Santabarbara challenged by McGarry

Angelo Santabarbara

Angelo Santabarbara

Brian McGarry

A Republican Schenectady County legislator is challenging incumbent Angelo Santabarbara, a Democrat, to represent the New York State 111th Assembly District. Brian McGarry, a former teacher and business owner from Rotterdam, is hoping to use the rural areas of the district in order to prevent Santabarbara from serving a fourth term.

The 111th Assembly District was created in 2012, and is comprised of Montgomery County, most of Schenectady County, and the towns of Berne and Knox in Albany County.

Santabarbara is a former civil engineer who says his knowledge of local planning and infrastructure as well as past work with municipalities in the district have helped him first as a county legislator and later as an assemblyman. He grew up in the district and served in the Army Reserve and later as a county legislator.

His son, Michael, was diagnosed with autism when he was 3, which has been a driving force in much of Santabarbara’s policy-making. Two years ago, he introduced a bill package known as the Autism Action Plan that included creating an advisory board on autism spectrum disorder, reforming housing loans and vocational services for those with autism, and creating a card that would identify someone with autism to law enforcement.

The assemblyman also noted a more recent bill he sponsored that had passed the Assembly in January to allow consumers to switch fuel companies in times of an emergency after some customers this past winter could not reach their fuel company for refills.

McGarry lives with his wife in the town of Rotterdam. Both are former school teachers and they have six adult children. Prior to his 24-year teaching career, McGarry worked as a cameraman, and also until recently ran a photography business for over 30 years.

He said he became politically active following the election of President Barack Obama because, he said, some of the policies of Obama’s administration troubled him. He ran unsuccessfully for Rotterdam town supervisor in 2009 and 2011 before he was elected to the Schenectady County Legislature in 2013, where his district includes Rotterdam as well as Duanesburg and Princetown.

He framed his political philosophy by saying, “Government is too costly, government is too complicated, government is too corrupt.”

McGarry believes his victory in the county district he now represents, which includes rural areas and a suburban center, could be duplicated in the Nov. 6 election for the 111th. He said that he better represents the rural areas of the 111th District like Montgomery County, and would better serve upstate New York.

Thirty-six percent of voters in the district are enrolled as Democrats, 27 percent are enrolled as Republicans, 24 percent are not registered in a party, and the rest are enrolled in small parties.

Santabarbara had last won the election in 2016 with over 60 percent of the vote. His opponent in both 2016 and 2014 was Republican Peter Vroman, a retired United States marshal and Montgomery County undersheriff. The 2014 race was close, with Santabarbara winning by 1,319 votes; in 2016 he won by more than 12,000. In 2012, Santabarbara won by almost 12,000 against Republican Thomas Quackenbush, a former supervisor of the town of Minden in Montgomery County.

Since the day after the 2016 elections, McGarry has raised $37,894. Of this, seven donations are $1,000 or higher, the top donation of $4,000 coming from John Honis, an investment manager for the Saratoga Springs investment advisory firm Rand Advisors. Other top donations include $2,000 from Sue Wilson of Richardson, Texas, and $1,000 each from John Romanow of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Collar City Auctions president Randy Passonno of Delanson, and the Schenectady County Republican Party. Two donations of $1,485 and $1,015 were unitemized.

Since he was re-elected two years ago, Santabarbara has raised $73,832.73. Of this, 21 donations were over $1,000. The top donation was $4,400 from the state Political Action Fund for the 1199 chapter of the Service Employees International Union; the second highest amount, of $3,400, came from LAWPAC, the political action committee for the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, which also donated $1,000 twice; $1,650 came from VOTE-COPE, the fundraising arm of the New York State Teachers Union, which also donated $1,000.

The political action committee for the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers donated $1,500; the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades donated $1,500 twice; the Local Chapter 7 of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union donated $1,500 once, as well as $1,000 twice; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the political action committee for the New York State Laborers donated $1,500 and $1,000. The Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters Non-Partisan PEC, the Public Employees Federation, and the Friends of Anthony J. Brindisi each donated $1,000; Rotterdam Ventures Incorporated donated $1,000 twice.

The two-year term has a salary of $79,500 a year.

Brian McGarry

Brian McGarry said that he believes in the free market, including for healthcare.

“A single-payer anything system is what’s known as a monopoly,” he said.

He added that there are indigent people who need healthcare, but said that that is what Medicaid is used for. McGarry said that what he would like to change is to have the state take on the cost of Medicare and Medicaid rather than have it be covered by the counties and local property taxes, a change that has been promoted by gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro.

While McGarry said he respects the United States Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade as the law, but he said he is not in favor of expanding the law.

“I’m not in favor of killing children,” he said. “With their own DNA, with their own heartbeat, with their own hands, fingers, and toes.”

It’s a sentiment he said he realized when his wife was pregnant with their first child and they decided they would not test for abnormalities because they would want to carry the child to term no matter if it had something wrong.

McGarry said he has not studied the issue of a single assessment standard in-depth and could not answer, though he said he generally prefers that power remain at the local level and not go to the state. But he said that the process for the town of Rotterdam to have a full valuation for its tax rates was a difficult process after it was put off for years.

“It wasn’t pretty,” he said.

McGarry said that he believes in financial freedom and feels that the most effective system for campaign finances is to let anyone donate any amount but to make sure that it is transparent of who made a donation.

“Money is like water in politics,” he said. “It finds its own level.”

McGarry said that, while money is a necessary part of the political process, the system of using political action committees should be changed.

“The PACs are an end-run around sunshine,” he said.

McGarry said he does not believe recreational marijuana should be legalized, saying that he doesn’t know why smoking marijuana is being encouraged when cigarette smoking is currently being discouraged. He said he is still open to the use of medical marijuana and said that, if the federal government allows for hemp, those rules would supercede the state law.

McGarry credits doctors for decreasing opioid prescriptions to young adults. He said that further use of naloxone is important as well as educating people on the danger of addiction and having at least two days a year to have a free disposal of medication.

“We are not going to arrest our way out of this,” he said.

McGarry said he does not believe the SAFE Act can be repealed though he would like to. He said that the law was passed while taking advantage of the tragedy at Newtown.

“I think we’re going to have to peel it back like an onion,” he said.

He was critical of provisions such as having gun owners having to register their weapons every five years, and said that there are arbitrary requirements of what qualifies as an assault weapon.

Angelo Santabarbara

Angelo Santabarbara said that he supports the idea of healthcare for all in New York State but that he is concerned about the fiscal impact of a single-payer system and would like to find out how much it will cost businesses and taxpayers. He said it is important to also watch for how changes at the federal level could affect the issue.

Santabarbara said he supports the proposal in the New York Health Act because it would move abortions out of the criminal code and into the health code. He added that it is important to respect a woman’s right to choose.

Santabarbara said that, if the state were to consider a single assessment standard, Assembly members should first be gathering information about their municipalities and their assessment rates before that decision is made. He noted that each community is different and has different financial identities.

Santabarbara is one of the co-sponsors of a bill that would close the loophole for corporations making donations by requiring the corporation to file with the state and name its owners are. He said he supports the bill because it would prevent entities from funneling in “obscene amounts of money” to campaigns.

Santabarbara said he could not speak on a bill legalizing recreational marijuana because no such New York State bill exists yet and he would first like to see a bill in order to review it and receive feedback from the community. He said that he supports the use of medical marijuana, and is interested in expanding its used particularly for treating autism spectrum disorder, which he said was just approved in Rhode Island. He said he would have to look further into the issues surrounding farming hemp and look at community input.

Santabarbara said that more needs to be done in response to the opioid crisis, including holding pharmaceutical companies accountable and continuing drug take-back programs. He also said the educational component should be emphasized, such as hosting courses on administering naloxone. He said that there also needs to be follow-up to treatment for someone suffering from addition and continuing treatment should be available.

Santabarbara said that, as a veteran and a gun owner, he values the Second Amendment. But he said the country has seen many mass shootings. He believes that issues surrounding control have been addressed in New York and should be taken up at the federal level.

“We are hearing about these things happening across the country; we are not seeing this happen in New York,” he said.

Instead, in New York, he said, there should be efforts to secure local schools and support school resource officers and law enforcement. He noted that he has been seeking grants to better secure local schools.


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