republican candidate will go on to face Democrat Tim Carpenter, a Plattsburgh city councilman; Bisso will be on the Conservative Party line regardless of how the primary turns out.
Duprey, a Republican from Peru, currently represents the 114th Assembly District, which will take on a new shape and number in 2013 because of redistricting. The district will lose the Essex County town of St. Armand, which will become part of the new 114th Assembly District, and add four towns in St. Lawrence County: Brasher, Lawrence, Hopkinton and Piercefield.
From left: David Kimmel, Karen Bisso, Janet Duprey
Duprey was first elected to the Assembly in 2006 and has been re-elected twice since. Bisso has served as facilitator of Team Watch New York CD23, a group formed last year to track the progress of U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, and she ran unsuccessfully for the Republican line in the 2010 U.S. Senate race later won by Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand. Kimmel ran against Duprey on the Conservative line in 2010 but lost.
Asked why voters should elect her to another term, Duprey told the Enterprise she has a proven record of "strong and effective constituent service" and an ability to work across party lines to "accomplish goals for the North Country.
"And my many years of county and state experience provide me with the ability to understand a wide variety of issues and work successfully with all people," she said. She was the Clinton County treasurer for 20 years and a county legislator before that.
Bisso noted that the unemployment rate in parts of the district is 11 percent. She said two prisons have closed and millions of dollars have been "wasted on land purchases.
"The North Country is definitely feeling the effects of the incumbent, and the voters have asked for someone better," Bisso said.
Kimmel said he would be a more effective lawmaker because he has a "considerably more diverse and objectively verifiable leadership experience and training."
So what are the top priorities for the incumbent and the challengers if elected?
"The politically correct answer is jobs and the economy," Bisso said. "Since this campaign is anything but, I would have to put it this way. There are 155 Assembly people, and each puts forth an average of 100 bills per year. While many of these bills which make it through to the Assembly floor may be minor to downstate counties with much larger revenue streams, they could have the potential to do even more damage to our North County fragile economy.
"So, on any given day, my priority will be to make sure that none of that legislation passes."
Bisso said she would also make protecting Second Amendment rights top priority. She said downstate Democrats have brought forth bills that attack the rights of gun owners, like a bill that would have required the "microstamping" of discharged ammunition. There's a national debate over whether this would be effective and fair.
Kimmel said his priorities would be expanding rural broadband to attract "world class" employers to the region, reforming state health insurance mandates, implementing transportation innovations and easing the burden of state mandates on local governments.
Kimmel said he has a "unique approach to the problem of moving goods and services from rural parts of the district to the market place.
"This includes public-private partnerships as well as persuading legislators from other districts to 'buy in,'" he said. "Rather than emphasizing our differences, I will make the case that policy that will work here will also work in their home districts."
Duprey said she feels the state has made some big strides in the last two years, including the elimination of a $13.5 billion budget deficit, the passage of two on-time budgets "with no new taxes, fees or gimmicks," and a reduction of middle-income tax rates. She also said the awarding of $103.2 million to the North Country Regional Economic Development Council and the state Adirondack Park Agency's approval of the Adirondack Club and Resort permit in Tupper Lake were big steps forward. She's been a cheerleader for the controversial ACR project.
Looking ahead, Duprey said she wants to continue working with local, state and federal officials, as well as businesses and organizations, to create and retain jobs.
"We must continue the process of requiring state agencies to examine their policies and procedures to eliminate unnecessary and duplicative regulations that burden our businesses and local governments," she added.
As an Assemblyman, Kimmel said he would use social media to communicate with taxpayers, something he feels Duprey doesn't do enough of.
"I would also like to set up kiosks in the district so that people who do not have broadband or tools like Skype at their disposal in their homes can use these tools to communicate with me," he said. "Sometimes, that additional bit of interaction can make all the difference. Despite what some naysayers might suggest, it's a very affordable idea.
"I think the incumbent has less of an interaction problem and more of an inaction problem. That's something I will change when elected."
Duprey said she and her staff spend a majority of their time at the Plattsburgh district office meeting with constituents; she used to have an office in Malone, too, but it was closed to save money. She said she receives dozens of emails a day, spiking into the hundreds during budget season.
"We make every possible effort to answer them all, although sometimes not as quickly as we would like during the busiest times," Duprey said. "I read every email and letter that comes to my office, so I am fully aware of the issues which concern constituents."
Duprey said she also spends a lot of time traveling around the North Country.
"The problems we deal with are varied and touch every aspect of people's lives," she said. "An inordinate amount of our time is spent working with health insurance providers on behalf of constituents who have been denied coverage, denied referral or simply don't know where to turn to get help with a claim."
Bisso, who has been actively campaigning for more than seven months, said she's been out meeting constituents. She said the job requires working with people and communicating with them, as well as understanding their needs and then representing those needs in Albany.
"I have worked on and visited farms, attended gun shows, fire department meetings, and have traveled hundreds of miles on ATV rides," Bisso said. "I have even sat in the kitchen and tasted the contaminated water of a homeowners group in Dannemora whose wells have been affected by the state (Department of Transportation's) salt sheds.
"My pledge as the assemblywoman will be to have myself and my staff out in the field being proactive with these groups, organizations and local governments, not sitting in an office in Albany being reactive and waiting for these people to contact us, as it is done currently."
Duprey and the GOP
Duprey has been at odds with the conservative wing of the Republican Party for several years. She's been criticized for her support of same-sex marriage, as well as her endorsement of then-Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava over Doug Hoffman in a 2009 special election in New York's 23rd Congressional District.
Kimmel and Bisso both identify themselves as conservative Republicans, and both said they don't think Duprey resonates with the party.
"Looking back now, I don't think she has ever fit within the GOP, conservative or otherwise," Kimmel said. "Like so many others, I was duped by Duprey."
Bisso said Duprey applauded Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the state's purchase of 69,000 acres of former timberlands in the Adirondacks, something Bisso vehemently disagrees with. Bisso said the incumbent has also stated she is proud of being a moderate and has voted "29 out of 32 times" with the state's "most liberal Assembly people." Duprey has countered that most of those votes were overwhelmingly bipartisan budget votes.
Duprey said she faced the same criticisms - that she was too moderate - during her 2010 campaign. She said her support for Scozzafava happened four years ago, and it's "time to move on.
"I respect the fact that some people feel their religious beliefs do not allow them to support marriage for all people, but I have shared in the joy of same-sex couples who have been able to legalize their relationship," Duprey said. "I have an indisputable record as a strong fiscal conservative elected official over the entire time of my political career. I have been a strong, unrelenting advocate for the taxpayers. I consider myself a moderate social advocate as I strive to protect equality for all people under all circumstances."
Bisso said she believes if Duprey loses the primary, Carpenter will drop out so the Democrats can endorse Duprey.
"Considering the fact that the Democrat in this race has not campaigned, has no website, has not filed a single required financial report, I firmly believe that should Janet Duprey lose the primary, Tim Carpenter will drop out of the race and the Democrats will endorse the current Assemblywoman, given the strong ties she already has to the Democrat Party and their platform," she said.
Carpenter said as of Thursday afternoon, he'd filed all of the necessary forms. The state Board of Elections website shows that Carpenter submitted his initial filings, but itemized financial disclosures hadn't been posted as of Thursday evening.
"The only form I had to do still was a financial disclosure, which has been sent in," he said. "My registration was sent to the Board of Elections. I don't have a website because I can't spend money until I get that registration number. I am constructing a website now.
"I have no intention of dropping out of this race. Once this primary is over, you'll see my signs going out; my website will go up."
Contact Chris Morris at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.