Rematch in the 109th: Calhoun challenges Fahy

Calhoun, Jesse D. Calhoun

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer

Jesse D. Calhoun describes himself as “fiercely independent.”

GUILDERLAND — In a rematch of the race two years ago, Republican Jesse D. Calhoun is challenging incumbent Democrat Patricia A. Fahy to represent the 109th Assembly District.

Thursday night, in a forum held by the McKownville Improvement Association, Calhoun described himself as a political outsider while Fahy ran on her record, listing some of the many bills she has worked to pass during her four-year tenure.

Fahy leapt into local politics in 2012 when the reconfigured 109th District’s longtime representative, Democrat John McEneny, retired. With a grassroots campaign, she easily bested her five opponents in the Democratic primary, winning 37 percent of the vote in the Democrat-dominated district before easily winning her seat in the fall election against Guilderland Republican Ted Danz.

Two years later, Fahy bested Calhoun by getting 66 percent of the vote to represent Bethlehem, Guilderland, New Scotland, and the western part of Albany where she lives.


Calhoun proudly cited the 13,000 votes he had garnered in 2014 to the two dozen McKownville residents who had gathered at the Hampton Inn on Thursday evening.

Calhoun, a preschool teacher and musician, told them, “You can count on a political outsider like me.” He said his campaign contributions come from “small donors” so he is beholden to no one.

Citing recent charges of rigged bids for nearby SUNY Poly construction, Calhoun said, “I would fight against corruption.”

Although Calhoun is running on both the Conservative and Republican lines, he said he was “not a typical” Republican or Conservative.

“I’m not a Trumper by any stretch of the imagination,” he said, referencing Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for president. “I’m for human rights.”

Calhoun named several issues on which he had been outspoken. “I made a music video about the red lights in Albany,” he said, referring to the city’s recent initiative to put cameras in some of its traffic lights so that citations can be issued to drivers who run the red lights. “None of the money is going to the city, and it’s arguable whether it’s safer,” he said.

“I’m fiercely independent,” said Calhoun. “I stick up for what people are saying and what I believe.”

Calhoun also said he can work across party lines. “If something is worthwhile, I work with whoever,” he said.

He cited an incident in which he said Albany Police were “over reaching.” “I’m not anti-police. I’m pro-limits,” he said. “I spoke out on that.”

Don Reeb, president of the McKownville Improvement Association, asked Calhoun’s views on making public transportation accessible to more people with handicaps. “An enormous number of people, like myself who are older, need help moving around,” said Reeb.

“I take a lot of public transportation,” responded Calhoun. The problem, he said, “has a lot to do with the way the state disallows other transportation to enter the market. The state doesn’t allow small businesses or entrepreneurs…We have a CDTA monopoly,” he said of the Capital District Transportation Authority.

From his time working as a case manager at a homeless shelter, Calhoun said he understood the problems of poverty. He also spoke of the need for mental-health services, ranging from children with autism to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Calhoun favors paid parental leave. “As a society, we’ve been disconnected from our children,” he said.

On education issues, Calhoun said, “I’m big on less testing.” He said that currently state-required tests are not used as they “should be used — as a monitoring tool.”

“I’m not anti-charter school,” he said. “They could be done better.” He went on, “If a charter school gets to pick its students, it’s not fair; it overburdens public schools,” leaving them with a disproportionate number of special-needs students.

On school funding, Calhoun said, “There could be a lot more equality in the spending.” The current system of funding public schools largely through property taxes is not a good one, said Calhoun. “It’s not fair to students or property owners,” he said. Calhoun wants to see schools funded through the state rather than through property taxes.

He attended public schools in Ohio where he grew up and enthusiastically described controversial topics he had studied.

“My main concern is to keep free speech and the right to dissent alive,” Calhoun said.


The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer
Patricia A. Fahy, a Democrat, is running on her record representing the 109th Assembly District, with a focus on jobs and education. She also has the Independence and Working Families lines.



“I’m finishing a very fast four years,” Fahy told the McKownville residents. “There has not been a single dull moment…You don’t need to read trashy novels; just open up the newspaper and read the news.”

As an Assembly member, Fahy said, “I try to look at every issue through a couple of lenses — education and jobs.”

She described herself as a first-generation American whose parents “came to this country for a better life,” where education was key.

For example, she said, using her “lenses,” when she looks at environmental issues, she sees how it will be good for jobs. “You can’t export green jobs,” she said. Or, when she looks at health-care issues, she thinks of education. “The better educated someone is, the better their health is,” said Fahy.

Before moving to Albany 18 years ago, Fahy spent many years in Washington, D.C., working on Capitol Hill with labor committees and employment subcommittees, drafting legislation. In New York State, she had worked as an associate commissioner at the labor department and for the state legislature. She also served on the Albany’s school board.

“I have to not just react but push my agenda,” said Fahy. “I often carry about 50 bills a year; over 30 have been signed into law…I try to only do legislation that will pass or that sends a message.”

She described several bills of which she is most proud. One is to change the system of court-appointed attorneys for indigents, which has been paid for by counties, a large unfunded mandate. The new law would require the state to set up a system of direct state funding, which would relieve the financial burden for counties, Fahy said, and also make the system more fair.

Another is a bill to preserve open space, using tax relief to encourage smart growth.

A bill that has not passed but that Fahy believes is important is to increase safety regulations for oil trains. “We have passed it each year in the Assembly with solid bipartisan support,” said Fahy, but it hasn’t moved in the Senate. “I remain optimistic,” she said.

She is also proud of bills that have helped distilleries and cideries, which have benefited both agriculture and small businesses, said Fahy. She said of craft beverages, “It has become a multi-billion-dollar industry in upstate New York.”

Fahy is also pleased with progress in state funding for public schools. Citing a local example, she said, “Up until this year, Guilderland was still laying off folks. This year, they hired staff.” Fahy went on, “In four years, there have been record-setting increases for elementary and secondary schools.” She called it “transformative,” and said the increases in state aid are “keeping pressure off taxpayers.”

Speaking on an issue important in McKownville, the perennial flooding around Stuyvesant Plaza, Fahy said that she and Senator George Amedore had each secured $1 million. “I hope it will go a long way toward mitigating flooding,” said Fahy. The first phase will focus on homes, she said, and the project will ultimately cost $6 million.

Donald Csaposs, grant writer for the town of Guilderland, said the project is now in the hands of the Dormitory Authority and it will take 18 to 24 months for the execution of the grant.

Asked about ethics reform, Fahy said, “We pass ethics bills every year.” Of the latest, she said, “I think we will see a dramatic change in expanded transparency and oversight.”

Fahy said it currently takes a year-and-a-half to two years to process grants. “We want thorough oversight, full transparency, and exposure,” she said, but stressed, “I want to make sure we don’t paralyze government…It needs to be done right.”

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