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Democrat Rudy Johnson from Malone (Photo:  Johnson campaign)
Democrat Rudy Johnson from Malone (Photo: Johnson campaign)

Upset brewing in Assembly race?

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This is expected to be a big year for Republicans. But Democrats appear to have a very real shot at capturing the 114th Assembly seat that represents Clinton and Franklin counties.

The district has been a GOP stronghold for generations. But this year, Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, a Republican, is locked in a bitter contest with Conservative candidate David Kimmel.

Their divisive battle could leave an opening for Democrat Rudy Johnston.

All three candidates held a debate last night in Saranac Lake. Brian Mann was there and has our story.

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GOP incumbent Janet Duprey and Conservative candidate David Kimmel

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Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

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In a very real way, this campaign is another aftershock of last year’s civil war in the congressional race that pitted moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava against Conservative Doug Hoffman.

Assemblywoman Janet Duprey from Peru infuriated many conservative Republicans when she backed Scozzafava – and when she publicly embraced Scozzafava’s view that gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry.

It was a position she held to during last night’s debate.

"I believe that all people are equal," Duprey said. "I have supported civil rights all my life and continue to do so."

Legalizing gay marriage could well be the one of the most divisive issues that the state legislature takes up in the next session.

David Kimmel, a small business owner from Cadyville and the Conservative Party candidate, sees this very differently. 

He insists that full marriage rights should only be extended to heterosexual couples.

"Traditionally, marriage has been between a man and a woman, and I've been very clear that that's my position," Kimmel said.

Rudy Johnson, the Democrat in this race, is a retired cooperative extension agent from Malone. 

He’s also African American and cited his own experience with prejudice in supporting the idea of gay marriage.

"I went to North Carolina...in the 1960s, when I first saw colored waiting rooms and white waiting rooms.  I coudn't go into certain establishments because of my color," he said.  

"I've lived civil rights first hand.  Denying same-sex couples the right that all other married couples have is a basic denial of their civil rights."

The issue of gay rights also surfaced during a discussion of Carl Paladino, the controversial candidate for governor, whose running on the Republican and Conservative lines.

Paladino sparked a political firestorm last week when he blasted gays and lesbians during a visit to a New York City synagogue.

Speaking last night, Assemblywoman Duprey blasted Paladino.

"I listened to his early comments and as a woman, as a mother, as a grandmother, I have never been more offended by anyone running for elective office," she said.  

Here again, Conservative candidate David Kimmel differed sharply – describing Paladino as “rough around the edges” but a good man.

 "He wants to cut taxes, he wants to cut the size of government, and those are things I can work with," Kimmel argued.

The Democrat, Rudy Johnson, says he’s a strong backer of the Andrew Cuomo. 

Johnson is a newcomer to politics.  He acknowledged after the debate that he’s hoping that Duprey and Kimmel will divide and split Republican and Conservative voters, giving him a chance for an upset win.

"Course we picked and chose this time specifically, looking at that as an advantage," he said.

Duprey and Kimmel say they think a Democratic win remains unlikely, with both claiming to have enough support to win outright.

Sitting in the audience for last night’s debate was Doug Hoffman himself, making his first appearance at a political event since he dropped out of the 23rd district House race.

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