Joe Bruno actually has a challenger this year for his state Senate seat. His name is Brian Premo. He's a defense attorney from Lansingburgh with a wife and four boys. And he's been endorsed by the Saratoga and Rensselaer County Democratic committees.
But Joe Bruno has been in the Senate for 32 years, he's been majority leader for 14 of those years. He's the most powerful Republican in New York State. Heck, seemingly half the buildings and parks in Rensselaer County are named after him. So why would a person do this to themselves?
AOA called Premo to ask: "What are you thinking?"
Why are you running?
You know, I went to Albany Law because I wanted to live and work here in New York State. A few years ago, I found myself telling my sons that they should leave New York State and go someplace where there's more opportunity.
I'm tired of New York's special interests driving policies. People and businesses are getting taxed out of the state. We have the most expensive Medicare program in the nation. Our schools are failing. We have the third heaviest state debt. We need our policies changed.
Joe Bruno has a lot of campaign experience and he's an incredibly powerful guy. Aren't you afraid you're going to get creamed?
A few years ago most people in New York didn't know who Barack Obama was. Last year the media said he could never become the Democratic nominee. Now he's done it. The people will have a choice.
I didn't plan to go into politics. I thought I'd work in law and maybe someday become a judge. But I got frustrated with what I saw happening. When I started to talk to people about my frustration I kept hearing the same things from my friends, from my neighbors, from other people in my community. I thought if I feel this way and my neighbors feel this way and my friends feel this way, even more people must feel this way. People are voting for change in record numbers.
What makes you think you're a good candidate?
I've been a lawyer for 20 years and I have experience solving problems. But more importantly, it's because I have honesty, integrity and a fresh perspective.
Joe Bruno has compared himself to Harry Truman. That's interesting because Truman is famous for saying "the buck stops here," but Joe Bruno is the epitome of not taking responsibility for his own actions. A more appropriate historical comparison would be to Captain Edward Smith. He had experience. He once sank a battleship, but the rest of his record was good, so they made him captain of the Titanic.
After 14 years of Joe Bruno's leadership we have the most dysfunctional state legislature in the country. New York is called The Empire State because we once led the nation in industry, commerce, population, economic growth, business opportunity and jobs. Today we have the highest property taxes and the least business-friendly tax climate in the nation. Today we've got billions of dollars in state debt, dilapidated roads and bridges. How much more can we tax people? Who are you going to blame? Do we blame the leaders?
We need more transparent government, not three men in a room. We need election reform and we need to stop special interest and pork projects. One of New York's major problems is special interest spending. Joe Bruno is the poster boy for special interest spending.
There are folks who will vote for Senator Bruno because they are happy with what some of those projects have brought to the region.
It's a version of let them eat cake. He's taxing people and businesses out of the state and he's offering pork projects in return. And if the Democrats take back the Senate next year, he won't be Majority Leader anymore. Then he won't have the power to bring in these pork barrel projects.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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