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Three Democrats battle for redrawn NY-19 Congressional district

19th CD candidates Osun Zotique, Jamie Cheney, Josh Riley.
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Cheney & Riley campaign photos
19th CD Democratic candidates Osun Zotique, Jamie Cheney, Josh Riley.

After redistricting, three Democrats are running in a newly drawn 19th Congressional District in New York.

The new 19th district stretches from the Finger Lakes to the Southern Tier, from parts of the lower Hudson Valley to Greene and Columbia County.

Endicott native Josh Riley is an attorney who got his start in public service as a Staff Assistant in Congressman Maurice Hinchey’s office.

"I saw while I was working in Congress both the worst of Washington dysfunction, but also the very best of what we can accomplish if we roll up our sleeves and work together," Riley said. "You know, our politics today are so divided by people who are on the extremes, just trying to yell the loudest and get the most, you know, clicks and followers on social media. And my approach to this job will be the same as what it was when I worked as counsel in the Senate, which is to try to bring Democrats and Republicans together to find common ground on the issues that matter."

Riley says while on the campaign trail he is hearing that people want change.

"I'm running for Congress because our politics are so divided and so broken," said Riley. "I have a 20-month-old son and I have real concerns about the kind of democracy that he's going to grow up in. And that's why I'm stepping forward to do this right now. I think, look, most people I talk to care less about left, right, conservative, liberal, Democrat, Republican. What most folks are concerned about is their own economic situation, creating new jobs across the region."

OutHudson director Osun Zotique wants to become the first openly trans, nonbinary individual elected to a federal office, succeeding Antonio Delgado, who left the seat when he was tapped for lieutenant governor by Governor Kathy Hochul.

"Well, I was particularly inspired by my next door neighbor, Mr. Delgado, I actually happen to live not next to his home, but very nearby to one of his offices," said Zotique. "And so when I heard that he was moving on, and imagined and saw what was happening in the whole district, I really felt inspired to try to want to continue in the spirit of historic first. And I really wanted to support a candidate that was LatinX, similar to Delgado, as somebody who brought a similar sense of charismatic and Transformative Leadership around the space of their person, and being in their essence as a neighbor and immunity. And then I realized that that person was me."

Zotique says inflation is deeply affecting the 19th.

"As somebody who is neither man nor woman, I know that I embody the unity that our nation needs as a country at this time of global crisis and instability," Zotique said. "However, for our neighbors here in the Hudson Valley, one of the issues that I'm very attuned to is the aspect of affordable housing. And given the fact that we have a lot of rural space here, I'm particularly curious about researching and potentially expanding the Farm Housing Act of 1949."

That act initiated a program to help farmers move into better homes.

Jamie Cheney runs a small business and a cattle farm in Rhinebeck. She cut her political teeth over the past five years volunteering and knocking on doors for local candidates across the Hudson Valley.

"I made a decision to run myself in early 2021, because I felt that my state senator at the time really didn't reflect the values of my community," said Cheney. "And then when the lines were redrawn, and I saw the new 19th, and saw a very large community in the new 19th that truly needs a strong advocate, and an advocate who understands what life is like, not in the urban centers of our country, but in our more rural areas, and are much smaller cities, I made a decision to run for the seat."

That decision was boosted by the skyrocketing cost of living, scarcity of jobs and challenges small businesses face.

"The primary issues facing this district are the issues that most directly affect people every day," Cheney said. "And right now, that means the issues that are affecting people's wallets. So this is everything from the availability and cost of housing, the cost of gas, as we all well know, and then a series of other costs and lack of supports that are really affecting our community. So specifically, I'm thinking and I've heard a lot as I've traveled the new 19th, about things like a requirement for flood insurance in a certain area that's flooded two or three times in the last 20 years, that is much more than a family can afford."

Democrats chose Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan to run in the special election to finish Delgado's term. He is also running in the new 18th district for the next term.

Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro is running both in the special election for the old 19th against Ryan and for the new 19th. Both the special election and the Congressional primary election will be held August 23rd.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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