Before New York Democrats gather on Long Island for their convention this week, many were in Orange County Monday to support a state Senate candidate. The newly reunited Senate Democrats are hoping to wrest control of the chamber from Republicans in November.
Top state Democrats were in Highland Mills as state Assemblyman James Skoufis launched his bid for the 39th state Senate District. Republican Bill Larkin is retiring from the seat. Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens, chair of the Democratic Conference, says the Hudson Valley has his attention.
“It is certainly an area that we’re going to be very active in. We have a lot of competitive races here,” says Gianaris. “I think it is among the places that will be a great focus of our attention, but we are looking at being active all around the state.”
The 39th Senate District includes most of Orange County and parts of Rockland and Ulster counties. It’s one of two open state Senate seats in the Hudson Valley. Two Republicans have announced they’re running – Stony Point Councilman Tom Basile, who has Larkin’s support, and Orange County Legislator Mike Anagnostakis. The 42nd District, which contains a portion of Orange County, is the second open seat, as Republican Senator John Bonacic is also retiring. Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney:
“I think you’re going to see the whole world come to Orange County, in particular,” Maloney says. “We’re going to have some very competitive races here.”
Republican Orange County Executive Steve Neuhuas, who backs Basile, agrees.
“Exciting times,” says Neuhaus. “Orange County will be the epicenter of political activity in New York state.”
There are open Assembly seats that include Orange County as well, with Skoufis’ bid for the Senate leaving his 99th District up for grabs, and the death of Assemblyman Frank Skartados, from the 104th District. Congressman Maloney, of the 18th District, says Skoufis’ campaign launch was the first he attended for a state Senate candidate.
“This is the first and best one so far, but it won’t be the last,” says Maloney. “This is a really important year we’re in. And it’s a great opportunity to get a lot of the deadwood out of Albany and get some fresh blood.”
Meantime, Maloney is weighing a run for state attorney general.
“We’re looking at it. I like the job I’m doing now. It’s a tremendous honor to serve the people of the Hudson Valley in the Congress. I think it’s an important time to be in Congress, and I have a lot of work I want to do there,” says Maloney. “The attorney general’s job is obviously not something we thought that would be open. We all understand that this came up quick. And it is a really critical office for so many reasons. It may be the last line of defense against a president who threatens our Constitution.”
The unexpected race for attorney general sprang up after Democratic Eric Schneiderman resigned following allegations of physical abuse earlier this month. Maloney says he will decide this week whether to run. He lost to Andrew Cuomo in a Democratic primary for the post in 2006.
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli was on hand to support Skoufis in his Senate bid, and says the Hudson Valley is a prime swing area in the state.
“You have very independent-minded voters. You have increasing Democratic enrollment in what has been traditionally a Republican stronghold,” says DiNapoli. “And certainly when you have a candidate like James Skoufis, who has such incredible grassroots support, and you have an open Senate seat as well, not the only open Senate seat in the Hudson Valley, it’s very clear that the Hudson Valley is going to be the real battleground for control of the state Senate.”
The Democrats cheerleading for their Senate candidates say they are combatting dark money and special interests. Skoufis agrees and adds he is also seeking fairness for the district.
“As our state Senate district seeks a new representative for the first time in 28 years, people will choose whether to double down on creating a fair, just state government that continues to close that equity gap for the Hudson Valley or erase the progress we’ve made in the Hudson Valley and return to being a punching bag, an ATM for Albany,” Skoufis says.
Jessica Proud is spokeswoman for the New York state GOP. In a statement, she says, "The New York Democrats are in turmoil with another federal corruption trial into Cuomo's Administration about to start and the abrupt resignation of Eric Schneiderman who was exposed for abusing women. Their record of failure, disgrace, and corruption will be on the ballot this November, and our ticket led by the Hudson Valley's Marc Molinaro is going to lead us to victory up and down the ballot."
While the Democrats are on Long Island for their convention beginning Wednesday, the Republicans will be in Manhattan hosting their convention to nominate candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and comptroller.
Dutchess County Executive Molinaro is expected to be nominated for governor. Molinaro has named Republican Julie Killian of Rye, in Westchester County, as his running mate. Killian lost her race for the state Senate seat vacated by Democrat George Latimer in a special election in April. It was her second time running for the seat. Democratic Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer won the special election.