It’s official. Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, the outspoken and independent-minded assemblyman from Glenville, has thrown his hat in the ring for the open 49th Senate District, hoping to replace longtime Senator Hugh Farley, who announced his retirement last week.
The Republican legislator, a master of tapping into public sentiment, and well-known for his basketball and ax-throwing skills, announced last week his intention to run for the seat held by Farley for 40 years.
“I might be expanding the district I represent but I won’t be changing who I am and the important advocacy I do fighting for my constituents and upstate taxpayers,” Tedisco said. “I’m still going to be the same Jim Tedisco — telling it like it is when it comes to reforming Albany and improving the quality of life for New Yorkers.”
The 49th Senate District encompasses much of the southern and central Adirondack Park; the cities of Schenectady, Gloversville and Johnstown; all of Fulton and Hamilton counties, and parts of Schenectady, Saratoga and Herkimer counties. Farley, a Republican, was first elected to the state Senate in 1976 and has won by large margins every two years.
Tedisco, like Farley, has a long, storied career in politics. Elected to the Schenectady City Council at the age of 27, he served there for five years before running for the state Assembly in 1982, surviving a four-way Republican primary and winning the general election. He served as the Republican conference leader in the Assembly from 2005 to 2009 and stepped aside from that leadership position to run for the 20th Congressional District. He lost to Democrat Scott Murphy by less than 400 votes.
Over the years, Tedisco has championed animal rights, spearheading the original Buster’s Law in 1999 and drafting legislation to strengthen it every year since. He has also pushed to eliminate the printing of paper bills in the Legislature to save money and natural resources. In the wake of high-profile corruption cases involving state legislators and officials, Tedisco has been calling for an overhaul of the state’s government ethics laws.
He was even threatened by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer when the assemblyman questioned the sincerity and efficacy of yet another ethics reform deal reached by the Legislature’s majority leaders and the governor in January of 2007, just 14 months before Spitzer himself has to step down in disgrace for soliciting prostitutes. Asked to attend a press conference announcing the new ethics reforms, Tedisco hesitated, not wanting to appear simply as a prop. That’s when Spitzer famously referred to himself as a “f***ing steamroller” who would rollover Tedisco and anyone else standing in his way.
“When it comes to fighting corruption and standing up to the powerful leaders in Albany, anyone can hide behind a press release and beat their chests with tough talk. I have a proven track record of not being afraid to stand up to and literally get in the faces of some of Albany’s most powerful leaders, such as Eliot Spitzer and Sheldon Silver, when upstate’s quality of life has been threatened,” Tedisco said.
Tedisco, the Assembly Minority Whip, voted against the SAFE Act and has been an advocate for parents who want to opt-out their children from Common Core standardized tests. He authored the Common Core Parental Refusal Act and has challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to take the 5th grade exams and make his results public.
This year, Tedisco introduced “Truth in Spending” legislation to help the public, media and rank-and-file lawmakers follow the money in state spending and stop the quid pro quo corruption deals that allowed Sheldon Silver and other lawmakers to break the law and fleece taxpayers. Tedisco’s Truth in Spending bill has support from five good government groups — which is almost unprecedented for a Republican lawmaker.
Tedisco also wants to take the pensions away from elected officials who are convicted of felonies for betraying their oaths of office. He has authored recall legislation to give voters the power to recall corrupt elected officials who are derelict in their duties and wants to harness the “Spirit of ‘76” for a rank-and-file member revolt to take back power from leaders and enable 76 sponsors of legislation in the Assembly and 32 in the Senate to bring a bill to the floor for a debate and up-or-down vote. This proposal would eliminate conference leaders’ ability to stifle legislation by holding it up in committee — the cause of death for most bills in the Legislature.
“As a member of the Assembly’s minority party, I know I’ve been very effective in getting things accomplished in some of the most difficult circumstances,” said Tedisco. “Imagine how much more I can accomplish for the people I would be honored to represent in the Senate.”
Tedisco is a longtime critic of the lack of transparency in the state budget process. He once voluntarily lagged his own salary over a late budget, displayed a digital budget countdown clock counting down the days, hours and minutes to the budget deadline and would wear “pass the budget” and “fiscal restraint” neck ties and dress socks in the years when the state budget was chronically late to draw public attention for the need for fiscal discipline on behalf of overburdened taxpayers.
Tedisco is also a well-regarded legislative expert on issues pertaining to missing persons. After years of research, Tedisco co-authored a book entitled “Missing Children: A psychological approach to understanding the causes and consequences of stranger and non-stranger abduction of children.”
A graduate of Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School in Schenectady and Union College, Tedisco earned his master’s degree in special education from the College of St. Rose. He served as a special education teacher and guidance counselor for about a decade before entering politics.
Tedisco holds numerous athletic awards and records for his talent on the basketball court including earning the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award, the National Association of Basketball Coaches 25th Anniversary Award, and being elected to the Capital Region Basketball Hall of Fame and as one of the first members of the Union College Athletic Hall of Fame.
He is a member of numerous civic organizations including Schenectady Rotary Club, Ballston Spa Elks Lodge No. 2619, Sons of Italy, Schenectady Lodge 321, the Center for Hope in Ballston Spa, Principessa Elena Society in Saratoga Springs, and Union College Alumni Association.
Tedisco is a resident of Glenville where he lives with his wife, Mary, son Andrew, their dog Gracie and cats Glinda and Elphaba.
He has the support of Farley and several fellow Republican legislators from the Capital Region and Mohawk Valley.