Stec vs. Lapper for senator in 45th

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Watch the unedited interviews with each candidate on NYVT-TV here: Jean Lapper and Dan Stec

This week the Granville Sentinel and the Whitehall Times highlight the 45th Senate District race between Republican incumbent Dan Stec and Democrat Jean Lapper.

NYVT Media’s editorial board sat down with both candidates separately with a list of nearly identical questions on many issues that are prominent in the district. Here are their answers.

Dan Stec

On the economy, the incumbent State Senator says the problems are for the most part created by the federal government. He ties a lot of it to President Joe Biden claiming he made significant changes to the country’s energy policies, changes he feels have proven to be detrimental. Stec pointed out he believes the country was energy efficient when the president took office, but now we are not. The result is that our economy, which is energy-driven, is seeing inflation at a 40-year high, particularly because of rising energy prices.

As to New York State’s troubles, he pointed to the size of the state’s budget, which he says now at $222 billion is up 25 % since 2018. He also noted it is larger than the budgets of Texas and Florida combined, two states that are also larger than New York in population. He told the editorial board it is time to effect policy change.

Stec said the state’s job market is also a major drawback in the state. Businesses are struggling to find employees. As a result of Covid-19 lockdowns and resulting extensions of unemployment benefits, he feels many people have become content to stay at home and no longer be part of the work force. He feels in part, we incentivized that by throwing money at the problem. The Senator also feels the state’s unemployment figures are not a true representation of the people out of work. One reason, those who have exhausted their benefits are no longer counted, along with those who choose no longer to work.

Roe v. Wade

“It is certainly an issue.” That was Stec’s reply when asked if the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision reversing Roe versus Wade, giving each individual state the right to make its own laws on abortion, has become a hot topic in this year’s elections. He, as have other Republicans, point out that in New York State, it is “settled law.” Abortion is a legal medical option, and he does not see that changing in New York anytime soon. Asked about his view on abortion the Senator said he is pro-life, but does agree there should be exceptions for rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother.

Crime and gun control

It was on this issue that Senator Stec came down hard on the Governor and the Democrats who control both houses of the state legislature. He said that since the 2018 elections the Democrats have been acting on “their pent-up desire to tinker with criminal justice.” This includes their vision of what is legal and what is not, the constant drumbeat and rhetoric about defunding the police, gun control and cashless bail which he described as a disaster. He pointed to ever-increasing violence, including in the 45th Senate District, where he says there have been two murders in Plattsburgh, as well a one each in Tupper Lake and Malone. He claimed bail reform is a major part of the problem, allowing perpetrators back onto the streets hours after their arrests and in some cases to offend again. He also pointed to increased violence in the state’s prisons.

Stec said he understands some of the reasoning for bail reform and agrees that a person of lesser means should not be jailed while a those with greater financial means can bail out for the same exact crime. He blamed then Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Democratic Legislature for not including members of law enforcement, district attorneys and the courts themselves in the discussion. He feels if they had done so, they would have been rewarded with important insight from a politically diverse group of criminal experts. He believes it might be necessary to tear down the law and start again with the appropriate input, and with an eye toward greater judicial discretion.

How to stop the increase in violence? Stec said the Democrats’ attitude “seems to be we can fix crime by increasing gun control. The problem is criminals are not interested in following the law.” He added “if you are willing to commit a violent crime, that last thing you are worried about is a gun law violation.” The Senator said the “idea of watering down the rights of law-abiding people and their ability to protect themselves makes no sense and is not supported by data.” He claimed “people are furious that we keep going back to more gun control when what we should be focusing on is cracking down of criminals. Disrespecting the gun owner is not the way to fix our crime problem.” In particular, he spoke of the recent changes to the state’s concealed carry law. He called it “an act of defiance by the governor to a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that portions of the state’s century-old concealed carry law were unconstitutional.”

Population loss

New York is one of the leading states in population loss with 300,000 having left the state in recent years. Stec said times have changed, and over the years New York has been less and less competitive. Many jobs that used to be brick-and-mortar-based have gone remote. He claims New York’s tax rate, crime policies and anti-business climate are driving them out. “People are voting with their feet and their wallets and choosing to move to other states such as Tennessee and South Carolina where they feel more welcome.” He also claimed statements by Gov. Cuomo and Gov. Hochul that if you are a conservative you should move out of New York, certainly do not help.

Whitehall woes

The Village of Whitehall is located in the 45th Senate District and has concerns that need to be addressed. One such worry is infrastructure and in particular an aging water system. There have been many water main breaks of late with some estimates to repair or replace the system running $100 million, a staggering figure for water district residents to comprehend. The Senator pointed to some grants that are available, but said the state funding for these is inadequate, and many localities are denied. He pointed again to the state budget, where he feels funding should be reallocated to water and waste-water concerns.

Whitehall is being labeled by some as a health care desert. Hudson Headwaters has established a number of programs in the village, as has Glens Falls Hospital, but the wait time to be seen can run many weeks. The Senator said health care in rural areas is becoming very challenging. As the economy tightens, the purse strings and the lack of employees creates a difficult staffing issue, and the rural areas are always the first to feel the pain of the pullback. He understands those affected are going to be upset and resist but the answers to the problem are not easy; they are, in fact, very challenging.

Environmental bond issue

There is a $4.2 billion bond issue on this year’s ballot. One thing Stec likes about this is that is not a debt occurred by the legislature, but if approved agreed to by the voters of the state. He feels the proposal has many inefficient priorities such as publicly open space and green energy. He feels more needs to go for water and wastewater solutions.

As to going electric, he feels the state has set an ambitious timeline especially when all the required technology does not yet exist. Governor Hochul’s order that all new vehicles need to be electric by 2032, has raised a number of concerns about availability of power and cost.

Jean Lapper

The Queensbury resident says she is running for the State Senate because she believes “our rights and opportunities are under attack.” Now is the time to jump into the race and get involved.

Economics

Ms. Lapper says she sees the economic hardships every day in the face of her clients. She owns her own CPA business. Another part of the economic puzzle is the big challenge to find workers, so production is an issue as well. She noted that economic policy is made at the federal level, not the state. She did, however, elaborate that she feels a good job is the best insurance against inflation. “When people have good-paying jobs and proper benefits, that is the best way to work against inflation.”

The ‘red wave

Asked by the editorial board if she sees a red wave of Republican and conservative wins coming this November, Lapper said not locally. She said as she speaks with people they are focused more on the message than the politics. In these conversations she said she highlights her priorities, including reproductive rights and health, the environment, helping small businesses and broadband coverage for the very rural or remote communities. She said this is what is resonating with the people. She added “there are a lot of independent-minded voters who are really in the middle and want to make sure their needs are addressed.” Lapper also said she had met a significant number of women “who feel their rights are being taken away from them.”

Since during this interview she frequently pointed to reproductive rights, the editorial board asked her if she thinks the recent Roe versus Wade repeal by the U.S. Supreme Court is re-energizing the Democratic Party. She answered yes, particularly with women in their reproductive years and added it is also re-energizing men who love women in their child-bearing years. Said the Senate candidate: “it’s not just about abortion, it’s not just about contraceptives, it’s about it all.” She labeled the issue “not an abstract idea, not an abstract Supreme Court decision, it’s about real life, it’s about real life for women.”

Guns and crime

Lapper called the current increase in crime very complex. She said coming out of Covid-19 one cannot underestimate the impact it had on our health care system and the stress on the economy and the mental effects felt by many. This she said has raised stress levels that has created more crime.

The questioning then turned to gun control. Lapper claimed that prior to the recent spike in criminal activity New York State was considered one of the lowest states in the nation for gun-related violence. “It’s important to keep everyday people safe while preserving the 2nd Amendment, the right to bear arms.” Locally, Lapper says “we are not seeing an increase in crime in our area.” It’s a complex issue.

The candidate was asked if the recent changes to New York’s Conceal Carry law, made after the Supreme Court ruled portions of that century-old law were unconstitutional, was simply a kneejerk reaction by Gov. Hochul. Lapper said we had just experienced two more mass shootings in the country and the Governor’s effort was to keep people safe. She said people complain when the government is too slow to actand also when they believe it acts too fast, not doing their homework. She admitted there need to be some corrections to the law, particularly as it applies to the Adirondacks and historic re-enactments. The impetus of the law was to get illegal guns off the street and not punish legal gun owners who are not out committing crimes.

As to bail reform, Lapper agreed the law is flawed and needs correction. However, she said the purpose of bail in the first place was to keep criminals off the streets. “What has happened is that bail has become a way to punish poor people. It is not relevant to the crime but relevant to your financial abilities.” We need to give discretion back to the judges to ensure the public is safe. How to do this? Bring all the stakeholders in and come up with a reasonable law that make sense.

As to the police, Lapper said she clearly supports law enforcement. “I want them to be safe and to keep me safe. I do not want to undermine their job. Unfortunately, we are pitting law enforcement against our citizenry.”

Population loss

Lapper said one of the ways to counter this is to pass the Environmental Bond Act. She says it will increase green jobs which will in turn boost the economy. It also combats climate change which she labels as important to the next generation. She feels New York can be a leader in this area. Lapper would also like to see the creation of more good-paying jobs with benefits to entice people to move to New York.

Whitehall concerns

The candidate was asked about Gov. Hochul’s decree that New York State become an electric state, and in particular about concerns expressed in the Whitehall School District about electric buses and their associated costs. The state’s plan calls for the installation of charging stations and solar panels to power these buses, something district residents have expressed a concern about as to the added cost. Lapper indicated there is state money available through the Environmental Bond Act to help defray these costs.

As to health care and its availability in Whitehall, she said it is essential we address the problem of rural healthcare, perhaps by funding more clinics and programs such as those currently provided by Hudson Headwaters and Glen Falls Hospital.

Other issues

Candidate Lapper said there is a lack of affordable housing in the district. She is not speaking about low-income housing, but housing for professionals, trade workers, teachers and the like. She feels New York State needs to help out with this, as well as improving access to child care.

About the candidates

Dan Stec is the Republican incumbent, having first been elected in 2020 when Betty Little retired. He served in the State Assembly before that. Stec has served in many levels of local government after being discharged from eight years of service in the Navy as a nuclear engineer.

Democrat Jean Lapper is conducting her first run for state office. She is a Queensbury resident who owns and operates a CPA firm in Glens Falls. She highlights her many years of community serve at all levels. She says this service helps her understand what the people of the district want and need.