Primary winners Faso, Teachout ready to do battle
By Jim Poole
The lines are drawn in the race to replace Congressman Chris Gibson, and the two candidates couldn't be any more different.
Landslide winners in their respective primaries last Tuesday, Republican John Faso, a longtime political veteran, will battle Democrat Zephyr Teachout, a relative newcomer.
They're running for the 19th Congressional District seat, which includes Schoharie County. Congressman Gibson announced last year he wouldn't seek re-election.
Mr. Faso trounced opponent Andrew Heaney in the primary by garnering 68 percent of the vote in the 11-county district. He won in Schoharie County, 636-110.
Ms. Teachout did just as well, getting 73 percent of the Democratic vote and downing Will Yandik in Schoharie County, 379-110.
The results set up a contested four-month race between the two.
"I think there's a very stark contrast," said Mr. Faso. "The differences couldn't be more striking."
A former assemblyman and unsuccessful candidate for governor, Mr. Faso lives in Kinderhook and has been a resident of the district for more than 30 years.
His longevity and familiarity with the district give him a strong edge over Ms. Teachout, who recently moved into the district, Mr. Faso said.
"She has no connection to the district," he said. "How can she represent people she doesn't know?
"I've been living and working in this district for over three decades. I've served. I'm involved. I know the district."
Admitting she registered to vote in the district only late last year, Ms. Teachout countered that her recent residency shouldn't be an issue.
She grew up in a similar rural area in Vermont and believes voters are looking not for a career politician, but someone who can relate to them.
Ms. Teachout is a Fordham University law professor and has been an activist on issues ranging from Common Core to fossil fuel. Although she lost when challenging Andrew Cuomo in the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary, Ms. Teachout finished strongly, with 33 percent of the vote.
She described her role as an activist as grass roots and "a lot of kitchen table" discussion. It's that meet-the-people strategy Ms. Teachout will take moving forward.
"People feel shut out of decision-making, and they're angry about it," she said.
"I don't have the magic bullet, but I can listen to people and take their stories to Washington."
Ms. Teachout called Mr. Faso "an assemblyman turned lobbyist," and added:
"It will be hard for someone who's such a creature of Albany to represent a frustrated group. If we only have lobbyists solving the problems, they're not going to be solved."
But Mr. Faso believes his long time in government serves him well.
"I have a lot of experience in the public sector that will greatly help me represent the district effectively," he said.
If the candidates disagree on their qualifications, they agree that the economy is the main campaign issue.
"The primary issues are the poor Upstate economy, jobs and taxes," Mr. Faso said.
"We're losing young people, and seniors are faced with the economic choice of leaving the district because of high taxes."
"The economy is not where it should be," Ms. Teachout said. "We need jobs. We live in a resource-rich area, so this doesn't make sense."
The 19th Congressional District includes Schoharie, Otsego, Greene, Delaware, Columbia, Sullivan and Ulster counties and parts of Broome, Dutchess, Montgomery and Rensselaer counties.