I am presenting for your consideration an interview with a second Democratic candidate vying for his party’s nomination to run for the position of state senator in the 40th Senate District. Should he win the Democratic primary in September, he will face off against Republican state Sen. Terrence Murphy in November. This interview can be seen in its entirety on my show. which is aired on Wednesday nights, 9 p.m., on channel 74 (Altice).
You came into this race a little late, while fellow Democrat, Robert Kesten, was already months into his campaign. Can you enlighten us as to why you are running?
Jumping into this race was not a foreign concept to me. The party had asked me to get into this race twice before (years ago) but it just wasn’t a good time in my life. This time, it felt like the right time. I looked at the race very closely and I believe I could make a difference. Like you, I looked around and was sick to death at what was going on in Washington and Albany.
The Republican majority in the Senate, in my estimation, has abdicated their right to lead. They couldn’t even pass administerial things like local tax warrants, or renew red light cameras in school districts, let alone pass important things like the Reproductive Health Act, the Child Victims Act, or the Red Flag bill.
Are there any specific objections you have to the performance of Senator Murphy?
None of this is personal, of course, but yes, our policy differences are very stark. For example:
1) We want the Red Flag bill. It will allow a teacher, a counselor, a parent, to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from someone who is deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. It would be a great complement to the Safe Act, which was passed after Sandy Hook. Sen. Murphy wants to overturn the Safe Act.
2) We want to expand access to voting: early registration, same day registration, voting by mail, etc. Sen. Murphy has introduced a voter I.D. bill, which is something out of the Jim Crow South. Its only purpose is to intimidate minorities and discourage people from voting. To our mind, that’s not a Hudson Valley value, that’s a Trump value.
3) I support the Reproductive Health Act. Sen. Murphy opposes it. That’s not a Hudson Valley value, that’s a Trump value.
The Senate is extremely conservative and unyielding in their views. They wouldn’t even bring any of these issues to a vote. So, that’s why I am running, to support the values we believe in, not Trump values.
You and Robert Kesten are friends, did that give you pause about entering the race?
It did at first. I’ve known Robert a long time. He’s a terrific guy and he’s worked very hard. I have only positive things to say about Robert. I jumped in the race because I thought I gave us a better chance to win. I’ve got experience in office and running tough races. I view this as a competition in training camp; we’re on the same team. If Robert is the nominee, I will support him 1,000 percent. We are united in our message; this is all about opposing Terrence Murphy. I just think I have something to offer and I want the voters to make that choice.
Are there going to be any debates with Robert?
The League of Women Voters is planning one or two, so we will have conversations for the voters to hear and make their decision. But please keep in mind: this is not a clash of values between Robert and me. It comes down to a conversation about who would be our best messenger.
What’s been the response to your campaign in the communities you’ve visited?
It’s been very positive. I have experience and I think, in troubling times like these, people want leaders with experience. Some communities know me from my work on watershed issues so that’s a real plus.
Do you have a website where constituents can see your positions?
PeteforNY.com. If you go on there, you will see a complete list of our positions and events.
This district has never had a Democratic state senator. How do you assess your chances?
It is a winnable race. It’s about a third Democratic, a third Republican, a third non-affiliated. It has slightly more Democrats than Republicans but with a history of favoring the Republican nominee. The election swings with the nons. The question for voters is what are we doing to make their lives better? The one thing I am committed to is to focus like a laser on downtown Main Street which today is suffering. Our family businesses, which are the backbone of our communities, can’t compete with the big box stores or the online retailers. So, we need to think of ways to bring back foot traffic to our towns. Let’s make them walkable, attractive places again.
Another issue, as you go north, is a lack of sewers. So it’s hard to get restaurants, or build housing, which are anchors to our revitalization. Some communities need streetscapes and lighting. There are things we can do. But it takes a senator who is willing to work with each municipality individually as to what they’re looking to accomplish in their economic development.
In a nutshell, why should people vote for you?
I am an experienced public servant… I think we need to put the needs of the people before politics. Our district faces environmental issues, tax issues, economic issues and human rights issues. So, we have myriad challenges before us. Yet, the Republican Senate has refused to address these issues and in my judgment has abdicated their right to lead. If you elect me, with a new Democratic majority in the Senate, we will work to remedy all these issues. In addition, we will focus on the economic revitalization of our local main streets and get people into our downtowns once again.
Thank you so much for your time.
It’s been my pleasure, Jim.