DELMAR — Chris Davis and Jesse Calhoun, Republican-endorsed challengers to New York State Senator Neil Breslin (D-44) and Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy (D-109), respectively, held a joint fundraiser at Swifty’s in Delmar recently, where they spoke of the failings of the current political field and a need for change.
Davis, a 32-year-old epidemiologist who works for Health Research Incorporated, a close affiliate of the New York State Department of Health, is running against Breslin. He and his wife, Tiffany, reside in Cohoes with their three children.
Calhoun, a 35-year-old preschool teacher at Children’s Place, is running against incumbent Fahy. He resides in Albany near Albany Medical Center.
“I never thought in a million years I would run for office, at any level,” Breslin challenger Christopher Davis told Spotlight several days later. “But I have lived in this district my entire life, and you talk to anyone—democrat, republican or independent—and its almost universally accepted the district has gotten far worse in the last 20 years. But yet we keep the same people in office and wonder why things only get worse. Look around. [Breslin] has been in office 20 years but the quality of life in our district has gone downhill for so many.
“The fact is,” said Davis, “that underemployment is rampant; crime is high; drug abuse is rampant; too many rely on government assistance; the middle class is being wiped out; starting and running a business is harder than ever; taxes are sky high; quality of government service has declined and countless individuals and businesses have left the area; the roads are literally crumbling; our waterlines are rusting and falling apart; and corruption is out of control. Now legislators want a 47 percent pay hike. For what? Bankrupting us? As a father, I look at my children and realize my generation is at risk of leaving them a world that is worse off than the one we inherited. That has never happened in American history.”
Davis was inspired to run, he said, by a passage from the Declaration of Independence: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
“What this means,” he said, “is that those who have the potential ability to do something have the responsibility to do something.” Davis went on to say that his campaign is about three key things: destroying corruption; passage of the child victims act; and investments in infrastructure and small business.
“I will have the most transparent seat in state senate history,” he said. “I will have an open door policy to constituents, personally responding to every inquiry and doing something no other legislator in the state does: explaining every single vote I make and why on my Facebook page. The way I see it, if you put your faith in me to represent you, then you deserve to know what I am doing so you can hold me accountable.”
Pointing out that Breslin has opposed the Child Victim’s Act, “year after year,” Davis said that “New York state is far behind other states that have taken action to protect children and to expose predators. The act will eliminate the statute of limitations on child sex abuse in civil and criminal courts. For once, we truly have a need for the justice system to protect our citizens and a need for our government to act. While the legislature and my opponent have refused to act over the last decade, one million children have been sexually abused in one form or another in the state. I will not stand for this and it is a huge part of my campaign.”
Davis also hit Breslin on district funding, which he called “a total failure,” and saying, “I want to fight for massive investment into our bridges, which are the most unsafe in the nation, our roads, our water systems and our schools. At the same time I want to invest in you. This starts by encouraging entrepreneurism by improving the climate for small businesses, which employ half of New Yorkers.” Davis said that he would propose tax cuts for small businesses, as well as reduce state energy bills by going after unnecessary (and often unnoticed) government delivery fees.
“This election is pretty simple,” said Davis. “If you are happy with the way things are, happy with what you get for your taxes, happy with politician after politician getting caught in pay for play schemes and taking money from real estate developers and putting their family members in no show, no work appointed jobs that you pay for—then vote the way you have been for 20 years and don’t complain the next time you read about old school corruption in the senate—or the time after that or the time after that—while your taxes go up and the area crumbles. But if you are unhappy with the sleaze and corruption and theft of your taxes, then you have to vote for something different, vote for change.”
“My campaign is less about opposing Fahy than it is about getting my own message out there,” said state Assembly hopeful Jesse Calhoun, whose band, The Ameros, played the Aug. 8 event at Swifty’s. “I really think that people need to be thinking about each issue individually and start taking a more common sense approach to things.”
Education reform, he said, is a key component to his platform–including the repeal of common core testing in New York schools. As an educator of young children at a local preschool, he said that he has concerns about the centralization of education planning. “There are all these government officials who are trying to dictate what’s coming down to educators and I think local educators should have more power.” The statewide tests, he said, have become a tool used to punish educators rather than to evaluate and improve educational standards. As a result, he said the state is facing a shortage of quality teachers, a trend he expects will likely continue.
Generally speaking, Calhoun said that he would prefer to see less regulation of New Yorkers—with a few key exceptions. He would work to amend the SAFE Act to loosen restrictions on the purchase of firearms and decriminalize illegal drugs, making drug laws “less punitive and more rehabilitative.” When it comes to environmental toxins and genetically modified foods, however, he favors more regulation. “For me, it’s really about toxic chemicals and our cumulative exposure from all kinds of different sources in our environment. I think it’s a major issue and there’s a heavy correlation to early childhood learning disabilities and things that are going to cause the system to have a huge problem when there’s an increase in all of these things.” He said that he would prefer to see more stringent water testing standards and to ensure that food labeling accurately reflects the contents. “The freer, the better,” said Calhoun, who clearly believes that being informed is essential to personal freedom. “Put whatever you want in your body, it’s yours. But you have the right to make informed choices.”
“I used to be super pro-Clinton,” he said with a rueful smile. “I was all about Bill Clinton back in the day, but then I started to see the evils of big government and all these things that the government had done. I read Bastiat’s “The Law” after following Ron Paul’s campaign back in 2012, and that’s really kind of a foundational book for me. He was an 1850s French statesman and philosopher who called out slavery at the time of America’s founding and all these other things that violated the concept of liberty—this guy had it all down way back in the day. It’s definitely shaped the way I think about things.”
Claude-Frédéric Bastiat, who was vehemently against redistribution, believed that everyone has a right to protect “his person, his liberty, and his property” and that government should be only a “substitution of a common force for individual forces” to defend that right. He cautioned that, if governmental powers extend further, into welfare-like endeavors, government becomes so limitless that it can grow endlessly. The result, he believed, would be a public shaped and controlled by its lawmakers.
Calhoun, referring to Gov. Andrew Cuomo as “basically a tyrant,” said that New York “has become the epitome of the nanny state, wanting to control every little bit of people’s lives and dictate what they can do. I’m fighting from inside to try to just loosen it a little bit.”
While he still identifies primarily as a Libertarian, Calhoun said that doesn’t necessarily believe in the Libertarian ideal of full privatization of things like natural resources. “I’m still open, mentally, to situations where that won’t work,” he said. “And with things like housing issues: there are all these vacant houses and all these homeless people and, to me, I’m not sure what’s going on there, but it seems like there should be a way. I read this great article in the Huffington Post, I think, about this Republican mayor who basically went around asking homeless people what they needed and then he gave them work–above minimum wage work–beautifying the city, and helped them to get on their feet. And, to me, that doesn’t sound so bad.”
“We’ve lost the ability to have a conversation and look at each issue and decide the best thing to do,” Calhoun said finally. “We need to be able to talk about things without trying to score political points.”