Rematch in the 46th: Tkaczyk runs on her record, Amedore as a "strong fighter"

The Enterprise — James E. Gardener

Cecilia Tkaczyk, Democratic incumbent in the 46th Senate District, speaks at a debate in Altamont last week. Tkaczyk says she is running on her record, highlighting funding for education and taking the money out of politics.

The Enterprise — James E. Gardener

George Amedore, a Republican challenging Cecilia Tkaczyk in the 46th Senate District, speaks at a debate in Altamont last week. Amedore, who lost the same race to Tkaczyk by a margin of 18 votes in 2012, says he is running because he wants to provide New Yorkers with a strong fighter and leader.

GUILDERLAND — George Amedore Jr., a Republican who served for six years in the State Assembly, is running in the 46th Senate District against Cecilia Tkaczyk, who won a close race against Amedore two years ago, after a series of court challenges. In January 2013, she was announced the winner by a margin of 18 votes.

Once again, the political majority of the Senate hangs in the balance, depending on the outcome of this race and several others.

Tkaczyk also has the Working Families and Green Party lines, while Amedore has the Conservative, Independence, and Stop Common Core lines.

The 46th District stretches 140 miles, encompassing parts of five counties — Montgomery, Schenectady, Albany, Greene, and Ulster — and was constructed by the Republican-dominated Senate. The towns in Albany County it covers are Guilderland, New Scotland, Coeymans, and the Hilltowns of Knox, Berne, Westerlo, and Rensselaerville.

The Enterprise interviewed the two candidates, asking about their reasons for running and their top priorities as well as their views on these issues:

Government funding for education: Should school aid be increased? Since the Gap Elimination Adjustment went into effect in 2010, originally as a temporary measure, schools have lost funding. Can the GEA be eliminated? How can schools be adequately funded in order prevent closures and cuts or should salaries be reduced?

The Common Core: The Common Core State Standards Initiative details what students in kindergarten through grade 12 should know in English language arts and mathematics at the end of each grade. It seeks to establish consistent educational standards across the states that are participating as well as ensure students graduating from high school are ready to enter college or the workforce. Has the Common Core been effective? Was the implementation faulty? Can or should the Common Core be revised or repealed?

Stimulating the local economy: Are New Yorkers making what is considered to be a living wage? Are there enough incentives for businesses and start-ups? Is there too much regulation?

Women’s Equality Agenda: In 2013, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a 10-point agenda that would strengthen laws that require equal pay for equal work; extend the prohibition of sexual harassment in the workplace; allow litigants who win a sexual discrimination suit to collect attorney’s fees; outlaw discriminations against parents in the workplace, prohibit building owners and leasing managers from refusing to lease or sell a property to someone because of their status as a domestic dispute victim; ensure that protected parties could not be held in violation of an order of protection meant to keep them safe; create a program that would allow domestic dispute victims to testify remotely; increase penalties for human trafficking; and, codify Roe v. Wade into law, ensuring a woman can get an abortion within 24 weeks of her pregnancy when necessary to protect her life or health and ensure that physicians operating within their scope of practice could not be criminally prosecuted for providing such care. Do you support the entirety of the agenda? Should anything be revised or removed?

Campaign finance: Is there too much money in the political system? Should there be a limit to contributions a candidate can accept? Is public financing a viable option?

Cecilia Tkaczyk

Cecilia Tkaczyk, a Democrat, has now served almost two years in the State Senate, representing the 46th District.

The former Duanseburg School Board member is a sheep farmer with a bachelor’s of science degree in agricultural science from Rutgers University.

Tkaczyk said she has worked “really hard” over the past two years, and is a member of committees for environmental conservation, education, children and families, veterans, and agriculture.

“I’ve taken my job very seriously,” she said. “This is a full-time job for me.”

Her top priority has been getting more money to the public schools.

“I had said I would focus on education and getting more state aid to our schools, and that is what I did,” she said. “The two budgets that were passed during my time in the Senate had significant increases for education that helped all the schools in the 46th District.”

Tkaczyk said education will continue to be her top priority if she is re-elected.

“We still have to see more of our school budgets funded through state aid instead of local property taxes, but that will need several years of increases in state aid contributions to get where we need to be,” she said.

She said she favors eliminating the Gap Elimination Adjustment.

“We shouldn’t be allowing what has been occurring, which is state aid going to wealthy schools in Long Island that don’t need them, while we are cutting real educational programs,” said Tkaczyk.

If state aid to schools were increased, she said, it would have the benefit of lowering property taxes.

“We don’t adequately fund our public schools,” said Tkaczyk. “It is hard to say when it will happen, but I will keep fighting for it until it is done.”

Tkaczyk said she was not opposed to setting standards for students and teachers, including the standards outlined in the Common Core Initiative, but that she “can’t tolerate the poor implementation of it.”

“We do need to make sure that our students are prepared for a global economy,” she said. “We are competing with students across the world.”

Tkaczyk said she was involved in looking at how to ease the transition into the Common Core, and said it “always comes back to resources.”

“How are we making sure our schools have the time and resources and our teachers have the flexibility?” she asked. “I blame the state’s Education Department and the state’s Board of Regents for the poor implementation.”

She said she would not support repealing the Common Core.

“At this point in time, to say we are going to throw it away would make no sense,” said Tkaczyk. “We accepted $750 million to help implement it and you can’t give that back now.”

She would, however, like to see less “obsession” with testing and more learning in the classroom.

“I actually voted against the Board of Regents appointments to send a message that I want people on the board who are going to stand up for our kids and make sure we are doing things the right way,” she said.

Tkaczyk said she would support raising the minimum wage to $10.10.

“I think that would help our families make a little more money to take care of their needs,” she said.

She said she is also pushing to make sure small businesses get the help they need to expand and grow, by sponsoring legislation that would introduce revolving loans to provide for continuous cash flow.

“I held a business round table — and I categorize farms as businesses — to discuss giving small businesses more breaks,” she said. “The state constantly gives breaks to large corporations instead of small businesses.”

Places like Wal-Mart, she said, don’t need handouts.

“We also should not give tax credits to businesses that send jobs overseas,” she said, adding that her opponent, George Amedore, supported legislation that would allow that.

“We really need to focus on expanding rural broadband access,” she said. “Expanding the Internet will help business owners; people can’t expand if they can’t connect.”

She said she was pleased that Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced that he wants to invest $500 million to expand rural broadband Internet.

“I want to make sure some of that money gets into my district,” said Tkaczyk. “People could start working from home if that happens — women could work from home while raising their children and people could become their own entrepreneurs.”

Bills that would allow equal work for equal pay have been “languishing for years,” according to Tkaczyk.

“They would pass the Assembly and hit a brick wall when they got to the Senate,” she said.

Amedore, she said, when he was in the Assembly, voted against equal pay for equal work 10 times.

“I voted for it,” she said. “I am all for making changes to help women get the economic equity and protections they should have had all along.”

The 10th point of the Women’s Equality Agenda, would codify Roe v. Wade into state law, and Tkaczyk said she supports the entire agenda, and a woman’s right to choose.

Amedore’s stance that codifying Roe v. Wade into law would expand abortion and allow partial-birth abortions is not based in fact, she said.

“He is lying to hide his position, which is that he simply does not support a woman’s right to choose,” said Tkaczyk.

“We absolutely need to change our campaign finance laws,” said Tkaczyk. “There is too much money in our political system.”

There are a lot of things, she said, that could be done to change that.

“Unfortunately, every time legislation to do so is proposed, it dies in the Senate, because the Senate Republicans benefit from the largesse they receive from the wealthy donors,” she said.

She said contribution limits could be reduced, and LLC loopholes, allowing wealthy donors to provide contributions through their companies, could be eliminated.

“No one asked me to run, no one gave me a lot of money to run, and no one drew me a district,” said Tkaczyk. “I decided to run and people decided to invest in my campaign, not because they want to control me, but, because they support my position.”

She said she has spent money on the campaign out of necessity.

“How can you expect someone to get elected today without having resources?” she asked. “I can’t get elected if I don’t have the ability get my message out.”

There are also independent expenditures, she said.

“A lot of people are doing their own thing, and I don’t control or coordinate with them,” she said. “I don’t even know what some of the mailers contain.”

She said she hopes that voters will consider her track record when they go to the polls.

“I’ve been a Senator for two years; Amedore was an Assemblyman for six years,” she said. “What did he do to address these issues? He really did nothing.”

“I don’t care what people’s political affiliations are,” she concluded. “If I can help them, I will, and I hope the voters send me back to the Senate so I can keep working for them.”

George Amedore

George Amedore is a Republican who spent six years in the State Assembly and owns Amedore Homes, a home-building company.

“I lost two years ago, by 18 votes, in a hard-fought race,” he said. “I went back to work and lived my life, but, after the last long months of watching what our senator was doing, I realized we, as citizens, are not being represented.”

That, he said, is why he decided to make another run in the 46th Senate District.

“Cecilia Tkaczyk’s values and record have been opposite of what we in the 46th Senate District live and believe to be true,” said Amedore. “We need a strong leader standing up against special-interest groups in the city; I believe in citizen legislators, the way our founding fathers intended it to be.”

Right now, said Amedore, school funding is coming primarily from property taxes.

“We pay some of the highest property taxes in the nation,” he said. “It is too high and too burdensome.”

He said he would fight hard to eliminate the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which, he said, “was imposed on Upstaters by one-party rule, the New York City Democrats.”

“It stripped $3 billion from our schools and we need to restore that funding,” said Amedore.

He said there needs to be a funding stream available so local schools would not be forced to close, and much-needed educational programs and extracurricular activities would not be cut.

“Our schools face some tough challenges and we need to figure out a way to make things equitable and fair,” he said.

The Common Core curriculum, said Amedore, is “a big-government mandate passed down by bureaucrats, dictating to local laws how teachers should get the results they want to see.”

The initiative is not working, he said, and has served only to “frustrate our students, frustrate our teachers, and has left a tremendous amount of students behind.”

He said he does not believe that, just because the state has accepted funds to implement the changes, Common Core can’t be repealed or revised.

“It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t or can’t go and correct or adjust or implement a better, higher standard in methods of education,” said Amedore.

He said he wants to see more local input from educators and parents, and also to craft more vocational experiences in the classroom at an early age.

“If we do not allow for a more three-dimensional learning experience, test scores will continue to go down,” said Amedore. “Our educational system is flawed and broken right now.”

As a private-business owner, Amedore said, he understands the difficulties and frustrations other business owners have being “overburdened by an over-taxing government.”

The state of New York, he said, has over 750,000 regulations for business owners to sift through.

“There is no way to grow without government incentives and programs, and the regulations just stymie growth,” said Amedore. “Businesses will just go to other states with less regulations.”

An economic climate that is supportive of the private sector and makes sure the small-business owner has the ability to keep his or her hard-earned profits needs to be developed, he said.

“The government continues to want to use businesses as its cash cows for taxes, surcharges, fines, and fees, so it can fill the budget gaps or meet spending requirements, and that needs to end,” Amedore said.

He said he would propose stronger job-training programs in local schools.

“That will help us have a strong, educated workforce that will aid in private-sector investment,” he said. “Businesses will want to partner up with educational institutions to offer mentoring and apprenticeship programs.’

As far as minimum wage, Amedore said he doesn’t like the term.

“I prefer to say living wage,” he said. “Minimum sets a low bar.”

“What we really need to do,” he said, “is put forth reforms and good public policy that will help reduce the cost of living and enable hardworking men and women to keep as much of their paycheck as they possibly can.”

Amedore said he “100 percent” supports pay equity.

“My opponent will tell you I voted against equal pay for equal work 10 times, but, what I voted against was a one-house bill that was not truly equal pay for equal work,” he said. “It was a different bill than the one put before the legislature today.”

The last bill, he said, was equal pay for similar work, and did not define what equal pay for equal work really means.

“I actually read the bill, which most legislators don’t want to do, and they tried to sneak the same bill through 10 times using different numbers,” said Amedore. “I am glad I voted against it 10 times.”

The current bill, he said, does define equal pay for equal work, and has the support of the business counsel, and endorsements from small businesses and public sector organizations.

“Finally, we have an equal-pay-for-equal-work bill that needs to be passed as soon as possible,” said Amedore.

He does not, however, support the 10th point of the Women’s Equality Agenda, which would codify Roe v. Wade into law.

“I do not support partial, late-term abortions,” he said. “They jeopardize a woman’s health and we are here to protect all New Yorkers.”

Amedore said a lot of reform is needed in the electoral process, including in campaign financing.

“Let’s lower the contribution limits, disallow lobbying and special-interest groups from donating, and disallow corporations from donating,” he said. “Those things would fix some of the problems.”

He said he also proposes reform in the reporting process and more transparency.

“My opponent ran two years ago and is running now on a campaign saying to take the money out of politics,” Amedore said. “Meanwhile, she asks for money and accepts money; if that’s not hypocrisy, I don’t know what is.”

Amedore said, if elected, he plans to be the strong leader New York needs.

“We’re hurting, we’re frustrated, and we need a strong fighter and representative, someone who is going to stand in the gap,” he said. “That is going to be me as a Senator.”

More Regional News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.