In the contest for New York’s 46th Senate District, incumbent Republican George Amedore Jr. of Rotterdam faces a challenge from first-time candidate Democrat Pat Courtney Strong of Kingston.
The district stretches from the Montgomery County town of St. Johnsville on the north to southern Ulster County — Woodstock, Saugerties, Hurley, the Town of Ulster, the City of Kingston, Esopus and Lloyd — and the outskirts of Poughkeepsie in Dutchess County. The district also encompasses the suburbs west of Albany and most of Greene County. Democrats hold an enrollment advantage in the district with 64,335 compared to 52,345 registered Republicans. Conservative party members account for 6,129 residents of the district; 50,137 are not enrolled in a party.
Amedore, 49, represented the northern portion of the district in the state Assembly from 2007 to 2012. He runs a successful home construction business. He gave up his Assembly seat in 2012 to run for the newly drawn 46th Senate District. He lost that race to political newcomer Cecilia Tkaczyk. He came back two years later to unseat Tkaczyk and in 2016 fended off a challenge from Sara Niccoli. In the Senate, Amedore serves on the body’s Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee. He also co-chairs the Senate’s Task Force on Heroin and serves on the Innovation and Technology Task Force.
Amedore said he’s running on his record, including increased school aid, property tax rebates, bringing infrastructure investments to the district and securing funding for research and treatment of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. In a year when the Senate’s Independent Democratic Caucus — a breakaway group of seven Democrats who have caucused with Republicans and blocked some of Democrats’ most progressive legislation — was virtually vaporized on primary night, Amedore is also positioning himself as a critical bulwark against a total Democratic takeover of state government.
“We have a majority, we will continue to have a majority,” said Amedore. “And we will continue to be a balance against an ultra-radical, pro-New York City anti-Upstate agenda.”
Strong, 63, moved to Kingston in 1983 and worked as a business journalist at the Daily Freeman and Poughkeepsie Journal where she specialized in writing about environmental issues. That led to a consulting job with the U.S. Department of Energy and a contracted position with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Over the years, Strong said, she had been heavily involved in Democratic Party politics and volunteered on a number of campaigns. But, she said, she did not consider running for public office until more recently.
“I didn’t see myself as a candidate until the last couple of years when the world changed, as it did for many of us, with the election of Trump,” said Strong.
Strong said she chose to take on Amedore based on his record. He voted against New York’s same-sex marriage law, a bill that would cement New York women’s access to legal abortion in state law and a package of gun-control legislation that included a provision to bar domestic abusers from owning firearms. Amedore said he voted against the gun-control bill because the issue is already covered in federal law and he saw the effort as a way to push through more anti-gun legislation to advance Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s national ambitions. The abortion bill, Amedore said, was an “extreme radical and dangerous proposal” that could pave the way for abortions performed by non-doctors and on fetuses in utero up to nine months.
While Amedore senses a threat in a potential Democratic takeover of the Senate, Strong spoke of opportunities in a body where Democrats have long felt frustrated by their inability to move progressive legislation. Strong said the demise of the Independent Democratic Caucus opened the door for a host of reforms sought by progressives.
“It’s going to usher in a period of real progress,” said Strong of the 2019 legislative session. “So many good bills have been stopped at the door of the state Senate because Republicans wouldn’t consider it.”
Among the issues that could come into play next year is legalization of marijuana. Strong and many of her fellow Democrats support legalization. She said it was a matter of both justice and potential revenue. Amedore said that while he strongly supports medical marijuana, the use of non-intoxicating CBD oil for health purposes and the cultivation of hemp fiber, he draws the line at legalized recreational marijuana.
“Marijuana with THC is a gateway drug and we are spending millions of dollars to combat addiction and the opioid crisis,” said Amedore. “You have professionals in the medical field, in the law enforcement field who will tell you that marijuana is a dangerous drug.”
With two former legislative leaders, ex-Assembly speaker and Democrat Sheldon Silver and ex-Senate minority leader Republican Dean Skelos, and a former top aide to Cuomo headed to prison on corruption charges, ethics is likely to be on the agenda when lawmakers reconvene next year. Amedore said that he supported a law that would require state employees convicted of corruption to forfeit their pensions. But he opposes limits on lawmakers outside income — something good government advocates say would help end pay-to-play practices by cutting off a conduit for outside interests to funnel money to pliant lawmakers.
“Limits on outside income are not going to bring ethical behavior at all. That doesn’t make sense to me,” said Amedore.
Strong said she supports closing a loophole that allows limited liability corporations to donate to state campaigns without reporting it. Strong said that she would also support some limits on outside income — for example on legal fees paid to lawmakers retained “of counsel” by law firms that do business with the state.
“Right now we have a system that permits misbehavior,” said Strong.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. Polls open at 6 a.m. and will remain open until 9 p.m. Look up your polling place here.