Walczyk faces tough road in minority party after winning Assembly seat; hopes to bring checks on power
By JIMMY LAWTON
North Country Now
Republican Mark Walczyk has unseated Democratic incumbent Addie Jenne for the 116th state Assembly seat, but will face a tough challenge ahead as a member of the minority party in Albany.
Walczyk received 19,512 votes, compared to 16,290 for Jenne. A Watertown City Council member, he had campaigned hard in recent weeks, making many appearances in St. Lawrence County and advertising heavily.In St. Lawrence County, the race was much closer than the total indicates – Walczyk got 9,432 votes, compared to 9,388 for Jenne.
The 116th district, also known as the River District, covers the northern half of both counties as well as Potsdam and Canton. Jenne has held the seat since 2009.
Walczyk, who serves in the Army Reserves, is no stranger to Albany having worked for Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, for eight years.
Walczyk sees himself as a watchdog, says he favors transparency and likes cutting through red tape. He opposes universal healthcare, wants to protect Second Amendment rights, would like to see the governor’s economic development programs scrapped, does not support legalization of marijuana and is a proponent of term limits.
He brings a stark change from Assemblywoman Addie Jenne, who supported the SAFE Act, fought for universal healthcare, opposed term limits and advocated for marijuana legalization.
Walczyk knows that being in the minority in the Assembly will put him at a disadvantage in getting legislation on the floor.
He says that while he does not like the nature of Albany politics, he understands how to get things done.
In an interview prior to his victory Walczyk said he will work with his colleagues in the Senate and across party lines to ensure he can meet the needs of the North Country. However with the State Senate now controlled by Democrats, that could prove to be a difficult task, as Senators Patty Ritchie, Betty Little and Joe Griffo will also be in the minority party.
Walczyk, a Watertown City Councilor, fought hard campaign. He attended many events in St. Lawrence County and spent a lot of time going door to door.
Jenne was also very visible during the race, but likely lost some votes due to questions raised regarding the handling of grant funding with regards to a man with whom she later had a close personal relationship.
Jenne released the following statement in wake of her defeat.
“I wake up this morning clearly disappointed but also grateful that I have had the opportunity to represent the region my family has called home for the past seven generations in the New York State Assembly for the past decade.
The voters have spoken, and I respect their decision.
“I’m proud of the work I’ve done for the district - creating a farm-to-school program that has benefited our growers and producers as well as students that are now eating fresh, locally grown food products in their school cafeterias, the fight I have waged to make sure rural schools receive equitable state aid so our kids have the same opportunities as their peers in wealthier portions of our state and my success in bringing state funds back to the district to help move important community projects forward.
“I’m most proud of the constituent service work my office - my dedicated staff - have done to help small businesses and constituents, many from outside our district’s boundaries, in times of crisis. That is really the most important role we play in public service.
“I hope this campaign will be an anomaly and not the new norm. The North Country is better than this, and our future campaigns need to focus on the many issues challenging our region’s future, not on character assassination and a wanton disregard for the truth.