Assemblyman Peter Lopez to run for Congress

Enterprise file photo

Peter Lopez, often an attendee at events like this one in Westerlo, has announced that he is running for congress.

State Assemblyman Peter D. Lopez announced this week that he is seeking the 19th Congressional seat held by Republican Chris Gibson, who is stepping down at the end of his term to contemplate a run for state office.

“The conversation started a couple of years ago,” Lopez, also a Republican, told The Enterprise. “He mentioned he might be leaving office, and suggested that I think about it. A number of people across the district have told me, ‘We’ve seen you’ve helped us with floods. We would like to see you as our Congressman.’ ”

Lopez represents District 102, which includes portions of Albany, Schoharie, Greene, Columbia, Ulster, and Delaware counties. Gibson represents all but Albany County, and an additional six counties: Montgomery, Otsego, Broome, Rensselaer, Dutchess, and Sullivan. 

Gibson announced in January that he would not seek re-election.

"As I stated shortly after retiring from the United States Army and first pursuing a seat in Congress in 2010, I planned to self-impose term limits,” Gibson said in his January statement. “Accordingly, after much reflection and consultation with my family, this will be my third and final time taking the oath of office as a representative in the United States House. I will be committed to building a stronger team so that the GOP can compete and win statewide in 2018, including the possibility of being a candidate in that cycle."

“I’ve been researching what it takes to do the job,” Lopez said this week. Currently, he said, he drives about 1,000 miles per week to visit constituents and attend events. Becoming a congressman would increase his driving to 1,500 miles per week, and include travel to and from Washington, D.C.

The cost to run a campaign is $2 million to $4 million for every two-year term he might seek, Lopez said.

“It’s a sobering responsibility, just on top of doing my actual work,” he said. “I have great respect for the position. I’ve been reflecting on it, and talking with family.”

Lopez, 54, is married to Bridget, and their children are grown, he said. Lopez holds a master’s degree from University at Albany in public administration.


Lopez has sided with teachers and against Governor Andrew Cuomo on Common Core Learning Standards, he said.

“I try to stay close to the community. I’m a grassroots candidate,” Lopez said. “[Common Core] was a top-down approach. I felt that there were many flaws — testing, invasion of privacy with data collection…We pushed the governor and Board of Regents to step back on this issue. We’ve made some progress, but it’s been an uphill battle.”

He said that many opponents of the way Common Core was handled statewide have “struggled” with the sale of private student data to third parties; the amount of testing involved; and the teacher evaluation formula linked to material students had been tested on but not taught.

“We found a way to relax the review of teaching professionals,” Lopez said,” to give teachers a chance to acclimate, to give people more ownership of curriculum and do away with those negative aspects.”

Lopez is also running on his experience dealing with flooding from tropical storms Irene and Lee, particularly in his home county of Schoharie.

“It’s very emotional,” he said. “Six of my seven counties were devastated by Irene and Lee,” he said. The storms affected his own family members, and those of his staff, he said.

“Easily a quarter of my calls are still flood-related,” Lopez said. “It’s a very emotional, and stubborn, persistent area. At this time, many cases have fallen between the cracks, or have been denied. We like to make people whole. We like to make communities whole, and families whole, and strengthen them.”

A congressional run

Lopez is in his fifth two-year term as a state assemblyman, representing the Republican, Independent, and Conservative parties.

“Those are things you don’t take for granted,” he said of party backing. “They have to decide who will be the best candidate. Their role is very important.”

Lopez said that his roles as assemblyman and, if elected, congressman, are similar regarding housing, economic development, education, health care, and infrastructure issues.

The congressional seat also deals with foreign policy and national safety, he said.

“There is a lot of overlap in themes and geographic districts,” Lopez said.

He acknowledged that there are several candidates vying for Gibson’s seat, including three other Republicans.

“I’m anticipating a primary, regardless,” Lopez said. “I’m taking this in a step-like progression.”

In January, he will seek committee approval; if he does not receive committee support, he said, he will determine whether or not he will seek petitions to run in a primary in June.

“If I go to the primary, I wouldn’t be seeking to protect the Assembly seat. I don’t think that’s appropriate. I would not straddle the two jobs; that would be disrespectful. I would not go there,” Lopez said. “If I don’t go to primary, I would look to come back and secure [his Assembly seat]. If I commit to a primary, I don’t want to be in the way of a local selection committee.

“This is a privilege to even consider running,” Lopez continued. “I’m not concerned about money or position — I’m happy to serve. I feel that I have personal skills and abilities.

“I need to make sure I’m doing my job,” he continued. “If my emphasis is to keep a job rather than serve a community, I’m destined to fail. I try to help people with challenges. It makes a difference in people’s minds. If I do that, I’ll be successful.

“I really don’t like politics. I’m more interested in people and problem solving,” Lopez said. He said that ethnicity and backgrounds do not matter to him.
“What matters is, how can I help make life better?” he said.

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