102nd Assembly: Kraat challenges Tague

Republican Christopher Tague was first elected as the assemblyman for District 102 in an early-2018 special election, taking over for Republican Peter Lopez, and he retained the seat the following November after beating out Democratic challenger Aidan O’Connor.

Now, Tague is defending his seat from a new Democratic challenger, Betsy Kraat, a single mother who worked odd jobs before going back to school in 2017 for a master’s degree, and who says that Tague is a “[President Donald] Trump delegate” who doesn’t represent the values of the district. 

District 102 includes all of Schoharie and Greene counties, and parts of Albany, Columbia, Ulster, Delaware, and Otsego Counties. In Albany County, it includes the towns of Coeymans, Rensselaerville, and Westerlo. Towns like Middleburgh and Schoharie in Schoharie County border the Hilltowns of Berne and Knox.

District 102, as of Feb. 21, has 31,476 enrolled Republicans, 26,888 enrolled Democrats, 5,862 members of the Independence party, 2,644 Conservatives, and fewer than 1,000 registered voters enrolled in other parties. The district also has 23,703 registered voters who are not enrolled in a party.

According to the state’s board of elections, Kratt, as of Wednesday evening, had $10,922 in campaign contributions. Only two of the contributions were over $500: She received $1,000 each from Susan Kraat of New Paltz, and from the Columbia County Democratic Committee.

Tague had $71,721 in contributions with 27 over $500, making up $32,090 of his total. The largest is $4,400 from Empire State ABC (Associated Builders & Contractors) Political Action Committee in East Syracuse. The Schoharie Republican Committee donated $3,500 and the Westerlo Republican Committee donated $1,000. Among the over-$500 contributors are Eric Hannay of Feura Bush ($970), Fox Hill Sales of Greenville ($1,000) and Delaware Engineering of Albany ($1,000).




Betsy Kraat

Kraat, 46, is running on the Democratic party line and hopes to use the position to advocate for taxes on billionaires and the “ultra-wealthy;” secure funding that schools have been promised by the state; preserve and improve the State University of New York and City University of New York systems, which she calls a crown jewel in the public education; and pass the New York Health Act.

“There’s so many things,” Kraat told The Enterprise.

On taxing the wealthy, Kraat said that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s argument that more taxes will drive that population out of the state is “disingenuous” and reiterated that the tax package wouldn’t be an income tax, but taxes attached to the habits of the wealthy, such as a tax on stock exchanges and a pied-à-terre tax  on a temporary second residence, often used for part of a work week.

“The stock transfer tax, according to Phil Steck,” she said of the Democrataic assemblyman representing Colonie, Niskayuna, and Schenectady, “would raise $13 billion right off the bat and that would close the budget shortfall. 

“And the pied-à-terre tax, that’s a tax on second homes worth $10 million,” Kraat continued. “So people want a Park Avenue penthouse. If they want their … luxury, SoHo loft, they’re not going to pull up stakes and move to Connecticut. They’re there because they want to be in New York City. So I don’t buy that. He says that, but it’s really because he’s protecting his donors,” she said of Cuomo.

Kraat says she supports bail reform, the current police reforms, and any other measure that would “make our justice system more fair, because it isn’t fair for everyone.”

“There are two tracks,” Kraat said of those who get arrested, “and that’s what bail reform was supposed to eliminate. It shouldn’t be that you sit in jail because you can’t afford to get out. My opponent brings up questions of safety: Safe for who? Is it safe to be someone who is racially profiled? They need to live safely as well. So I think all of the reforms are good.”

Of police reforms, Kraat said, “Our police force has become more militarized over time. That’s not how it’s supposed to be. They are not occupying a territory. They are supposed to be here to protect and serve. We need to get back to that.”

Kraat said that she’d like to see the rest of the state let the incarcerated make phone calls for free, a practice that New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio implemented downstate last year. 

“If we really want these people to move on post-arrest,” Kraat said, “we have to help them preserve their family structure. That’s one of the factors that influences recidivism. If we don’t make it a little easier for families to stay together then we are promoting recidivism, and I don’t want that.

“It’s only when you consider that these prisons need to be filled or people don’t have jobs that we consider that the state doesn’t have a vested interest in rehabilitation,” Kraat added, “and I don’t think that we should inhibit rehabilitation.”

Kraat considers for-profit healthcare a “failed experiment” and advocates for a model similar to Canada’s, where a basic public health insurance is available with the option of private insurance for those who want enhanced coverage.

“When people say that they have insurance and they like it,” Kraat said, “unless they’re on Medicare, they could lose that when they lose their jobs. They could lose it with the diagnosis of an illness. Insurance companies still do have the power to say what they will pay for and what they will not pay for. 

“I always tell people that they’re one major health crisis away from not loving their health insurance,” Kraat said. “The only way to make things fair is to have the same for everyone.”

Kraat is interested in implementing a fair tax standard across the state but says there are obvious difficulties in constructing that standard.

“I think that it’s difficult in a place like New York,” Kraat said, “where you have such disparate standards of living and income. For example, the salary for an assembly member is $110,000 a year. For places like where I live, that’s, like, an incredible amount of money. If you live in Westchester, that’s — you’re middle class. You’re not wealthy.”

“...Having said that,” Kraat went on, “there are additional levies imposed on places like Westchester, Long Island and New York City because they’re different. So I think it’s worth examining the feasibility of imposing that kind of system, and what are the obstacles, and how can we make it more fair.”

On gun laws, Kraat said she’s content with the state’s Secure Ammunition and Firearm Enforcement Act, and doesn’t see further legislation coming down the pipeline anytime soon.

Kraat referenced the arrest of a father and son in Saugerties in 2018 after police investigated them for threats made against the local school district, where Kraat said her kids now attend. The father and son had a hoard of firearms, police discovered.

“I know that gun owners are resentful of those,” Kraat said of restrictions in the SAFE Act, “but we also have to take into consideration the violence.”




Chris Tague

Tague, 51, sees himself as a voice for upstate New York and is running on the Republican, Conservative, and Independence lines “to continue on with the work that I’ve been doing for the past two-and-a-half years,” he said. 

“Too much of what goes on in Albany is  ‘one glove fits all’ legislation that usually comes … from downstate New York,” Tague said.

“One of the things I’ve been doing over the past two-and-a-half years,” he added, “is trying to get my colleagues from the NYC region to understand that there is an upstate New York and legislation that helps them does not always help us.”

One way he’s been doing that is by holding farm tours for state legislators — mostly from downstate, he said — that informs them about the upstate economy and the issues that farmers face.

“Being an Assembly member is all about being a representative,” Tague said.

His focus if re-elected would be pandemic recovery while still addressing bail reform, lack of respect for law enforcement, and excessive regulations, he said.

On pandemic finances and Cuomo’s statement about taxing the wealthy, Tague said it was a rare instance where he was in agreement with the governor. 

“He and I don’t agree very often,” Tague said, “but what we need to do is stop taxing people. We need to cut regulations … Of course people have to pay taxes but we have the highest property taxes in the country. And then on top of that we put regulations on our businesses. 

“Especially for rural upstate New York, it actually … puts our farmers at a bigger disadvantage,” Tague said. “So what we need to do is we need to come up with incentives to get businesses going … incentives for people that change the way they do business to do it safer [during the pandemic], but being able to open up and putting people to work would probably be the best thing that we can do.”

Tague is unhappy with the current bail reform, calling it an example of “one glove” legislation, but understands the need for wider reforms around policing as long as it’s done with balanced input.

“In the communities that I represent — small rural towns and you have elected judges, usually town and village judges — and … they see the same people over and over and over again, and they have a history with these folks,” Tague said. And they can tell if someone’s getting a little more aggressive with the crimes that they’re committing, if they’re getting a little more violent. 

“The judge,” Tague continued, “had that discretion to say ‘You know what? You need a cool-down period, my friend. And you’re going to have to spend some time in jail until we get something straightened out before you either hurt yourself or you hurt somebody else.’ That’s the problem.”

In incidents that don’t relate to violence, Tague is more sympathetic.

“Do we need some sort of reform? Absolutely,” Tague said. “We have some people that have spent time in prison or jail for the smallest of criminal acts that, to me, yes, way too much … The body cams that they requested that police officers wear, I supported that bill. 

“And as far as the local policing communities doing their plans,” Tague went on, “I have no problem with that at all. You just have to make sure that the people who are involved are well represented and that there aren’t people in there with a certain agenda. It has to be balanced.”

Tague and Kraat seem to share similar ideas on healthcare, but Tague does not think that what he believes would be a costly state-run system is a good solution.

“I think that the problem with the healthcare,” Tague said, “is the single-payer system would just be too costly. I’ve heard that going with the single-payer healthcare we would be looking at double the budget that we’re at right now. The state budget is $170 billion a year, $70 billion alone is Medicare costs. 

“You can’t do without Medicare,” Tague said. “There are too many people on Medicare that need that coverage, that deserve that coverage, because they’ve been dealt a different set of cards than the rest of us. I think that fair competition in the marketplace is the way to go with insurance.” 

Tague mentioned that he’s working on a rural healthcare bill with colleagues that would provide incentives to those who follow certain health guidelines but that the details can’t be made public yet.

Kraat and Tague align firmly in their thoughts on a single assessment standard, with each agreeing that it would be fair but difficult to implement.

“I testified in a real property tax hearing towards the end of last year,” Tague said. “Remember, I was a town supervisor so I’m very familiar with how assessment goes and just in Schoharie County you have 16 different towns. Not all of them do their assessments properly. 

“One thing that I found that I thought was successful,” Tague continued, “was the town of Esperance, the town of Schoharie, and at the time the town of Wright were in what they called a cap system, so we had the same assessor that was assessing properties the same way in all those towns. 

“… Now, that said,” Tague said, “there would have to be some changes made because the property values in Manhattan are surely a lot different than the property values in upstate New York, but I’m sure that if it’s done properly and the right science is put to it, that we can figure out a fair, balanced approach to the assessments across the state.”

Tague, a lifelong gun owner, is a strong opponent of New York’s SAFE Act and any other measures that would infringe on the Second Amendment.

“I’m a constitutionalist,” Tague said, “and I believe in the Second Amendment, and I believe in people’s Second Amendment rights. Owning a firearm is not all just about wanting to go out hunting and target shooting. The Second Amendment was put in place to be able to protect yourself, to be able to protect your family, your neighbors, and your property. 

“Responsible gun ownership is like everything else,” Tague continued. “If you own a car and you drive down the road it’s your responsibility to be a responsible operator of that vehicle. It’s the same thing with owning a gun. We cannot allow government to tell us everything we can or cannot do. That makes this country not America anymore … The reason why we’re the greatest country is because we allow people to think for themselves. We allow people to have personal responsibility. 

“Do accidents happen, do bad things happen?” Tague went on. “Yes, they do. I understand that. But you can’t legislate every single thing that could possibly happen because then there’s nothing left. And that’s one of the reasons why I ran, is because different aspects and different people in this country continue to infringe our constitutional rights. And once those constitutional rights are taken from us, we’re no longer America. We’re no longer that free country that’s gotten to where it is today … I will always defend the Second Amendment.”

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