Woodstocker Jeff Collins says he decided to throw his hat in the ring for the Democratic Party nod to run in 2020 against incumbent state Senator George Amedore, a Republican seeking a fourth two-year term, based on his “desire to make a difference in what’s happening in our New York legislature.” Collins first announced his candidacy on July 2 in Kingston.
He references this past year’s term, the state’s first with a clear, actionable Democratic majority, and the many long-stagnant issues that were moved forward. Things like women’s health issues, early voting and other protocols.
“But there are still more issues that need to be pushed forward,” Collins added, noting in particular the proposed New York Health Act, which would basically set up a “single payer” option for the state. “I think having more Democrats in the Senate will help move these things forward.”
The 46th Senate District that Collins has his eyes on stretches from Ulster north to Montgomery County, including nine towns in Ulster, all of Greene County, Guilderland and the “hill towns” in Albany County, all of Schenectady County excepting the city there, and all of Montgomery County. It was gerrymandered in recent decades to leave out most of the region’s large urban areas (Kingston, Amsterdam, and some of the larger suburban towns in the Capital Region are its largest now). It was last represented by a Democrat when Cecilia Tkaczyk defeated Amedore by 18 votes in 2012, after the new district had been carved out of portions of the previous 42nd, 44th, 46th and 51st state senate districts.
Collins had begun a run for the same senate seat decided last year but pulled out of a primary race when Pat Courtney Strong entered the race. He also ran for the Woodstock town board seat of the late Jay Wenk, which he lost to Reginald Earls.
Collins could have a challenger for the Democratic nod. Michelle Hinchey of Saugerties, daughter of the late Congressman Maurice Hinchey, has announced that she is exploring a run for the seat. Collins said he had no comment on her or the race between the two except to note that “We’re going to run our campaigns. We’ll leave it up to the voters.”
“It’s a very difficult district,” Collins did note. “Our approach is to base ourselves in Guilderland, in the middle of the district and one of the most important areas to win, and look at Ulster County as a place to rack up votes.”
Home health services
Collins said that his main focus, issues-wise, would be on health care, and particularly home health services.
“My personal history involves my having grown up in rural Upstate New York, outside Ithaca, where my dad had Alzheimers and my mother looked after him,” he said about the battleground between the empowering of families to care for their own, and raising the standards, pay and respect for home care professions that will become key to rural life in the coming years. “My mother and I found it hard to find professional help. She had to pay out of pocket, but there wasn’t much to choose from.”
This, Collins feels, was the result of years in which home health care has not been seen as a viable career path for people, with few chances for advancement, or even training.
“This is a very important issue given how our population is aging,” he added. “We want to make professional care, as well as the empowerment of one’s own family, accessible to families.”
As for more specific regional and county issues, Collins spoke about the need for increased broadband infrastructure in Greene, Montgomery and large parts of Ulster County, where the lack of good Internet is hindering business start-ups and the influx of new populations. He also acknowledged the numbers of towns and villages in the district with aging water systems.
“Upstate needs more prioritization in state budgets,” he said.
As for the assured Republican incumbent opponent he or Hinchey will be facing in November, 2020, Collins said he believed he was vulnerable once one started to look at how far from the mainstream George Amedore is with a number of his positions.
“He was one of four people in the senate who voted for conversion therapy. He’s also voted against reproductive rights, voter access, the child victim act,” he said. “He’s pretty extreme but it’s hard to get people focused on an incumbent’s voting records.”
As for his campaign plans, Collins said he needs “to visit people, to talk to people, person to person.”
“I have a lot of work to do,” he said. “But it’s also the best way to find out more about the district.”
As for the experience he feels he can bring to the New York State Senate and to his budding campaign, Collins stressed the fact that he grew up upstate, went to Cornell and came out into a career in the computer field that led him into entrepreneurially starting businesses that helped create “good-paying jobs” and gave him strong managerial experience. When he sold his company 19 years ago, he added, he put his profits into the starting of a school — the Hudson Valley Sudbury School outside of Woodstock — which now has 85 students enrolled, and eight “living wage jobs” that have brought new families to the area.
“Most importantly, the school has been based on a system of active democracy,” Collins added, “That gives everyone real life experience working with democracy so they can see the value of letting people know that their voice matters.”
Collins, who also serves on the Woodstock zoning board of appeals, paused before going on. “If there’s anything we learned from the 2016 elections, where more people didn’t vote than votes for either candidate,” he finally said, “It’s how important it is to understand how one’s vote can matter.”
As for the campaign ahead…
“I’m already doing four or five meetings a day,” he said. “I will go to the chicken barbecues. My car’s in good shape. I know it’s going to be a lot of work…”