A former prosecutor is challenging incumbent Al Stirpe, D-Cicero, for the 127th State Assembly District in the fall.
The former prosecutor is Robert DeMarco. In February, he stepped down as an assistant district attorney to work at a law firm and seek public office. He’s the Onondaga County Republican nominee. As of early April, DeMarco is the only challenger to Stirpe.
The election will be Nov. 4, 2014.
The 127th State Assembly District—formerly the 121st—includes Clay, Cicero, Manlius, Pompey, Fabius and Tully. Republicans have a slight advantage in voter enrollment over Democrats. Of the district’s 86,964 registered voters, 34 percent are Republican, 31 percent are Democrat and 26 percent are unaffiliated with a political party, according to the Onondaga County Board of Elections.
The State Assembly is one of New York’s two legislative chambers, along with the Senate. Its 150 members serve two-year terms without a limit for reelection. The Democratic Party has the majority in the chamber.
Here are sketches of the two candidates:
Al Stirpe (Democrat, incumbent)
Al Stirpe, 60, was first elected for the then-121st Assembly District in 2006. In 2010, he lost the seat to Republican Don Miller of Clay. In 2012, Stirpe reclaimed it in the newly redistricted 127th State Assembly District.
Stirpe’s chances of reelection grow the longer he’s in office because he becomes more influential in the community, said Kristi Andersen, a political science professor at Syracuse University. “He has the ability to either intervene on behalf of actual people or get funds for particular organizations in his district,” she said.
As he campaigns for reelection, Stirpe emphasizes jobs, education and the environment.
“The number one priority is still jobs,” Stirpe said. One of the greatest problems in the region is the lack of qualified workers to fit manufacturing positions, Stirpe said. To help reduce unemployment, Stirpe won inclusion in the 2014-2015 state budget for $600,000 targeted to training programs in Central New York.
He also encourages exports from CNY industries, he said. Exports, Stirpe said, will create new jobs. “If we could double our exports, we could create—I think—5,000 or 6,000 jobs,” he said.
On education, Stirpe proposes more funding for schools. “Schools have been struggling for the last five years with reduced budgets,” he said.
About environmental concerns, Stirpe said he’s interested in sustainable initiatives. For example, he cosponsored legislation to fund solar-energy projects, according to his website. Stirpe has supported increasing the state’s Environmental Protection Fund by $9 million.
Stirpe is a member of the legislative committees on economic development, job creation, commerce and industry; agriculture; higher education; tourism, parks, arts and sports development; and alcoholism and drug abuse. He’s chair of the export trade subcommittee. And he’s part of the state’s Caucus of Environmental Legislators.
Stirpe is a native of Clyde and now lives in North Syracuse with his wife and daughter. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana with a bachelor’s degree in economics.
Before becoming a legislator, he was president of Qube Software Inc., a software company. He has also worked as a financial analyst for General Electric in Syracuse and as chief financial officer for CID Technologies.
“At this point in my life, I’ve found something that I really enjoy doing,” Stirpe said. “The fact that I feel I can help the community is the thing that interests me the most and keeps me going.”
Robert DeMarco (Republican, challenger)
Robert DeMarco, 43, is a political newcomer. From 2003 to 2014, he was an assistant district attorney in Onondaga County. He stepped down to pursue the state assembly seat.
He jumped into politics, he said, because he felt his district was not well represented. “I decided I was actively going to address it,” DeMarco said.
DeMarco lives with his wife and two children in the town of Clay. He now works as an associate attorney at Weisberg and Zukher law firm in downtown Syracuse. He attended undergraduate school at SUNY College at Buffalo and earned a law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, Calif. He’s also a member of the Knights of Columbus, a worldwide Catholic fraternal service society.
As a prosecutor, he tackled political malfeasance and tax-related crimes, DeMarco said.
In his campaign, DeMarco describes his target issues as state unfunded mandates, welfare fraud and political accountability.
On unfunded mandates, DeMarco argues that the state doesn’t give local governments funding to comply with the regulations it imposes. “I believe it is unfair,” he said.
He also proposes a reform of the welfare system, restricting the use of the Electronic Benefit Transfer card to prevent fraud. “It’s being abused,” he said. “The system was designed to provide help for special necessities.”
To enable voters to hold public officials accountable, DeMarco calls for a third state body to look over the Assembly and the Senate. “I want something in place,” DeMarco said, “that requires them to be accountable to the people who elected them.”
(Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro is a graduate student in magazine, newspaper and online journalism.)