Governor Andrew Cuomo this week called for special elections on April 24 to fill two vacant state Senate and nine vacant state Assembly seats. One of the seats will be for the 102nd Assembly District, which became empty when Pete Lopez was named a regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Per special rules, the chairs of the Republican and Democratic committees of Albany, Columbia, Delaware, Otsego, Schoharie, Ulster and Greene counties each chose a candidate in a process that began on Jan. 26. The process has resulted in Republican Town Supervisor Christopher Tague of Schoharie and Democratic Greene County Legislator Aidan O’Connor facing off on the April 24 ballot. The winner will fill the rest of Lopez’s term, which runs out at the end of 2018. A regular election for the seat, along with all state legislature seats, will be held as usual in November.
According to the state Board of Elections, there are 30,762 registered Republicans, 24,693 registered Democrats and 23,159 voters with no party affiliation registered within the 102nd District.
“I have a lot of respect for Assemblymen Lopez and how he was always out in our communities and his level of constitute services,” said O’Connor this week. “I plan on matching his energy to be everywhere and to problem solve while having the opportunity to be in the majority to pass legislation specific to Upstate New York and directing grant money to our communities”
The 29-year-old O’Connor, who has served as a county legislator in Greene since 2015, said he just began campaigning in earnest for the Assembly spot this week. The minority leader of the Greene County Legislature, O’Connor holds a seat on all of that body’s committees and currently chairs the Health Care Committee. His career in the field of emergency medical services includes serving as the EMS county coordinator and the president of Greene County Emergency Medical Systems, Inc. He has also been the advocacy coordinator for the National Association of Emergency Technicians and a flight paramedic treating patients in helicopters. This experience, he says, has put issues like the enhancement of emergency medical services and the management of the local opioid crisis at the forefront of his campaign.
“Being an EMS provider, I would support legislation to make EMS an essential service [via state Senate Bill 2770],” said O’Connor. “I would also seek opportunities for capital costs for EMS services that are transitioning from volunteer services to paid services. In addition, an increase in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements would help support EMS budgets without having to continuing to increase property tax rates. Being a paramedic who has delivered Narcan more times than I would have liked, I have had the opportunity to revive patients from overdoses but have also seen the devastating loss of life first-hand when no amount of clinical care would have reversed the disgusting effects of an overdose. On the local level our goal is to keep them alive and connect them with resources — at the state level my goal would be to support that local initiative while working on long-term fixes including in-patient service funding, policy pertaining to the amount and flow of opioids while supporting law enforcement in their fight to keep it from trafficking and sales in our communities.”
Tague, 47, who said he “grew” his Schoharie dairy farm from 25 to 75 cows between 1987 and 1993, also previously served as a foreman at the Schoharie Quarry and the superintendent of Cobleskill Quarry; he is currently the general manager of Cobleskill Stone Products Inc. Before assuming his current position as town supervisor of Schoharie in 2015, he became the vice chair of the county’s Republican Committee, and advanced to the chairmanship last year. After his home was completely destroyed in 2011 during hurricanes Irene and Lee, Tague said his dedication to his community led him to rebuild his home rather than relocate. Tague said he’s been interested in the seat since Lopez stepped down last year; he said he began campaigning for the seat two days after it was vacated and contacted all 316 Republican committee people in the district after the county chairs began special election process “around Dec. 6.” According to Tague, he won unanimously in Otsego, Greene, Columbia, Ulster, Delaware and Schoharie counties.
“Pete and I have been very close friends since childhood. I ran a number of his county clerk campaigns and I’ve been an advisor to him every since he was elected assemblyman. I think that people on both sides of the aisle can say that Lopez was an effective assemblyman. I feel that I’m a part of that, and I’m in a position in my life where I’d like to give back. My experience, in the private sector and in government, will bode well for the people in the district. This is a constituency based position in the Assembly. If you think you’re going to go up to Albany and write all kinds of legislation [you’d be disappointed],” said Tague. “The issues are at home, and we need a constituency-based assemblyman that can support them with their problems. I’ve been successful in my life to where I can give back. I’ve been working since I was 12 years old collecting a paycheck. I was a dairy farmer when I was 16 years old. I sold out in 1993 to work with my present employer, I was a laborer and I worked up to manager. From 2005 to the present, I dedicated a lot of my time here to the health and safety of my employees and environmental concerns.”