A first-term New York state Senator and her Republican opponent took part in an Orange County Citizens Foundation debate Monday. Democrat Jen Metzger is seeking re-election in the 42nd District, which had been in Republican hands for years before John Bonacic did not seek re-election in 2018.
The 42nd District includes Sullivan County and portions of Delaware, Orange and Ulster Counties. Orange County has one of the state’s recently imposed coronavirus red zones, primarily in the Orthodox Jewish communities in Palm Tree and Kiryas Joel. Republican Mike Martucci, a Wawayanda resident, contends the state’s approach has been too top down, while Metzger says the state is doing what is needed to stop the spread.
“Tackling this problem isn’t the responsibility of one person in Albany and, essentially, that’s what’s happening,” says Martucci. “Again, there’s one person running all of state government right now, and I think the problem would be more appropriately addressed, and could be more appropriately addressed, if the legislature went back to work and worked, again, as a co-equal branch of government to help solve these problems rather than have the governor issue decrees and have those decrees carried out by localities at their expense.”
“The legislature has been in session and has passed many pieces of COVID-specific laws throughout these difficult months to help address statewide needs,” says Metzger. “And, as I mentioned at the outset, a huge part of my work during this pandemic has been in my community, helping my constituents.”
Metzger, who lives in Rosendale in Ulster County, where she once served on the Town Board, spoke about her first-term accomplishments.
“Since taking office last year, I’ve held 45 community roundtables, resource fairs and town halls around the district to meet people where they are and best advocate for our community in Albany,” Metzger says. “I’ve seen 29 of my bills signed into law in 20 months in office, and every single one of them has passed with wide bipartisan support.”
Martucci is the former owner of a school bus company.
“I’ve created jobs right here in our region, and I hear what our friends and neighbors need. They’re asking for lower taxes. That’s something that hasn’t happened. They’re asking for good paying jobs. They’re asking for affordable health care and really, most importantly, they’re asking for safe communities,” Martucci says. “There are things that we’re all looking for, but what this race really comes down to is the approach.”
The two outlined their approach to leadership, including during the campaign.
“In this campaign, I have been focused on what can we do together to, what will best serve our communities and how can we work together to achieve those goals,” Metzger says. “My opponent has focused entirely on divisiveness and polarization and politicization, and, if it’s an indication of what, the role he’ll play in state Senate, it is not what we need right now. We need to roll up our sleeves and work together and solve the problems our communities face.”
Martucci says collaboration is his strong suit.
“I would also disagree with the senator that my campaign has been about divisiveness. I mean, look, at the end of the day, the primary difference between the Senator and I is that the senator’s running from her record and I’m here to face mine,” Martucci says. “And, what I know is that the things that have been happening in Albany have been hurting New Yorkers. They’re real victims from the bad policies, some of the things I’ve spoken about. And this campaign is about showing a very important and stark contrast, the difference between Senator Metzger and I.”
The coronavirus pandemic has magnified existing broadband access issues.
“My comprehensive broadband bill will close the gap, was passed virtually unanimously in the legislature. We now need the governor to sign it,” Metzger says. “At the same time, I’ve been working, at the county level, I’ve been working with Sullivan County to secure funds for a municipal broadband project that they’re undertaking.”
With so many residents working remotely during the pandemic, Metzger says access to rural broadband is even more critical. Martucci says he would address the broadband gap in at least two ways.
“The first is to make sure that in our state budget there’s actual money allocated to expand broadband networks in New York. That’s something that hasn’t happened, and budget speaks to priority and so, if this has been a priority, there would have been resources,” Martucci says. “Second, the state, again, voted in favor of a fiber tax. This is a tax that Senator Metzger supported that charges cable installers every time they stick the shovel in the ground to go and expand broadband networks when they’re in state right-of-ways. This has to be repealed immediately so that we can get access to these underserved communities.”
Metzger, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, says the district has some 2,000 family farms. She has advocated for farmland protection funding and more.
“I, last year, introduced a bill that expanded the Community Preservation Act to include Ulster County, and now I’ve introduced a bill to take it statewide so that every community has the tools they need to protect farmland,” Metzger says.
Martucci took aim at Metzger on the subject of farms.
“Key to the preservation of farmland are the preservation of our farms themselves,” Martucci says. “And, this year, Senator Metzger backed a provision that hurt our farms in a way that they haven’t been hurt in modern history here in the state of New York, and this was a farm labor bill.”
The candidates also addressed child care, clean energy goals and more.