Sunday, November 27, 2022

First take on Lapper-Stec race

By Zander Frost, Chronicle Staff Writer

I regularly jog through Glens Falls and Queensbury. With my headphones in, I’m lost to the world — except I notice political lawn signs.

Lately, I’ve been struck by an abundance of Jean Lapper for State Senate signs, particularly in the Broadacres area.

They’re bigger than other signs too.

Not so many signs for the incumbent State Senator Dan Stec.

Small sample size, I know, but it did get to me to start thinking about their race.

Looking first at the stats, I saw that the redrawn 45th district is actually a bit less pro-Trump than it was in 2020.

Trump won the old district 51%-49%. Now, he would have won 50.2%-49.8%.

But then there’s the fact that Senator Stec outran Trump in 2020, defeating Kimberly Davis 57.8% to 42.1%.

Republican Senator Dan Stec

Tuesday I talked on the phone with both Ms. Lapper and Mr. Stec.

What about the district’s nearly even split between Trump and Biden?

Ms. Lapper said, “It tells me that we have very independent-minded voters, and that it is a very, you know, mixed and purple district. And I think that makes this a very competitive seat.”

“I don’t think that this race is tied to a presidential race from two years ago at all,” Senator Stec said. “No, this is about issues — and certainly the work that I’ve done.”

The new district is massive — encompassing Warren and part of Washington county, plus Essex, Clinton, Franklin, and part of St. Lawrence counties.

Talking about lawn signs

I naturally asked both candidates about the lawn signs.

Of her larger signs, Ms. Lapper said, “I’ll be frank, it was not intentional.”

She said that she looks to put her signs on lawns of supporters, not just blanket the landscape.

Mr. Stec said his sign push starts October 1. “Five weeks is plenty of time for people to have to stare at lawn signs — it’s a public service that my campaign has always done,” he joked.

He also said that I probably haven’t been around the Clinton, Franklin and St. Lawrence Counties, where he said he has a big sign presence.

“I don’t put a whole lot of stock in the sign game. But, with that said, we’re gonna win the sign war,” Mr. Stec said.

Does each candidate expect to win?

“I’m in it to win it,” said Ms. Lapper, a CPA. “I think people are looking for a change. I think they’d like to see more results than rhetoric. And I think I’m one that has the right temperament, and the knowledge and ability to work with the legislature to get our needs met.”

Senator Stec said, “I absolutely think I’m going to win this race. I’ve got a wide spectrum of support, it’s not all from the ‘right’ side of the aisle organizations. I’ve got endorsements from craft labor unions, like electrical workers and plumbers,” plus teachers and police unions.

Issues that Lapper identifies

Ms. Lapper said, “I think I have the right credentials, have been active in the community for a long time, I’ve lived here and raised my family.”

Democratic challenger Jean Lapper

She said she’s been received well travelling throughout the district. “Two years ago, we had COVID going on, I think it was harder for candidates to get out and meet voters,” she added.

What has she found? “Reproductive rights and access to health care is a huge issue,” Ms. Lapper said. “Things have changed in the last two years, we are seeing our rights being stripped on a regular basis. And people don’t like it, particularly women don’t like it.”

She said, “There’s a healthcare desert in the North Country. I was in St. Lawrence County over the weekend, listening to people talk about, this was a surprise, that they had to go to Syracuse and Burlington for their primary care, from Massena, New York.”

Ms. Lapper said as a fellow small business owner, “I want to help them with the resources that small businesses need.”

Stec faults ‘one-party rule’

Senator Stec said people “are dissatisfied with one-party rule.” He said, “We had split government until the 2018 election. And in the last four years, the state’s budget has grown under one-party rule from $173 billion to $224 billion. That’s a lot more than a 2% tax cap annual rate of growth”

He said people and businesses are leaving “because they can’t afford it.”

“The state of New York, who is smaller than each of Texas and Florida population wise, spends more than those two states combined,” he said.

Senator Stec listed among other issues he has with the state, “we’ve had dramatic changes in the criminal justice system, bail reform, HALT, parole…”

He said “We’ve had two murders this year in Plattsburgh,” a murder in Tupper Lake, an office-involved shooting in Saranac Lake, and a bank robbery in Glens Falls. “A lot of that is because there’s just fewer consequences for criminal behavior,” he said.

He said the district has affordable housing and infrastructure issues, but “you have to have a sustainable economy in order to grow infrastructure, and in order to sustain business.”

Ms. Lapper, a Democrat, saw the potential to work productively with the Democrat-controlled state government.

She said she “would work with my colleagues in the Senate, my colleagues in the Assembly, to address the problems that are here and provide some real solutions, as opposed to just talking about it, and trying to criticize the other people in the legislature and the governor.”

Does she have any disagreements with the Governor or legislature Democrats?

Ms. Lapper said, “That’s a really broad question. So I don’t think I’m going to answer that right now. There will certainly be — I don’t think you can paint the governor and the Democrats all as one person. So there will often be times when there will be differences.”

Senator Stec said he’s bullish on Republican chances in New York State in 2022. “I will be very surprised if we don’t gain at least a half a dozen seats,” he said.

“If you look at where the polls were when George Pataki beat Mario Cuomo, a week before the election, they had Mario Cuomo up double digits…there’s a very good chance for Lee Zeldin to win,” he said.

“The solution to one-party rule is not to elect more people to that party,” he said.

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