EDITORIAL: Roberts for Assembly in 107th

SOME POLITICAL ENDORSEMENTS boil down to a question of whether it’s better to throw the bums out of office or to keep the bums you’ve got, because the bums who want the incumbent bums’ jobs are a whole lot worse. That’s not the case with the people running for state and federal office in Columbia County. It seems like here we’re bum-free.
That’s true in the newly redrawn 107th Assembly District, where Republican Steve McLaughlin faces Democrat Cheryl Roberts. Both have qualities well worth trust and support, so choosing between them means you have to choose which one is likely to do the most good for the district in the next two years. The Columbia County part of the 107th District looks like a hockey stick made up of Kinderhook, Chatham and New Lebanon in the north then swinging south through Canaan, Austerlitz and Hillsdale. But this county is the tail of the dog, because the district runs north through all of Rensselaer County except for a densely settled pocket between the cities of Troy and Rensselaer. There’s also a smidgen of it up in Washington County.
Mr. McLaughlin, a former local banker, lives at the northern end of Rensselaer County and now works for a green energy company. He’s an incumbent Assemblyman finishing his first term, but with no input from him, the district he now represents will disappear at the end of this year as part of this state’s politically polluted redistricting process. He currently represents parts of the new 107th District, but in other parts they’d never heard of him before this election, which gives him less name recognition than some incumbents enjoy and puts the race on more of an even footing.
Registration figures suggest an unpredictable electorate: the largest segment of voters in the 107th fall under the heading “Blank,” which means they express no political party preference. Republicans are second, with Democrats a close third.
Mr. McLaughlin hasn’t accomplished much in his term. That’s not his fault. The way the Democrats in the Assembly treat the minority Republicans is disgraceful, possibly worse than majority Republicans in the state Senate treat their Democratic colleagues (except for the brief period two years ago when Senate Democrats got control and behaved more shamefully than anybody imagined; then their leaders were removed or hauled off to jail).
An Assembly seat offers minority Republicans an amplified soapbox and a chance to go along with the good laws adopted by the majority, but no avenue to shape legislation or affect policy. And whether anyone likes it or not, that lopsided situation is permanent, because the majority that rules comes from where the people are–the New York Metropolitan Area. To his credit, Mr. McLaughlin has spoken out against abuses of power in the Assembly, including secret payments approved by the speaker to hush up sexual abuse cases involving a powerful city Democrat.
This district needs a stronger force in the Assembly to look out for our interests, whether it’s on behalf school funding, or a fair deal for farmers or clean water, mandate relief, curbing the behavior of misguided bureaucracies or maintaining standards of conduct that don’t squander taxpayers’ money on coddling powerful creeps.
Ms. Roberts, a lawyer, lives in Austerlitz, where she served as a town justice. She has exceptional qualifications for legislative office starting with her service as a congressional staffer. She has worked across party lines on issues ranging from local to national. Her tenacity on behalf the municipalities she represents is widely acknowledged, and her extensive knowledge of the law was on display when she recently led a team of lawyers who won a case for home rule, allowing a town in central New York to stand up to pressure from the gas drilling industry.
Maybe the leadership of the Assembly thought it could ignore the outrage of the minority members like Mr. McLaughlin, passing it off as partisan sniping. But think of how Democratic power brokers will squirm if Ms. Roberts, a former judge and a strong supporter of the rights of women, has an insider’s seat at the Assembly’s majority caucus.
Voters in the 107th District have good choices for Assembly, but one stands out as a with a distinguished record, aware of what our communities need from Albany and possessing the energy, authority and experience to represent this region as it has seldom been represented before. For those reasons, vote for Cheryl Roberts for Assembly November 6.

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