The race for state Senate in the 48th district – which includes Jefferson, Oswego and St. Lawrence counties – pits incumbent Republican Patty Ritchie against underdog Democrat Amy Tresidder. Both women stress the need for state mandate relief for local municipalities and measures to boost the upstate economy, although the strategies they'd take for doing that differ.
They may be from different parties, but both Ritchie and Tresidder grew up in St. Lawrence County, and both candidates have roots in county government.
Ritchie served three terms as St. Lawrence County Clerk and touts her efforts in that role to increase accessibility and help the office turn a profit by processing downstate DMV business.
Tresidder, a second-term Oswego County legislator, portrays herself as an average citizen with a commitment to public service. As the daughter of dairy farmers, she says she understands the needs of the region. She says she chose to run on her own – she wasn't chosen by her political party.
"I think it’s important that we have representatives that decide on their own to do it, that will stand up and say I am going to raise my money locally, I am going to run independently of any groups," Tresidder said.
Ritchie says the state is in better shape now than two years ago, and that's in part because of her efforts to work with Governor Andrew Cuomo to pass an on-time budget, and because of the property tax cap.
"There’s a lot of work still to do but we're definitely in a better place than we were, and then you look at Washington and it's the exact opposite," Ritchie said. "They’re in total gridlock and they're not able to get anything moved forward, so, you know, I applaud the governor for being willing to work across party lines."
Tresidder has a different view of Ritchie's record.
"She’s voted with her party 99.45 percent of the time," she said. "Her accomplishments to me are not personal accomplishments. There was a budget passed on time; I firmly believe it's your job to pass a budget on time."
Both women support the property tax cap. But Tresidder emphasizes the need for mandate relief and adjustments to the school aid formula to go with it.
"I can’t say that it is bad, I can’t say that I would not have supported had I had that opportunity," she said. "However, with a tax cap, there has to be mandate relief. The state has got to give municipalities a break on what they expect them to spend."
Ritchie says the tax cap alone was a crucial measure for New Yorkers.
"Seventy-eight percent above the U.S. average were the taxes for New York, and you know, this is something that I heard directly from the people when I was running for office and over the last two years, that, you know, somebody needed to do something about the rise in property taxes," Ritchie said.
Poorer school districts have been struggling under the constraints of the property tax cap. Both candidates advocate taking a fresh look at how that state school aid is distributed to make it more equitable across the state.
Both women say the economy and jobs are the biggest issues facing the district. Tresidder says her number one priority would be a minimum-wage increase.
"That only helps business, because when you have enough money to spend, it helps our economy grow," she said.
Both women advocate loosening the regulatory and tax burdens on small businesses.
But Ritchie says the state also needs to continue working to lower taxes.
"We need to do more to reduce the regulatory burden so that more businesses will come to New York state," Ritchie said. "Instead of New York state being a state where businesses, you know, really don’t want to locate here to because of all the regulations and, you know, the cost of doing business here."
Ritchie says businesses would do better if New York state would simply get out of the way.
The incumbent has raised more money than Tresidder and is considered a shoo-in in the race. Ritchie hopes her message and record on issues impacting the economy will convince voters to stick with her.
But Tresidder hopes her outsider status will persuade voters to make a change.