GUILDERLAND — Sara Niccoli has announced her bid to unseat Republican George Amedore from State Senate.
Niccoli is a Democrat, farmer and supervisor of the Town of Palentine in Montgomery County. Locally, she is known for her advocacy work as director of the Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, where her efforts have been to raise minimum wage to $15.
She will run against Sen. George Amedore — who was elected two years ago – to represent New York’s 46th district, which encompasses all of Montgomery and Greene Counties and portions of Schenectady, Ulster and Albany Counties (including the towns of Guilderland and New Scotland).
“The main issues for me are education — meaning full and fair funding of schools — ending corruption in Albany, creating good jobs with good benefits for 46th District and relieving property taxes,” said Niccoli. Endorsements have already been garnered from U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko and Sen. Neil Breslin (Bethlehem’s state senator) for her bid.
Niccoli grew up in Albany, and knows the area well from her travels across the state with the Labor-Religion Coalition. In the Guilderland area, Niccoli said she has heard a lot of concern about testing and common core issues, as well as school funding and the need to fully eliminate the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) and issues of property taxes and housing costs.
In response to his challenger, Amedore released this statement: “With less than two weeks to go until the state budget deadline, I am focused on making New York a more affordable place to live and work, as well as ensuring the 46th district gets its fair share of resources to properly fund our schools, invest in our crumbling infrastructure, and create jobs and economic opportunity within every community,” said the senator.
“Election season is still a long way off and with so many important issues before the Legislature, I will continue to concentrate on best representing the residents of the 46th Senate district, not on politics.”
Amedore was elected to his current position after serving two elected terms on New York state Assembly. He then ran in 2012 for State Senate, lost narrowly to Democrat Cecilia Tkacyk, then defeated her in 2014. Democrats this year are hoping that a large voter turnout in this election – a presidential election — will lead to many Republicans being ousted from their seats, including in the 46th District.
“In 2014, Democrats lost the district during an off-cycle election. Now that we’re on a presidential cycle again, we know it’s very much winnable,” explained Niccoli. “We’re organizing and campaigning early, and we anticipate significant voter turnout this fall, which will play to democratic advantage.”
According to the most recent reports, Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 8,600 voters in the 46th District. About 290,000 people live in the oblong-shaped district. It would take about two and a half hours to drive from tip to tip.
“And this is really the result of gerrymandering. There is really no reason why a district should be shaped so that you have such a distance between communities,” said Niccoli. “It was in 2012 that a new district was created to maintain Republican majority is New York state because New York state is going blue, so they really had to get creative to carve out Republican districts,” she said. “That district was created to be handed over to George Amedore, then ended being run by [Democrat] CeCe Tkaczyk,” before Amedore was elected to the position in the 2014 election.
Niccoli herself lives in a rural area, yet, as the district she would be responsible for is so large, each area has very different needs.
“You have small towns — really small — of 1,000 to 1,500 people from Montgomery down to Ulster. For the last several months, I’ve been down in those areas asking what their challenges are. …In Montgomery County it’s all about jobs and lack of access to jobs with good benefits. In places like Greene County in the Catskills, they have had an incredibly devastating winter because the snow didn’t come, so it’s really taking a toll on their local economy because it is based on the winter ski season. We really need to figure out a way to bring in recreation activities for all four seasons and bring that economy back,” she said.
Other areas face issues similar to those faced in her town, such as income tax burden. “As town supervisor in Palentine in Montgomery County, I see these issues every day,” said the candidate. “Residents being pushed out of town and off their property and farms because of burden of property tax, and the root of the problem is unfunded mandates carried by municipalities, which are created at the state level. Those unfunded mandates create an impossible catch 22 for municipalities. We need a quality education, we need a strong safety net; but when we are relying so heavily on property taxes to fund those things, it all begins to fall apart. The costs of unfunded mandates have risen significantly above what they were 20 or 30 years ago.”
Niccoli also said she would not have voted against the women’s right to choose with no exception, as Amedore did, and she would not have voted to extend the common core, as Amedore did, thereby giving millions of dollars to New York City charter schools. Niccoli has also accused Amedore of using his legislature title and salary to bolster his real estate career and financing his campaigns with the same money at the heart of recent corruption scandals involving former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
“I’m committed to ending corruption in Albany, where the state legislators are more likely to go to prison than be voted out,” said Niccoli. “I’m in support of ethics reform and proposals limitng income to $70,000 for legislators. It makes sense, ensures that legislators are making decisions based on their constituents, not on income.
“It’s about education, relieving property tax burden, creating good jobs with benefits which come when we make sure that the economic development subsidies, which New York gives to businesses every year to the tune of $9 billion, and making sure they are truly creating new jobs long term jobs and hiring local workers right now. We don’t have enough penalties and requirements for business to actually fulfill obligations to create jobs.”
To learn more about Niccoli and her views or to learn more on Sen. Amedore, visit sarakniccoli.nationbuilder.com or nysenate.gov/senators.