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Candidates for Congressional 21st District debate in print.


Questions for the 21st Congressional Candidates

1. A July Gallup poll showed only a 14% approval rating for Congress. Why is that? What would you do to improve the public's perception of Congress?

2. If elected to congress, what measures, if any, would you take to help the growing segment of people who are struggling to keep up with rapidly rising food, fuel, and healthcare costs that have not been matched by rising wages?

3. What social issues, if any, would you champion while in congress?

4. What do you see as the greatest challenge facing America today and in the coming years, and what would you do about it so that we are prepared?

5. Why should the people of the 21th district choose you over all others?

Each candidate was offered a total of 500 words for all five questions to be allocated at their discretion. Their contact information was not included towards that total.


Tracey Brooks


1.) We need to make government accountable again and restore the American people's trust. I'm running for Congress to undo the damage done by George Bush and the Republicans, to take on the special interests that stand in the way of change, and to make our government accountable again to our families, to our communities and to the people.

2.) It's time to end the war in Iraq and take the $12 billion a month we're spending there and invest it here at home in our schools and helping working families, in health care for all, in job creation, in solving our housing crisis, in developing renewable energy and ending our dependence on foreign oil.

Career politicians have promised energy plans at the federal and state levels for years, but simply haven't delivered. I have a seven point energy plan that includes ending the tax breaks and loopholes for big oil companies and instead investing that money in renewable energy and alternative fuels. We can no longer have a government that puts the profits of oil companies ahead of the needs of the people.

3.) I will fight to defend a woman's right to choose, for health care for all, for equal pay for equal work, for equal parenting and adoption rights, and for constitutional equality and economic justice for all.

We also need to get guns off our streets and out of our schools. Our families deserve to live in their communities, play in their yards and walk down their streets without the fear of gun violence.

When we talk about change, these are some of the many issues that we must address in order to really achieve it.

4.) Due to the many failures of the Bush Administration, we are now faced with numerous challenges that are all interrelated. Again, the first thing we must do is end the war in Iraq, take the $12 billion a month we're spending there, and invest it here at home on things like health care for everyone.

I will go to Washington to fight for guaranteed health care coverage for all and support bills like H.R. 676 that accomplish that goal. Every American should get the same kind of quality, affordable health care that members of Congress get.

5.) I am not like the other candidates. I have a different kind of hands-on experience working in our communities at the Community Services Corps and the Schenectady Family Health Center.

I will go to Washington to fight for health care for all, end the war in Iraq, protect every woman's right to choose, and end the sky-rocketing gas prices. I will go to Washington to make government accountable to you the people and to take on Bush, McCain and the Republicans in Congress.

You have a real choice this election between the same old politicians who have failed to deliver for us and someone with a different kind of experience who represents change.

I'm Tracey Brooks and a vote for me is a vote for real change.

Tracey Brooks Contact Information

Phone: (518) 434-2016



HQ: 77 Columbia Street, Albany, NY 12210


Jim Buhrmaster

(Republican, Conservative)

1.) Congress is broken. Regardless of which party is in the majority, Congress has a record of producing bitter partisan gridlock instead of results, and all of us are worse off because of it. We all pay taxes and expect results from our government. Right now, we're doing more than our part by paying the taxes, but Congress has been pretty weak on the results side on a number of very significant issues.

I will bring decades of real-world business experience to Washington, and fight for long-term solutions to our greatest challenges.

2.) One of the first things we need to do is adopt a long-term energy plan that reduces our reliance on foreign oil, protects the environment, and doesn't draw from food sources. One only has to look to the push for ethanol--which has obviously not reduced gas prices, but clearly resulted in increased food prices--to find an example of Washington's lack of foresight on energy.

We must also make reforms that take federal spending off autopilot so we can institute broad-based tax cuts to struggling individuals, families and small businesses. In the business world, and in everyday life, we all have to prioritize our budgets and watch our spending. The government doesn't ever seem to do that.

3.) The flight of both young people and the elderly from upstate New York because of the poor tax and business climate is a growing problem. My family, friends, and employees live here, and I want them to stay and enjoy prosperous lives and happy retirements.

We also need to ensure the safety of our citizens from violent criminals and the ongoing threat of terrorism.

I would also seek a sensible strategy to reduce greenhouse gasses, one that can mitigate the affects of global warming without stifling the economy and putting people out of work.

4.) The Energy Crisis will be our greatest challenge, but not because it had to be. The decades of doing nothing in Congress to address this issue are finally catching up to us, and in a big way.

I recently became the first, and remain the only, candidate to announce a comprehensive energy plan. In short: Republicans need to get on board with alternative energies; Democrats need to accept the fact that we must increase domestic oil exploration and production; and all Americans need to do more to conserve energy.

5.) I am not a career politician or an aide to career politicians; I am a businessman with a long history of involvement in the community. I know how hard it is to make it in upstate New York, and I know that more taxes will only make that challenge more difficult. That's why I signed a pledge to not raise income taxes.

On the other side of the aisle, there are a number of candidates who are instead pushing agendas that will raise taxes. During times like this, we need to make it easier for small businesses and working families to make ends meet, not more difficult.

Jim Buhrmaster Contact Information

Phone: (518) 377-0530




Darius Shahinfar


1.) Congressional approval rating is so low because they haven't taken a stand against the Bush Administration and have taken little action on issues that matter most to the people. With rising gas, healthcare, food and energy costs, people have lost confidence in their representatives to do what is right. In Congress, I'll listen to what Upstate New Yorkers need, not special interests, and renew the American promise of open and honest government.

2.) When elected to Congress, I will fight for universal healthcare, fight to reduce tensions in the Middle East, and fight to get our economy back on track. Universal coverage would help lower property taxes to every American, and save us from copays, deductibles, and premiums. By reducing Middle Eastern tensions, we can lower gas prices, like we've seen in recent weeks. Finally, with a stronger economy and currency, every hard earned dollar can go further to help cover our families' everyday living.

3.) There are two major issues I feel need to be addressed. One is changing the way we finance our public school system. Property taxes are a major burden to taxpayers, and a poor way to pay for our public schools. We need to renew America's promise to parents, to our children and to our nation by making sure that the next generation receives an education that prepares them for the 21st century. The other issue that needs to be addressed is that we need to strengthen our privacy rights. This will provide protection for Americans from government intrusion in our personal lives.

4.) The greatest challenge in America is the lack of a national energy program and its effects on our economy. With a reliance on oil, we have seen what crude prices around the world can do to our wallets here at home. This is why we must rid our dependence on not just foreign, but all oil. By creating green jobs, we can employ Americans and make alternative energies a reality, not an idea to be left for a later time. In Congress, I'll fight to make sure that wind, solar, and other renewable energy programs don't get shut out by big oil and other groups with deep pockets. Together, we can renew America's promise to our environment, our economy, and future generations.

5.) I should be the people's choice because I am the only candidate who has been employed in the House of Representatives and knows how an office should to be run. I have experience in all three branches and all three levels of government to understand how our government operates. I've fought for the people of Upstate New York working for Legal Aid and the Albany County Attorney's Office while raising a family in this region. By answering to the people and not firms with an endless supply of money, I know we can do what's right for our families, our communities, and our nation.

Darius Shahinfar Contact Information

Phone: (518) 320-8478


HQ: 255 New Scotland Ave Albany, NY 12208


Phil Steck

(Democrat, Independence)

1.) Congress has such a low approval rating because the people's work is not getting done. In 2006, the American people voted in a Democratic Congress and made it clear that they wanted a change in our country's direction.

But nothing has really changed--we're still in Iraq, we still have no rational energy policy, we still don't have universal health care, and the Bush administration is still pursuing its ruinous policies unchecked.

Why? Because lobbyists are writing our laws, and the special interests they serve are content with the status quo.

I am not. If elected, I would fight for the interests of the people of New York's 21st Congressional District, not for those of special interests.

2.) In Washington, I will:

* fight for the "Medicare for All" single payer national health care system, which provides quality care for all Americans, cuts red tape and lowers costs for consumers and businesses.

* crack down on energy speculators and the commodities futures market, and support a Windfall Profits Tax on Big Oil that will end price gouging at the pump.

* push to end the war in Iraq, and bring our brave troops home. The dollars spent on that disastrous war can be better spent here at home.

* support tax cuts aimed at the middle class, to put more money in our pockets.

3.) The United States is the richest country the world has ever seen, yet over 47 million Americans have no health insurance and millions more are underinsured.

In Congress, I will work to create a universal single-payer national health care system. With a single-payer system, every American will have quality health care; doctors and patients, not insurance bureaucrats, will make medical decisions; and costs and red tape will be reduced for both patients and businesses.

4.) We need to achieve energy independence, and we can start by developing a sound national energy policy. A national energy policy is about more than energy--it's about jobs, it's about the environment, it's even about our national security. But special interests are steering our energy decisions and blocking progress.

Washington needs to create incentives for investment in renewable energy technologies, ease the regulatory burdens on clean power producers, and phase out old energy producers that are inefficient and unfriendly to the environment.

5.) The Bush Administration has failed America. Our government is broken, and our nation moving in the wrong direction. Now, more than ever, our representatives in Congress must commit to changing the direction of our country. We need members of Congress who will stand up for our interests over powerful special interests.

As a County Legislator, as leader of the Colonie Democrats and as a civil rights and employment lawyer, I have fought special interests my whole career.

I will continue to do so as your Congressman.

Phil Steck Contact Information

Phone: (518) 694-3034 [contact-Tom Nardacci]


Steven Vasquez


1.) Congress currently represents special interests and corporate welfare, rather than the people, free trade, and the Constitution. As a Congressman it will be my job to check and balance the powers of the Executive Branch, protect the rights and liberties of the people, stop the massive waste of taxpayers' money, protect the economy with a strong Constitutional monetary policy and balanced budgets, and unlike the Democrats, uphold the mandate of the people in 2006 to stop being the military policeman of the world and bring our troops home.

2.) The rising prices are directly caused by the rapid devaluation of the US dollar and the irresponsible policies of Congress and the cartel of private banks called the Federal Reserve. Congress spends the American people's money in massive deficit spending that is bankrupting the country, and the "Federal" Reserve prints money out of thin air to bail out irresponsible banks that should fail in a capitalism system. The dollar has fallen 25% in 3 years, making it worth less than the Canadian dollar! The only way to save the US from hyperinflation and a depression is to cut spending from overseas and domestically, return our troops from over 700 bases in over 130 countries, and move from a debt-based financial system that we pass to our children and grandchildren into a savings and assets-based system.

3.) Every year Congress loots over $150 billion from the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds and uses it as a crutch for its massive deficit spending. They are literally stealing from the pension funds of every American, and if Congress was a corporation, they would all be arrested. According to the Government Accounting Office, this has created an actual deficit of over $53 trillion, or over $400,000 per household, that your children will be paying for the rest of their lives. In ten years, Medicare will be bankrupt, and our seniors and veterans will lose their retirement benefits that they paid during their life. As Congressmen, I would pass Ron Paul's H.R.219 Social Security Preservation Act.

4.) The greatest challenge and threat to national security in America is the economy and bankruptcy of the Federal Government. According to David Walker, the previous Comptroller General (highest accountant in America), the Federal Government is insolvent and will be bankrupt when Medicare runs out of funds in 2018, which equates to no funds for national defense or any other programs. Even if every American and corporation is taxed 100%, there still will be an insurmountable deficit. We need to make the hard choices now in Congress to prevent millions of the middle-class going into poverty within a few years.

5.) During difficult economic times, Congress needs a businessmen with an MBA and Masters of Engineering from RPI that understands the economy and how to create jobs to bring America back to its economic strength. Rather than representing the 14% of the people who approve the current Congress, I will represent the 86% that requires responsibility and accountability from government. Unlike others who would cross their fingers, I will uphold my oath to follow the Constitution.

Steven Vasquez Contact Information

Phone: (518) 330-8403




Joseph Sullivan


1.) Congress has a 9 percent approval rating because Congress is not addressing problems critical to our survival, as individuals, families, communities and a nation.

If voters want campaign reform, term limits and substance, I am their man. I am a veteran who has served our country in the U.S. Navy, and I will do serve again, if elected to Congress.

2.) I am a senior citizen, on a fixed income. Along with wage earners, we face the same economic problems. I understand and will look out for seniors and wage earners to the best of my ability.

3.) Social Issues? Read my platform: lonerangeralbany//

4.) Homeland (national) security is the priority issue, if we are not safe, (and we are not), none of the other issues will matter. Emergency/ Disaster preparedness is everyone's responsibility. We can not depend on government to save us. We must prepare to save ourselves. Oil is the lifeblood of our economy and way of life. As long as we depend on imported oil, the U.S. must maintain a military presence in the world's oil producing regions. I am the only candidate in this 21st District contest, with this message.

5.) Read and hear what I have to say and make up their own minds.

Joseph Sullivan Contact Information

Phone: (518) 438-5230

Website: lonerangeralbany/lonerangeralbany/


Paul Tonko

(Democrat, Working Families)

1.) I believe the low approval rating is due to the public's frustration with the lack of progress on issues important to them. In 2006, the American people expressed a clear desire for a change in direction, and I don't believe that Congress has lived up to their expectations. If I am elected, I will reach across party lines to foster action and erase the gridlock in Congress that is partially responsible for the American people's ire. I will work towards a responsible withdrawal from Iraq, enact an energy policy that works for all Americans, and address the economic challenges that face families in this country.

2.) I will work immediately to help working families struggling with enormous increases in heating bills. I will push to increase federal aid to needy families to offset the increase in natural gas and home heating oil. But we need a long-term solution to our energy crisis, and it begins with a sustainable national energy policy that is focused on alternatives to fossil fuels. I will also work towards a national healthcare policy that provides coverage and preventive care for the uninsured and underinsured, and a comprehensive prescription drug coverage plan.

3.) One of the most pressing social issues is the achievement gap between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. According to the Urban Institute, the high school graduation rate in this country is roughly 70%. In our modern economy, a high school education may not be enough to get ahead, and the fact that we are leaving 30% of our children behind is both astonishing and embarrassing. As a member of the New York State Assembly, I was an early supporter of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which led to increased funding for the neediest school districts in the state, including many districts located within the 21st Congressional District. I believe that Congress has a moral responsibility to close the achievement gap.

4.) The greatest challenge will be adapting to dramatic economic changes both domestically and globally. Due to a mix of geopolitical, economic and environmental factors we can no longer rely solely on fossil fuels to power our economy. We must commit to a future built on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. This change also poses an historic challenge to the standard of living of working families. The economic expansion that occurred over the last eight years has largely benefited the wealthiest Americans, while middle class wages remained stagnant. Furthermore, our education system is not preparing our students for the economic future. I believe that Congress should take action to make investments in our infrastructure, education system and other sectors vital to our economic future.

5.) I have over twenty years of experience working for the people of this district as a member of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors, an Assemblyman from New York's 105th District and as President and CEO of NYSERDA. I have reached across party lines to solve problems, and I will continue that record in Congress.

Paul Tonko Contact Information

Phone: (518) 512-3762


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Author:Feliciano, Ray
Publication:The Informed Constituent (Albany, NY)
Date:Sep 1, 2008
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