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Stirpe, Ayoub talk state spending, criminal justice in 127th Assembly race

Democratic Assemblyman Al Stirpe (left) will be challenged by Republican political newcomer Karen Ayoub (right) for the 127th Assembly district seat.

A Republican political newcomer is challenging a Democratic assemblyman in the 127th Assembly district this election season.

Karen Ayoub said she didn’t envision herself running for public office, but the Republican from Manlius said she is becoming increasingly concerned about central new Yorkers, from young adults struggling to get a start to senior citizens dealing with inflation.

"I'm so worried about everybody this winter,” said Ayoub. “Energy is going to be so expensive to put gas in your gas tank to get to work, and then to heat your home so you're not cold, I'm very worried about anyone on a fixed income."

Ayoub said she’s an auditor by training, with 12 years of experience in public finance. She wants to use that skill set in Albany to help curb state spending and decrease the tax burden.

"I think we've just gotten a little detached from the fact that the money coming in the door is our hard earned tax dollars, so there isn't an endless supply of those,” she said. “We keep working more and more, earning more income, which provides more of a tax base, and it's a cycle."

Democratic Assemblyman Al Stirpe agrees that times are tough. He said that’s why he and his fellow lawmakers have been working to provide relief.

"We had a $2.2 billion property tax rebate check we sent out, in the amounts anywhere from $400 to $960, so hopefully that helped a little bit,” he said. “We did away with the sales tax on gasoline."

Stirpe serves as chair of the Committee on Small Business, and said the state has given out more than $1 billion in grants to small and micro businesses to help them get through the pandemic. He said he hopes voters will give him another term, so he can continue the work he’s been doing and prepare for the future.

"The news about Micron, and having to build 30,000 new housing units and change the roads and do all that, it's a very exciting time,” Stirpe said. “I want to be in there, I want to have a seat at the table and make sure we get the resources we need to make this all work."

Another hot button issue this election cycle: criminal justice. Ayoub is taking aim at the state’s controversial bail reform legislation, saying lawmakers should trust judges and their discretion.

"The intentions of cashless bail were good, but I don't think that legislating something and then reeling it back in because it's not working and trying to fix it is the way to do it," Ayoub said.

Stirpe said judges still do have a lot of discretion under the current rules, and bail reform has done what it was supposed to do.

"There are no longer thousands of people sitting in jails for months or years waiting for their trial, which ended up ruining their lives pretty much because they'd lose their jobs. They'd lose their housing. They'd lose their families,” he said.

Ayoub said the fact she’s a political newcomer means she’ll have a fresh perspective in Albany, and she believes it’s time for change.

"I hear disappointment in the inability of our representatives to talk to each other,” she said. “Everyone (is) going to their separate corners, and people are feeling like they've lost their voices and being heard because there is so much worry about which party is winning. We've got to stop that."

But Stirpe said he thinks of his years in Albany as a positive, and he pledges to work across the aisle to get things done.

"Experience is a great thing,” he said. “You also know how things work, and you also are able to provide more things to your community."

The 127th Assembly district includes the towns of Cicero, Clay, Manlius, Tully, Fabius, and Pompey.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.