HUDSON VALLEY, N.Y. - Voters in the 94th Assembly District will have a choice when they go to the polls Nov. 6. between the incumbent Republican Assemblyman Kevin Byrne and Democrat challenger Vedat Gashi.

Byrne, a graduate of Carmel High School, was elected to the Assembly in 2016 and seeks his second term. He and his wife reside in Mahopac.

Gashi is a real estate attorney from Yorktown who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor when she was serving in the 2nd District Court of Appeals and was later nominated by the United Nations to serve as chief legal advisor to the prime minister of Kosovo as the country sought to establish its independence.

Sign Up for E-News

We sat down with both candidates for a Q&A to get their perspectives on the issues of the day. Here’s what they said:

Kevin Byrne (R, C, Ref)

Byrne was born and raised in the 94th Assembly District. He grew up in Putnam Valley and graduated from Carmel High School. He earned a B.A. from the University of Scranton and M.P.A. from Marist College, concentrating in health care administration.

He served as a member of the Putnam Valley Town Planning Board; deputy district director to a former congresswoman; a regional director for the American Heart Association; president, firefighter and EMT with the Kent Volunteer Fire Department; and an assistant Scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts of America, where he earned the rank of Eagle Scout. He is married to Briana (another Carmel High School graduate) and now resides in Mahopac.

Since first elected in 2016, Byrne has served as the ranking member on the Assembly’s Aging Committee, as a member of the Health, Transportation, Government Operations, Banks, and Labor committees, as well as the co-chair of the Assembly Republican Conference’s state-wide Task Force on Critical Infrastructure and Transportation.

What are the top issues facing Assembly District 94?

1) Tax relief. We have the highest total tax burden of any state in the nation. This is the primary cause for people fleeing the state of New York and our current out-migration crisis. Since 2011, over one million people have left the state of New York. Gov. Cuomo has attributed this to the weather, but if you believe that then I have a bridge to name after you. Pennsylvania, Vermont, and many other states face harsh seasons as well, but don’t face the same affordability crisis we see here in New York. The main contribution to our state’s out-migration crisis is New York’s top spot as one of the highest taxed and least business-friendly states across the country.

2) Job creation. Regulatory burdens, high taxes and mandates are crushing our businesses. New York State is ranked as the second-worst state towards business in the country. We need to reverse this trend to grow jobs and create more opportunities for New Yorkers.

3) Public corruption. Back-room deals and pay-to-play scandals have become too commonly associated with New York State government. This is, by far, the biggest obstacle to accomplishing meaningful tax relief and job creation.

Why are you the best candidate to represent this district?

I am beholden to no special interest or political power structure. I believe in limited government, lower taxes, and protecting all our Constitutional freedoms. While other candidates rely on outside money and special interests from NYC to run their campaigns, I rely on the hard-working people of Northern Westchester and Putnam County.

I have always put the people of this district before anything or anyone else. Because of this, I’ve already received the endorsement of many organizations including the Business Council of New York State, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), NYS Fraternal Order of Police, NYPD PBA, Westchester’s Affiliated Police Association, AFL-CIO, New York State United Teachers, Teamsters No. 456, Uniformed Firefighters Association, Uniformed Firefighter Officers Association, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2, ConservAmerica, NYS Nurses Association, PBA of NYS, and more. You can support me on the Republican, Conservative, or Reform Party lines this Nov. 6.

There are many ways to define corruption, but New York is usually at or near the top of many of these rankings/lists. What do you say to these reports? For weary voters, what might you say to give them hope in their government?

I have always contended that the biggest roadblock to addressing the many issues facing our state government is public corruption. So long as public officials use the power of their office for their own personal gain, every New Yorker will continue to pay a “Corruption Tax.”

We’ve paid the Corruption Tax many times over. We paid it when former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R) abused the power of their respective offices for personal gain. Since then, in my first term, I have watched two new assembly members, Pamela Harris (D) and Joseph Errigo (R) both face separate criminal charges on public corruption. This is not and should not be treated as a partisan issue.

On a personal level, I’ll always continue to be honest about what I do and why I do it, but more must be done to combat corruption in our state government. Amending the state’s constitution to strip pensions from corrupt politicians was a good start, but we still need to do more.

We need to pass the Public Officers Accountability Act, which would add penalties to campaign finance violations, increase penalties on the misuse of campaign contributions for personal use, and enact term limits for leadership positions. Other measures that I believe would help combat corruption would be to finally close the LLC loophole and pass additional legislation that would amend the state’s procurement policies and create a “database of deals” to increase transparency and reduce the corrupt dealings like we’ve seen from Gov. Cuomo’s former top aide, now convicted felon, Joe Percoco.

Vedat Gashi (D, I)

When Gashi was 4 years old, his family came to New York because his parents wanted to give their children a chance at a better life. After graduating Lakeland High School, Gashi attended Connecticut College and then Seton Hall for law school. During law school, clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, when she was serving in the 2nd District Court of Appeals, as well as now-retired Congressman Lee Hamilton.

After passing the New York State Bar, Gashi joined the US/EU effort to establish the state of Kosovo and was nominated by the United Nations to serve as chief legal advisor to the prime minister. After independence had been secured, he came back to Yorktown and followed in the family footsteps to become a real estate attorney and continues to practice to this day.  Gashi still lives and works in Yorktown with his wife, Vjosa, and his two kids.

What are the top issues facing Assembly District 94?

The biggest issue we face in Putnam and Westchester all revolve around taxes. With the federal government placing a limit on the SALT deductions—state and local property taxes eligible to be deducted from federal taxes—our communities are going to be hit hard in April.

When the Assembly passed legislation that would offer assistance to help with this massive tax increase, where was our assemblyman? He voted against it. One of my top priorities in Albany will be to fight for the taxpayers of our community to make sure we aren’t being nickled and dimed out of our homes.

Why are you the best candidate to represent this district?

This race is about change. One party has had control of this district going on 100 years. It is time for a change.

Our community is tired of the hyper-partisanship they see in Washington and it is trickling down into Albany and our communities. I earned the support of the Independence Party because I believe in compromise and common-sense solutions. I am a gun owner—I believe in the Second Amendment—but I believe in common-sense gun laws such as prohibiting convicted domestic abusers from owning guns. Our district deserves an assemblyman who will represent the entire district, not just the select few that fall into his part of the political spectrum.

There are many ways to define corruption, but New York is usually at or near the top of many of these rankings/lists. What do you say to these reports? For weary voters, what might you say to give them hope in their government?

For far too long, New Yorkers have had to put up with corruption on both sides of the aisle. New Yorkers deserve better than this. This is part of why I am running for office for the first time, I will bring a new way of doing business to Albany.

My family came to this country to pursue the American Dream and that did not include scamming the taxpayers of our community. As your assemblyman, I pledge to bring honor, dignity and respect back to our New York politics.