By CAROLINE MURRAY
Schenectady native and Ballston businessman James Fischer may have raised a few eyebrows when he sent out "Retire Tonko Fundraiser" invitations to residents of the 20th Congressional District for an event created to kick off his campaign against U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam.
On Wednesday, Fischer hopes local residents will join him in support of his efforts to win Tonko's seat in Congress this fall -- a seat that Fischer believes Tonko has held for far too long. Tonko is currently serving his third term in Congress.
The event will take place at the Fairways of Halfmoon in Mechanicville from 7 to 9:30 p.m.
Despite the facetious wording, Fischer said the fundraiser is an opportunity to meet the public, to become better acquainted with him and his family, and to gain new supporters.
"I am looking forward to getting out and talking to people and letting them know who I am, what I stand for, what I will be advocating for, and why I would make a better alternative than Paul Tonko," Fischer said.
Fischer was born in Schenectady and attended Niskayuna High School. He graduated from the State University of Cortland with a degree in economics and founded Crystal Clear Communications, a communications technology business, 24 years ago in Saratoga County.
On Monday, he was officially endorsed by the Saratoga County Republican Committee, marking this his first official political race.
He decided to run because he believes the country is headed in the wrong direction with its current leadership in Washington.
Specifically, he does not agree with how the 20th Congressional District is represented by Tonko on issues such as the Affordable Care Act and Common Core educational standards -- both of which he said are not successful and should be dissolved.
"I feel like a lot of the policies that he advocates for are harmful to our district and to working families ... I just felt like I needed to step up and do my part," Fischer said.
As a businessman and a family man, Fischer said he is faced with problems such as increasing health insurance payments and mortgage rates -- issues that he said Tonko does not have to deal with on a personal level.
"Who we have in Congress right now is a lifelong politician that has never lived in the real world," Fischer said.
While Fischer is preparing for his first political gathering, Tonko is scheduled to attend an honorary fundraiser that Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan is hosting from 5 to 7 p.m. today (Tuesday) at the Midtown Tap and Tea Room in Albany.
Tonko welcomes the friendly competition Fischer has established.
"I look forward to a spirited debate on issues that affect the capital region, but for now I'm focused on doing the job I was elected to do and help the private sector put people back to work," Tonko said.