60th Senate race pits incumbent Jacobs against newcomer El-Behairy
If local Democrats turn out in large numbers and vote the party line Tuesday it could spell trouble for state Senator Chris Jacobs. The Buffalo Republican is seeking re-election in the 60th district where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by a nearly two-to-one margin.
Jacobs is seeking a second two-year term in Albany.
"When I decided to run for Senate two years ago, it was because I really felt that the state needed to be more responsive to the needs of Western New York as opposed to being nearly exclusively focused on the needs of downstate," Jacobs said.
Jacobs' Democratic challenger is Carima El-Behairy. El-Behairy is a small business owner seeking her first elective office and she says Jacobs is actually working very well with his fellow Republicans.
"They're doing very well in what their job is and that is to make sure they do not take a vote on anything that will harm them," El-Behairy said.
Jacobs says he has advocated for policies that are helpful and not harmful for Western New York including voting down an additional $1 billion in taxes and fees in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget.
"Also, we've made sure that the STAR Rebate program is not watered down. The Property Tax Cap which has played a key role in starting to control taxes has been kept down," he said.
Jacobs also said during his first term he secured an additonal $20 million in grant aid for the Buffalo area.
"That's for critical services like infrastructure, clean waterways, police and fire, making our schools safer," he added.
At the top of her platform El-Behairy lists quality education and universal pre-K starting for children at age three.
"We need to start our kids earlier because it's an economic issue. It's also an education issue. So if our kids are falling behind by kindergarten. Imagine where they're going to be at fourth grade. And that's an urban, rural and suburban problem," El-Behairy said.
To cover the additional cost, she says, the state could create a new revenue stream by legalizing recreational marijuana and taxing it. In 2016 El-Behairy says Colorado generated $200 million additional tax revenue on retail marijuana based on a population of 5 million.
"We have 20 million in New York state. Imagine if we had an infusion of just that tax revenue on retail we could funnel that into education very easily," El-Behairy said.
Jacobs says education was also used, years ago, by advocates of the New York lottery and legalized gambling.
"What did they do? That money from the revenue of gambling and lottery did go to education and they pulled nearly the exact same amount away and sent it elsewhere. So net-net there really wasn't much of an increase in education funding," Jacobs said.
Jacobs says he's "not definitively saying no" to recreational marijuana he just wants to take the issue slow. El-Behairy says legalization could reduce the number of people incarcerated for marijuana use and help cut prison costs for taxpayers.