With no Democratic or third-party candidate running for the 115th Assembly District, the Republican primary between four-term incumbent Assemblywoman Janet Duprey and challenger Karen Bisso will likely determine who is the next representative for the seat.
Duprey has the Independence Party nod, and Bisso has the Conservative Party line, which means a general election can still be viable no matter who wins the primary on Sept. 9.
There are some stark policy differences between the two women.
Duprey, from Peru, supports abortion rights and also voted in favor of gay marriage. She has served in the assembly for eight years and is the ranking Republican member on the Government Operations Committee.
Bisso, a special education teacher from Plattsburgh, is opposed to abortion and gay marriage. She was a challenger for the seat in 2012 and received 21 percent of the vote against Duprey and Democrat Tim Carpenter of Plattsburgh who received 26 percent. Duprey easily won re-election with 53 percent of the vote.
Why are you running for office?
Duprey said the reason is because she enjoys the work.
“I really like the job,” Duprey said. “To me, the very best part of the job is what I do here in the district. It’s being able to help individual people with the problems they have.”
Bisso said she made a promise to voters.
“Two years ago, I made a promise to the people of the North Country to stick it out and represent them,” Bisso said.
Both candidates oppose the Common Core education standards. Bisso wants to repeal it, and Duprey said it’s a work in progress.
Bisso said Common Core was implemented to “privatize and nationalize” the education system.
“I think the civil rights of our children are under attack with Common Core,” Bisso said. “I think they are being denied a good education. We need to stand up and say that New York is not going to participate.”
Duprey is not opposed to education standards, but “we went too far, too soon,” with Common Core. She said there were two recent positive changes in the law: not requiring students in kindergarten through second grade to take standardized tests and not allowing student data to be shared with private corporations.
“We’ve made some changes, but we still have a way to go,” Duprey said.
Duprey wants to see more alterations to Common Core in the future.
“I think there are going to be some new regulations developed, and I hope what we accomplish is the administrators and teachers will be at the table,” Duprey said. “It shouldn’t be these corporations like McGraw Hill and Bill Gates running it like a business.”
Bisso criticized her opponent for being “weak” on opposing Common Core and the SAFE Act, a gun control bill that tightened restrictions on assault weapons and bullet magazine limits.
“I believe she takes the perspective of sitting in the office to try to solve these problems instead of being out there,” Bisso said. “I would have preferred her to be stronger on the issues, to fight for full repeal in the beginning. These have been my two issues for a couple of years and have now showed up on her radar screen.”
Duprey pointed out that Republicans are outnumbered in the Assembly by a large margin and that repealing Common Core and the SAFE Act is unlikely. Duprey has co-sponsored legislation to repeal and amend parts of the SAFE Act.
“Certainly we are not going to take the majority,” Duprey said. “We’d love it, but it’s not going to happen.
“They are not going to repeal the SAFE Act; it’s not going to happen,” she continued. “The same thing with Common Core. My opponent in the past has accused me of being too bipartisan.”
Duprey said it’s important to “build relationships.” She has become “good friends” with some Democrats, and this personal friendship has allowed her to influence their positions and bring about changes, she said.
“By doing that, I believe I’ve been able to get some amendments through, because they listen to me,” Duprey said.
Bisso said she would push for cutting Medicaid, to bring the amount the state spends on the entitlement down to federal standards, and focus on Electronic Benefit Transfer card reform.
Duprey said tax cuts are a challenge, but she said this year the state did reduce taxes for corporations and eliminated taxes for upstate manufacturers. The state also reduced the estate tax threshold, meaning fewer farmers will pay the tax on property inherited from their parents.
Duprey said two of her priorities are Common Core and mental health.
“The Cuomo administration is closing mental health facilities,” Duprey said. “The program is to send mentally ill people back to their communities. There is some validity to that, but only if the money follows.”
Bisso said she wants to fix the child support system, which in her opinion persecutes men.
“I have heard everywhere I’ve been, story after story after story, of families being destroyed by statutes that are supposed to protect them,” Bisso said. “What is happening to men as a result of this system in New York is absolutely criminal.”
She suggested lowering the age a parent must pay child support for their children from 21 to 18.
Both candidates support some form of term limits.
Bisso said there should be term limits of 10 to 12 years for an Assembly member or state senator.
Duprey said there should only be term limits on committee and leadership positions, because there is much power to be gained if someone sits in a position for too long.