Two Republican candidates are fighting to represent a narrow band of villages and towns through seven counties in the 101st Assembly District. Our Andrew Sorensen explains the issues behind a tough primary in a bizarre district.
UTICA, N.Y. -- Fields in Otsego County near Middlefield look peaceful enough, but the political battle raging there is anything but peaceful. At first, the candidates for the 101st Assembly seat, incumbent Claudia Tenney and challenger Brian Maher, sound nearly identical.
"You're going to see a lot of small business owners and those people are being crushed by high taxes, burdensome regulation, inflationary costs of everything in New York, it's so expensive," Tenney said, explaining her platform on Friday.
"The biggest issue in the state is jobs and the economy, we need more jobs and the economy is in a stalemate right now. There's too much taxes and burdensome regulations on businesses," said Maher.
They also agree on second amendment rights, and cutting the budget, despite both questioning the stances of their opponent. The district's map makes it even more difficult to distinguish themselves. Tenney, from New Hartford on the north side of the district, and Maher, from Walden on the south side, have had to face the near impossible task of appealing to voters over a sliver of land stretching over seven counties. There is no main thoroughfare, which means that the candidates are stuck commuting on county highways that wind and wind, and never actually stay inside the district.
"You travel on route 5 or 5S and then 28, and the go around Route 10 and down into Downsville and pick up 17 and cut over," Tenney explained.
"We really have been hitting a lot of doors, meeting people face to face and we believe that will be the difference in this election," added Maher.
Where the two really differ is their experience, how they'll approach the job and how they feel about each other. Tenney is a career lawyer and business-woman who has sponsored numerous bills, many of which have been stuck in committee.
"I've been unafraid to stand up to the status quo on either side, whether it's the Democrats or the Republicans," Tenney said.
Maher is young at 27, but he's already gained the support of Orange County Republicans as mayor of the village of Walden. He says he would be more willing to compromise to get things done.
"I know that I can work with people from both sides of the aisle, and I think that is the most important thing when getting any issue accomplished in the State Assembly," said Maher.
Tenney says she'll use her second term to take care of unfinished business on long-term projects, while Maher says he'll make a real difference with a diplomatic and honest approach. But, the candidate who gets that chance will be up to the voters in Thursday's primary and those who turn up in November.
You can view Tenney's site here and Maher's site here.