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21st District candidates sound off

Republican Steven Vasquez, who also tied up the Libertarian endorsement earlier this month, said his campaign would focus on economic reform.

"Every year Congress loots from Social Security," said Vasquez. "If Congress was a corporation, they would be arrested for stealing from our pension funds."

Democrat Darius Shahinfar, also an attorney, labeled himself as a candidate for working people. He also used the word "change" in his opening remarks and was critical of Congress.

"America at home is not working for working Americans," said Shahinfar.

Democrat Paul Tonko, a former longtime state Assemblyman and an engineer, stressed his experience in both capacities.

"My experience is the sum total of my ability to provide on behalf of this district," said Tonko, who frequently referenced his legislative accomplishments in the Assembly.

On the issues, nearly all the Democratic candidates and Republican Steven Vasquez supported a timely withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

Republican Jim Buhrmaster said he was in support of a "secure" withdrawal that would not be immediate.

Only Democrat Joseph Sullivan, a Navy veteran, said he would not support withdrawal.

"The troops aren't coming home," said Sullivan, who cited the recent oil crises and homeland security as major concerns. "Get over it."

All candidates also expressed the desire to reform the health care industry, to continue efforts at campaign finance reform and to promote accountability in government.

Candidates also sounded off on the currently dismal economic climate and rising property taxes.

Steck, of Colonie, said his plan for single-payer health insurance would eliminate Albany County's giant share of property taxes that funds the county portion of the Medicaid program.

Tonko said he too supported single-payer plans. He also supports education reform that reduces the number of federally unfunded mandates.

If elected, Shahinfar said he would fight for the working class. He said the country is in need of "bottom up economics, not trickle down economics."

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