HUDSON VALLEY N.Y. - [Editor's note: In the candidate profiles published below, Democratic candidate Stephanie Keegan says her opponent, Republican Kevin Byrne, declined to participate in a debate hosted by the Putnam County League of Women Voters (LWV). However, Byrne shared evidence with this newspaper showing this is false. After the debate was cancelled, Byrne reached out to LWV President Eileen Reilly saying that he had proposed four dates for the debate, but never heard back from the League. In an attempt to show Byrne that the LWV replied to his campaign, Reilly forwarded an email to Byrne on Oct. 2, showing that she sent emails to Byrne's campaign manager, Matt Covucci. But the email trail shows that Reilly spelled Matt with three Ts as "Mattt" in Covucci's email address and thus the emails never reached him. Byrne said he would have wanted to participate in a LWV debate.]
Republican Kevin Byrne, seeking his third two-year term in the State Assembly, will face Democratic challenger Stephanie Keegan in the upcoming 94th Assembly District election.
Byrne first took office in 2016 when he defeated Carmel Town Board member Suzi McDonough in the Republican primary and then won the general election to fill the seat left vacant by longtime GOP Assemblyman Stephen Katz. Byrne also has the endorsement of the Conservative and Independence parties.
This is Keegan’s first time running for public office. A Somers resident, she has made her name in Washington, D.C., working as a veterans advocate.
Here’s a closer look at the two candidates
Byrne and his wife, Briana, live in Mahopac and recently welcomed their first child, Braeden Vincent Byrne, into the world. Kevin Byrne has lived in this area his entire life, graduating from Carmel High School in 2003. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at the University of Scranton and a master's of public administration from Marist College, where his concentration was in healthcare administration.
“As an assemblyman, I feel I bring a diverse background to the state Legislature that includes having served as president of a local volunteer fire department and as an assistant scout leader to a local troop,” Byrne said.
Before entering politics, Byrne also worked as an emergency medical technician, regional director for the American Heart Association and deputy district director to a former congresswoman. He also served as a member of the Putnam Valley Planning Board.
Byrne said he first ran for the Assembly because the state was losing a generation of New Yorkers and he wanted to lead the charge for change.
“That desire hasn’t changed. Since arriving in the Assembly, I’ve consistently advocated for reforms that make New York State more affordable, accountable and honest,” he said. “We’ve made some progress, such as working effectively with colleagues across the aisle to empower judges to strip taxpayer-funded pensions from corrupt politicians, but more work is still needed. Today, as COVID-19 continues to disrupt all our daily lives, we need to be mindful that, while we must prudently reopen sectors of our economy and get people back to work, it must be done safely. Before the virus hit our state, far too many people were fleeing New York for better opportunities elsewhere. We must reverse this trend and stop this virus from making our state’s existing problems even worse.”
In each election, Byrne said, his top three priorities have been lowering taxes, creating jobs and putting an end to the corrupt culture in Albany.
“I have also consistently stood up for public health and safety as a priority for every politician at every level of government and this year it’s more important than ever,” he said. “Until we successfully defeat COVID-19 and adequately support our front-line workers, our small businesses, job creators and taxpayers by extension will struggle to survive. Likewise, if our state doesn’t right the broken policies that were rammed through these past two years, such as ‘no-bail’ and other policies that favored criminals over police, our communities will be less able to adequately protect its families and businesses.”
Byrne said the state must do more to grow its economy, create jobs, clean up corruption, combat the opioid epidemic, and back military veterans and first responders. “Since elected, I have delivered real results for our communities,” he said. “With the constituents’ support, I will be able to continue a common-sense approach for another two years as assemblyman.”
Stephanie Keegan grew up in Ardsley and went to Sarah Lawrence College before transferring to be closer to her now husband. She’s been a veterans advocate; an educator, working with students with special needs, teaching English and history; and working for CareMount Medical as an insurance auditor. She has also been a PTO and scout leader
She has lived in Somers for the past 14 years and is the mother of three boys.
After losing her veteran son in 2016, Keegan became a veterans’ advocate, spending two weeks a month in Washington.
“My work on the 2019 NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act—a series of federal laws specifying the annual budget and expenditures of the U.S. Department of Defense) added a standard requiring that command offices of outgoing military personnel with known medical and/or mental health issues immediately connect them with the VA (Veterans Administration) for evaluation and treatment, so none of our service members would return home without knowing if they’ll get the care they need.
“I’m proud that I was able to use my experience to help other families across the nation, and now I’m ready to go to work helping my neighbors,” she continued. “I truly care about the issues that impact the lives and the livelihoods of those in our community. The people of the 94th District deserve sensible representation, from someone who can fight for them to get resources from Albany.”
Keegan said the challenges the state faces regarding COVID-19 have made plain several key issues facing New Yorkers.
“We need quality, affordable health insurance for everyone; we need to find ways to help the people who are out of work and can’t pay their bills, and we need to have the fiscal discipline to pull this off in the midst of a huge budget shortfall,” she said. “In addition, we need to maintain our progress toward a cleaner energy infrastructure and a healthy environment, and toward equal justice for all, bring back good-paying jobs, and improve our schools, all while holding the line on property taxes.”
Keegan said she would have voted “yes” for tax relief for the Mahopac School District, and on the 2 percent tax cap, both in the 2020 state budget.
“I believe in voting for common-sense solutions, not to uphold an ideology,” she said. “It won’t be easy, but I’m ready to get to work.”
A Republican has held the 94th Assembly District for nearly 100 years, although gerrymandering has reshaped the district numerous times during that period. Keegan said she believes people are ready for a fresh perspective.
“People here don’t like extremism. They don’t care about partisan politics,” she said. “They want a representative who just makes good sense. Any candidate that’s willing to go anywhere and talk to anyone can win this district, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. While my opponent wouldn’t attend a League of Women Voters debate, I look forward to any opportunity to hold up our ideas, side by side. I don’t get intimidated; I focus on the work that needs to be done.”