The Sun Community News
October 29, 2018
By: PETE DEMOLA
BALLSTON SPA | Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) has clinched a heavy-duty endorsement days before the midterm elections.
The lawmaker accepted the nod from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at Curtis Lumber in Ballston Spa last week.
“I’m probably the only 7-year-old that was filing Curtis Lumber receipts frankly because my family’s business has worked with Curtis for a long, long time,” said Stefanik, referring to her family’s Guilderland Center-based plywood company.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Eastern Region Manager Nick Vaughn called the lawmaker a “fighter and champion of small business” in a state grappling with the “heavy hand of government.”
Stefanik voted to roll back several reforms of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act that hampered access to capital and credit for small businesses.
“This has been very instrumental and critical for access to capital and credit for small businesses like Curtis Lumber to grow, to expand and to grow those jobs we so badly need especially here in upstate New York,” Vaughn said.
Vaughan also cited Stefanik’s efforts to combat the opiate epidemic, push back against trade tariffs and her work to bolster workforce development programs as moves that have helped small businesses in New York’s 21st Congressional District.
“Companies struggle to fill positions such as truck drivers that are so instrumental in this operation here and other companies,” he said.
Earlier that day, Stefanik had toured the family-owned business’ flagship location.
Nine of the company’s 21 locations are located in New York’s 21st Congressional District, as well as 70 percent of the chain’s workforce.
Business is surging, according to Curtis Lumber Vice President of Sales and Purchasing Doug Ford.
“We’ve experienced some substantial growth and continue to grow even during some very challenging times,” he said.
Joining tariffs on building materials as a challenge is the lack of access to skilled workers, a gap that Ford said hampers the construction industry.
“Builders could build more homes if they got the help,” he said. “It’s very lucrative — it’s more than just swinging a hammer.”
Curtis has added 30 jobs in the past year alone and is on pace to have the highest sales year ever.
“That is good news and it’s an indicator of what we’re seeing in our local economy,” Stefanik said.
The endorsement gave Stefanik chance to tout her business bonafides just days before the contentious midterm election on Nov. 6.
She faces challenges from Tedra Cobb, a Democrat, and Green Party candidate Dr. Lynn Kahn.
“Since I’ve taken office, unemployment has gone down in each of the 12 counties I represent and wages are up,” said Stefanik, who delivered comments flanked by several dozen workers and a large American flag. “We need to continue moving in that direction.”
Third-quarter GDP growth was 3.5 percent, according to an initial estimate released by the U.S. Department of Commerce Department on Friday.
Preliminary unemployment numbers released by the state Department of Labor last week revealed the statewide unemployment rate now sits at 4.1 percent.
Saratoga County, said Stefanik, is an “amazing” bright spot in upstate New York, which continues to struggle with anemic economic growth.
“The state needs to focus more on lowering taxes,” said Stefanik, “and stopping pushing down the mandates to the county level.”
The surging economy has been a point of pride for Trump and Republicans who hope the good news can help stave off midterm losses.
Asked how much of the economy can be credited to the Trump administration, Stefanik said presidents are held accountable for the state of the economy.
“I think it is clear that this president has focused on working with Congress grow our economy, to support our manufacturers and to update our trade agreements,” Stefanik said. “That has an impact in this district. We saw very high unemployment under President Obama throughout the counties in my district and it is good news that unemployment is down.”
Vaughn said, “For all the talk of chaos in Washington and our country, there is so much hope and there is so much positive going on.”
Stefanik’s opponents took a dim view of the endorsement.
“Republicans endorsing Republicans — no surprise,” said Kahn. “Rich business owners supporting politicians who cut taxes for rich business owners — no surprise. CEOs endorsing political operatives who put profits over people — no surprise.”
Kahn agrees cutting red tape, taxes and fees can become a deterrent for people to open up a small business.
“Business start-ups can be an overwhelming process and must be simplified,” she said.
Kahn also touted universal health care as a way to reduce business expenses.
And raising the minimum wage would trigger spending that would buoy spending in local economies, she said.
Cobb, the Democratic candidate, has also picked up a series of endorsements in recent days, including the New York State Nurses Association, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
The Cobb campaign blasted Stefanik following the event.
“In four years, not one bill that Stefanik has introduced has become law,” said the campaign in a statement. “If she truly cared about results, she would vote to make our lives better, not harm us.”
Cobb later said as a small business owner, she understands the struggles business owners face, including health care, a lack of infrastructure and the need for workforce development.
“We need to train people for the jobs of tomorrow, today,” Cobb said. “Job training will help keep young people here, in the district, and continue to contribute to our local economy.”
Cobb agreed with Kahn that eliminating the burden of health care from small businesses would result in growth.
The Stefanik campaign fired back on the claim that the lawmaker has not had a bill signed into law, calling it a “massive whopper.”
Stefanik’s entire campaign is based on her results being signed into law, said campaign spokesman Lenny Alcivar.
“Over the last four years, Congresswoman Stefanik has had several bills and legislative provisions signed into law,” Alcivar said. “Through the NDAA process alone, she has had over 10 policies signed into law. Many of these are bipartisan and where Stefanik is the lead Republican author, making these extremely difficult to advance without her support.”
Alcivar cited the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s auto-enrollment mandate, legislation that saw $7 billion allocated to community health centers and year-round Pell grant legislation as key examples.