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Hudson Valley News

NYS 39th Senate District Candidates Debate

Democratic Assemblyman James Skoufis and Republican Tom Basile debated Wednesday night in the City of Newburgh. The two candidates are vying for the chance to represent the 39th New York state Senate District, currently held by Republican Bill Larkin, who is retiring after 28 years.

The debate between Skoufis…

“I’m willing to make you a deal,” Skoufis said. “If you stop lying about me, I’ll stop telling the truth about you. Enough is enough.”

and Basile…

“He’s real slick, isn’t he? Isn’t he?” said Basile.

…drew lines in the sand.

“This election is about many things. It’s about whether Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio will take total control of our government,” said Basile. “It’s about whether New York City leaders drive the conversation and increase the cost of our government.”

“But I have news for him. He’s not running against Andrew Cuomo. He’s not running against Bill de Blasio,” said Skoufis. “As much as he doesn’t want to run against me, he’s running against me. I’ll be on the ballot this November 6th.”

The two agreed on hardly anything during the debate sponsored by the “Times Herald-Record” and Orange County Citizens Foundation. They take opposing views on the Child Victims Act, aid in dying, health care, school aid and just about everything else. For example, Basile, who has been endorsed by Larkin, does not support a ban on outside income for a state legislator.

“The concept is that we want citizen legislators. We want this to be a part-time job,” said Basile. “The last thing that we want are more career politicians in Albany for a lifetime.”

Plus, he says:

“I think that you want the guy that runs the pizzeria or the hardware store or somebody who has a career to actually, to be able to participate in the political process,” Basile said. “I want them running for state legislature.”

Skoufis says serving in the legislature is a full-time job.

“So yes, I support a ban on outside income,” said Skoufis. “If you look at the litany of arrests and convictions that have taken place over, just say the past six years I’ve been in the Assembly, whether it’s Skelos, who was just sentenced today, or Sheldon Silver or the many others, the majority of them had something to do with making money outside of their official capacity.”

The 39th District includes parts of Orange, Rockland and Ulster Counties. Skoufis had hoped for more time in the debate for other topics.

“I thought we could have talked about rebuilding the City of Newburgh a bit more,” Skoufis says. “I’ve actually just come out with a plan that, a very comprehensive plan that looks at every element of every challenge in this city.”

He says many communities in the Hudson Valley have long been neglected by the state Senate. Basile, who is deputy supervisor in the Rockland Town of Stony Point, also had hoped to cover other subjects.

“I have been all across this district. I’ve met thousands and thousands of people who tell me they’re not sure they can afford to live here anymore,” says Basile. “And that’s why we’ve put forth real property tax and income tax reform plans and real plans to create jobs and improve our infrastructure.”

He says affordability is the number one issue. Second, he says, is overdevelopment, a point he raised during a question about the Hasidic Village of Kiryas Joel. When asked whether Kiryas Joel should receive block grants, Basile responded:

“Look, Kiryas Joel is, the challenges that we face is overdevelopment, alright. And that’s what we have to get on offense with respect to overdevelopment,” Basile said. “And I’m the only candidate sitting up here who has put forth a plan to help get our local communities on offense against overdevelopment to help protect their quality of life.”

Skoufis says no community shall receive special treatment.

“By no means should the residents of Kiryas Joel be represented less than everyone else in the Senate district, but they should not be given special treatment ahead of any other community in the Senate district,” said Skoufis.

Monroe resident John Allegro says he will vote for Basile, despite having appeared with Skoufis several times over the years in alignment against annexation proposals from Kiryas Joel. Allegro is with United Monroe, one of the two groups that agreed to allow the village to politically separate from the Town of Monroe.

“He was a great cheerleader for us, and we did appreciate it,” Allegro says. “However, there are just some issues that are bigger than that.”

Allegro says he had to part ways with Skoufis on such statewide issues as taxation and health care. Here’s Skoufis.

“Yes, it is a Republican seat and, yes, it’s a Republican district,” says Skoufis. “But, as I noted in the debate, I’m proud to have the support of many people across the aisle as well.”

One is Newburgh resident Michelle McKeon, a Republican who historically voted for Larkin.

“I’m absolutely supporting Assemblyman Skoufis to be our next senator,” McKeon says.

“Why not go for the next Republican?” asks Dunne.

“Because I don’t think he shares the values of myself or my family or how I grew up,” says McKeon.

The 39th District is one of two open state Senate seats in the Hudson Valley. Republican John Bonacic, of the 42nd District, also is not seeking re-election.

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