In February, Andrea Smyth entered the campaign trail as one of three candidates for the Democratic nomination to challenge State Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon, while State Deputy Jake Ashby, R-Castleton, planned to run for re-election. to his seat in the Assembly.
In mid-May, a Pittsburgh court-appointed expert upended their respective policy plans when he redrew the lines of the state’s Senate districts, creating the new 43rd Senate District, an open seat.
Now, Smyth and Ashby are the only candidates from their respective parties in an unincumbent Senate race.
“I’m really happy to be running for that open seat,” Smyth said in a recent phone interview.
Ashby said he was busy with the end of the legislative session when the new maps of Senate districts came out, leaving little time to weigh the race.
“It was interesting,” he said in a recent phone interview. “We had to balance a lot of plates at once.”
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The new district includes Rensselaer County, where both candidates live, and parts of Washington and Albany counties. In Washington County, the district includes the town of Kingsbury, except for the village of Hudson Falls, south to the Rensselaer County line.
Ashby, a two-term holder, said he wants to continue his record of bipartisanship on legislation relating to veterans and emergency first responders.
For example, Ashby said, he was a champion of legislation passed as part of the state budget in April to elevate the state’s Veterans Affairs Division to a cabinet-level department, centralizing programs now. managed across myriad state departments within a single agency.
Smyth, a political analyst and advocate on government issues for about 30 years, said her campaign will focus on the needs of women and families.
For example, she proposed that the state government return to a state system setting the rates that health insurance companies pay for certain services such as mental health, vision and dental care, in which it there is a shortage of service providers.
The state previously set all rates until 1996, when Governor George Pataki, a Republican, ended the practice and allowed health insurance companies to negotiate rates directly with hospitals and doctors. .
This move was intended to increase competition in the insurance industry, which in theory would reduce health insurance premiums.
“So I’m not saying universally,” Smyth said, referring to his proposal to return to state-set rates.
Instead, she would eliminate price negotiation for certain services, such as mental health, vision and dental care, in which she said the rates paid by insurance companies are so low that hospitals and health care providers cannot pay enough to maintain adequate staff.
Ashby said that indeed there was a critical shortage of suppliers and that Smyth’s proposal deserved consideration.
“I think we need to do a better job of recruiting (vendors) … and recruiting them to stay in New York,” he said.
Ashby said that while Smyth has expertise in health care policy, he has comprehensive expertise, not just in politics, but as an occupational therapist and college health care instructor.
Ashby was a U.S. Army Reserve captain who served two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He was a Rensselaer County legislator before serving in the state assembly.
Smyth said she is set to retire from her current position as executive director of the New York State Coalition for Child Behavioral Health on July 1 and will be able to devote herself full-time to be a senator.
In 2017, Smyth narrowly lost the Rensselaer County leadership race to Republican Steve McLaughlin.
Ashby said his Senate campaign would emphasize the dangers of “one-party rule” in Albany, and Smyth said his campaign would emphasize the need to eliminate a “culture of corruption.”
Maury Thompson has covered local government and politics for The Post Star for 21 years before retiring in 2017. He continues to follow regional politics as a freelance writer.