Janet Duprey, the long-time assemblywoman from Peru, faces a stiff challenge from two conservatives: Plattsburgh educator Karen Bisso and Cadyville businessman David Kimmel. The race reflects deep divisions within the GOP, sparked in part by Duprey's support for same-sex marriage.
Jobs and the economy are among the top concerns for the three candidates running for New York’s 115th Assembly District. But that’s not all the candidates are talking about.
Karen Bisso said members of the Assembly put forth about 100 bills per year. She said many of those bills include unfunded mandates that are too expensive for North Country counties.
Bisso also said she’d work to protect Second Amendment rights. In an interview earlier this year, she said legislation “imposing on the lives and the liberties and personal freedoms of New Yorkers [is] making it difficult for businesses to remain here, it’s making it difficult for us to use our Second Amendment rights.” More legislation, she said, “decreases personal liberties.”
David Kimmel, meanwhile, said voters need to send someone to Albany with a sense of urgency on issues like unemployment and a sagging economy: “Without good jobs, we can’t actually sustain all of the other things that are important to people in our region. I’m running as a business owner because I know from the numbers that the level of intensity that we need is simply not there. What is at stake is our very future as a region.”
The incumbent, Janet Duprey, said she feels the state has made some big strides in the last two years. That includes the elimination of a $13.5 billion budget deficit, the passage of two on-time budgets, and a reduction of middle-income tax rates.
Duprey said she wants to continue working with local, state and federal officials, as well as businesses and organizations, to create and retain jobs.
“I’ve established an excellent bipartisan relationship with my colleagues in the Assembly, which is critical if we’re going to accomplish the goals that we need for the North Country,” she said.
Duprey said voters should elect her to another term because she has a proven record of strong constituent service. She noted that in 2010, when she faced Kimmel and Democrat Rudy Johnson, she won every election district: “I think it’s a clear indication of the widespread support I have from all parties and from voters who don’t belong to a party,” Duprey said. “I think it’s a validation of the long hours that I work, a recognition that I work on a huge variety of issues on behalf of the constituents in the district.”
But as the incumbent in this race, Duprey is clearly the main target for Kimmel and Bisso. Bisso points out that the unemployment rate in parts of the district is 11 percent. She said two prisons have closed and millions of dollars have been “wasted on land purchases.”
Kimmel says he’s the only candidate that’s articulated a clear vision for the district. His five-point plan involves expanding rural broadband, reforming state health insurance mandates, easing the burden of state mandates on local governments and improving transportation infrastructure.
“I have a plan that will work,” Kimmel said. “You certainly don’t do anything of long-term substance without a plan: here’s what I think needs to happen, here’s how I think we should get it done.”
One factor shaping this race is that Duprey has been at odds with the conservative wing of the Republican Party for several years. She’s been criticized for her support of same-sex marriage, as well as her endorsement of then-Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava over Doug Hoffman in a 2009 special election in New York’s 23rd Congressional District.
Kimmel and Bisso both identify themselves as conservative Republicans, and both said they don’t think Duprey’s stance on gay marriage resonates with the party. The Upstate New York Tea Party isn’t taking a stance on the race, but its leader, Mark Barie, said members are tracking the race and will likely vote against the incumbent.
“I suspect the majority our members will probably break for Bisso,” Barie said. “She’s been very aggressive with her campaign; she’s been to a lot of tea party events. On the other hand, David Kimmel has a lot of signs out, so it’s kind of hard to guess with any sort of accuracy. But I think that Bisso might take the plurality of our membership if I had to guess.”
Barie said Duprey’s support for same-sex marriage makes her susceptible to a protest vote, but “even conservatives who have as a primary issue the economy, things like taxes and spending and government mandates, Janet could be a better conservative than she has been in that regard,” he said. “I think Karen Bisso has touched on that a little bit as well as David Kimmel. I think that’s one of the reasons that she should be concerned.”
Thursday’s primary will be win or go home for Kimmel, while Duprey and Bisso will continue on to the general election no matter the outcome. Duprey is on the Independence Party line and Bisso is also running as a Conservative. That means Democrat Tim Carpenter could face a divided Republican Party in November.