If you called up central casting and said “send me a concerned mom,” New York State Assembly candidate Angela Wozniak might show up at your door. But she's sweet, authentic, smart, and quick to laugh - not your stereotypical pol.
When I sat down with her last week, I couldn’t help thinking to myself: why would this down-to-Earth person ever want to be in politics? That just might be the core of her “Jimmy Stewart as Mr. Smith” appeal: Maybe it takes someone truly authentic to change Albany.
As a child growing up on the east side of Buffalo, Wozniak learned responsibility and a strong work ethic early on. She had a job by the age of 12 and often worked two jobs while going to school. She never resented that hard work and took each opportunity as a chance to learn and grow as a person. It was after finishing school that her interests turned to politics.
Wozniak’s first glimpse of the political world began when she volunteered at Buffalo City Mission after attending D’Youville College. Curious about public policy, she attended a Cheektowaga Republican Committee meeting. Soon, she was going door to door with Ted Morton helping with his campaign for town supervisor.
It was on those Cheektowaga doorsteps that Wozniak first heard residents’ complaints and concerns. “It was really eye-opening and heartbreaking,” she said.
In 2011, the Cheektowaga Republican Committee needed a third candidate to run for Town Council. Though she was a late entry in that race, Wozniak was elected as the first female Republican to serve on the Council. Still in her first term, local Conservative and Republican party leaders asked her to run for the New York State Assembly District 143. It was a challenge she was ready to accept.
In fact, Wozniak is a registered Conservative – a rare minor party candidate in a major party-ruled process. She’s quick to point out there are a lot of registered Conservatives in the area and she enjoys being a member of a party that aligns with her personal values. Being a Conservative allows her to bring something new and fresh to the table for voters, as well.
“My supporters appreciate that difference and to have their support is really meaningful,” she said.
Wozniak is also cross endorsed by the Republican Party. “It’s been so great seeing the parties come together,” Wozniak said. “It is something I really appreciate. I think it makes a big statement.” She plans to leverage this support in Albany, where she hopes to make some necessary changes. Not a surprise, coming from a young female candidate vying for the seat vacated by grabby Dennis Gabryszak.
“There is a need to clean up Albany,” Wozniak said, discussing recent resignations of the Assembly. “Corruption is a huge problem. People need to be able to trust their elected officials. They’re put there to meet voters needs and if people can’t trust them it undermines our representative democracy.”
When talking about infamous Albany corruption, the new mother thinks representatives need more serious repercussions for bad behavior so their lapses don’t cost the taxpayers. And she’s quite serious about that: before anything can be done in Albany, she believes there needs to be serious ethics reform and stronger anti-corruption laws.
“Anywhere the government has a foothold they’re doing poorly,” Wozniak said. “New York State is the highest taxed and the least business-friendly state in the nation. We have failing schools in many areas and the unemployment rate is too high.”
She believes that, for the state to get back on track, those issues need to be turned around. “And in order to do that, we need real solutions,” she said.
Figuring out answers to problems is not something new to Angela Wozniak. She has been fighting for the people on the Cheektowaga Town Board for the past two and a half years – and she’s been winning. She has pushed for downsizing, shorter term limits, and ethics and tax reform. She also backed a New York State audit that exposed $1 million of wasted town spending. “I’ve already waved the red flag and I have no problem going to Albany and doing the same thing,“ she said.
In Albany, Wozniak plans to make positive changes as an Assemblywoman. She wants to work on tax reform for personal and business income taxes, the creation of new jobs, reform for children with the Common Core and, lastly, ethics reform. To start, she wants to take a closer look at how to run an ethical legislature because, “We can’t address anything listed until we address ethics first.”
With her husband, she runs Angela Wozniak Agency, Inc., a property and casualty insurance agency, and together they are raising their 10-month old son, Ari. She’s convinced she conquers her busy schedule because she likes to work hard and her family is very supportive.
When asked how she is able to balance the many different aspects of her life, she replied quite simply: “I’m just doing my thing and I make it happen.”
The Assembly District 143 race will be difficult, so Wozniak’s boundless energy and confidence will come in handy. Not surprisingly, she’s doing her thing and making it happen.