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Regional Archives The Altamont Enterprise, June 10, 2010

In 21st Congressional District
Newcomer Danz gets GOP backing to challenge veteran pol, Dems’ Tonko

By Anne Hayden

Local businessman Ted Danz announced this week that he is running on the Republican line to challenge Democrat Paul Tonko for his seat in Congress.

Danz, 62, lives in Altamont, and is the proprietor of Family Danz Heating and Air Conditioning, a company he founded 30 years ago; he is the chairman of Guilderland’s Republican Party. He will run against Tonko, an incumbent, who has served one term in the 21st Congressional District. Tonko is a lifelong resident of Amsterdam.

The 21st Congressional District includes Albany, Montgomery, Schenectady, and Schoharie counties, and parts of Fulton, Rensselaer, and Saratoga counties.

Danz told The Enterprise that the Republican Party made the decision to back him about one week ago, and that he had been thinking about running for Congress for a month. Edward Cox, the chairman of New York State’s Republican Party, could not be reached for comment.

“This is something I’ve been wanting to do my whole life. When this opportunity came along I couldn’t walk away from it,” said Danz.

Tonko has a long history in politics. He served in the New York State Assembly from 1983 to 2007, before he was elected to Congress in 2009.

Danz was a political newcomer in 2007, when he ran for a seat in the Albany County Legislature, and was defeated by the Democratic incumbent, William Aylward. He is now the chairman of Guilderland’s Republican Party.

Danz thinks that, as a businessman and a family-man, he has more to offer than a career politician.

“With my five kids, 11 grandkids, and 50 employees, I have more of a grounded idea of what life is like in America,” Danz said. “Could I do any worse than these politicians? I don’t think so.”

The Enterprise asked both Danz and Tonko about their views on four important issues — the war in the Middle East, health-care reform, the economy, and alternative energy.

The war

Danz said he believes it is critical to end the war in Iraq and bring the troops home. He said he is astonished that this war has now gone on longer than the Vietnam War, and that there should be a clear, concise plan for withdrawing the troops.

“Let’s secure our borders when they are back here, and make our country the safest one in the world,” said Danz. He also said he did not understand the rationale behind building up troops in Afghanistan.

“If the idea is to put more troops over there to get the war over with, I’m fine with it, but if we’re just doing it without a goal, we should not be over there,” Danz said. He thinks the United Nations should step in and help the United States end the war.

“There’s a reason we belong to the U.N. We did all the front work, now it’s time for a U.N. force to come in and help us wrap it up,” said Danz.

Tonko said that he feels President Barack Obama is doing the right thing by formulating a withdrawal plan, but that it must be executed thoughtfully.

“This is a huge commitment. What we need to do is invest in the human fabric —we should build up the people and the infrastructures in these countries so they can move forward with their own forms of government,” said Tonko. With Afghanistan particularly, he said, the United States should use military strength and resources to address quality of life, and give the people a chance to develop their own strengths.

“I want to see the details of a plan that shows how investing in the human fabric can relate to military strategy,” Tonko said.

The economy

Tonko said the Obama Administration had inherited a large national debt from the second Bush Administration. The Clinton administration had inherited a similarly large debt, but was able to reverse it to a surplus, and that Obama will have to do the same, he said.

“We lost eight million jobs in the recession; it had the most painful economic consequences since the Great Depression,” Tonko said. He said the answer is to invest in a way that will make the nation economically competitive. The country should invest in things like technology, transmission and distribution, and health-care, Tonko said.

“A requirement advised by economists is that we invest to stop the economic bleeding, and save and create jobs in the country,” said Tonko. In the first four months of 2010, he said, 573,000 jobs have been created, 84 percent in the private sector.

Tonko said a package he is advocating, as part of a jobs bill, suggests that a certain portion of public-sector dollars go toward public safety and public education. He said he is working on several bills that would create jobs as a package.

Danz said he thinks the federal government’s incentive plans have not worked. He said he looked to Ronald Reagan as a president who had put together a solid, successful plan to cut taxes and give businesses incentives to expand.

“As a businessman, I know I am taxed to death, and there is no way I can afford to expand anymore,” said Danz. He said the only thing the government is willing to do to cut the national debt is raise taxes.

“They are afraid to make tough decisions, so they make an easy decision to raise taxes,” Danz said. In New York alone, over 90,000 state employees have an annual salary of over $100,000, he said. The state is threatening to lay off 100,000 people. According to Danz, the employees making more than $100,000 should take a pay cut so that others can keep their jobs.

“They always seem to want to hurt the people who are working the hardest for their living. If the state would cap salaries, the federal government could follow suit,” Danz said.

Health care

Danz believes health care needs serious reform, but that the health care bill that was passed this year does not provide a solution.

“That bill needs to be repealed immediately. It’s going to raise our taxes and costs, and we’re going to get less in the way of services,” Danz said. He thinks the government should back out of the health care arena, and let health care providers compete against each other. Through competition, people would receive better service at better rates, said Danz.

Tonko disagreed, and said the bill moves the country a big step in the right direction.

“This measure was a reform for everyone — the uninsured, the underinsured, and the insured,” said Tonko. The plan allows individuals up to the age of 27 to remain on a family health care plan, allows for tax credits for businesses, and provides assistance to working families, he said.

“It’s a very thoughtful bit of legislation that begins to take us in the right direction. It is unaffordable for us to remain status quo,” Tonko said.

Alternative energy

New York expects to get 25 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2013.

Tonko said New York State has been a leader in the alternative energy arena. He said the United States needs to develop energy security and strengthen energy independence,

“We’re sending hundreds of billions of dollars a year to the Mideast economy, to places that are unfriendly and unstable. We are basically sending money to countries that use the funds to develop troops to fight our own military,” said Tonko. The intellectual capacity of America should be embraced, and new solutions discovered, he said. The country should invest in research in development, which would also create jobs, said Tonko.

Tonko has experience with energy issues — he served as chairman of the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Energy, was the president and chief executive officer of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and is a member of Energy and Environment Subcommittees of the Committee on Science and Technology.

“We are a completely petroleum-based economy right now,” Danz said. However, he said, he does not think it is viable to lay out a specific timeline for the development of alternative energy.

“We have to economize the way we use our fossil fuels now, while keeping a vision for the future. I don’t think we can just say that, by a certain year, technology will evolve enough that we can guarantee a certain percentage of alternative energy. We don’t have the money to put into that,” said Danz. He said the first step should be to get back on track financially, so the country does not have to borrow money to meet its goals.

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