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NYS Assemblyman Lalor, Giardino Face Off In 105th District

Lalor, Giardino
nyassembly.gov, Facebook: Laurette Giardino for NYS Assembly 105 AD
New York State Assemblyman Kieran Lalor and Laurette Giardino

Tuesday’s election features a rematch in New York’s 105th state Assembly District. 

Republican State Assemblyman Kieran Lalor is seeking his fifth term representing the southern Dutchess County district. His opponent, Democrat Laurette Giardino, is running for the second straight cycle, primarily on a promise to bring better jobs to district.

We’re losing the retail end of industry here in the Hudson Valley. So I want to work on finding programs that we can set up to help people start industry," says Giardino. "That’s one of the things I want to do, to bring back trade programs into our schools.” 

Giardino, a former business owner in East Fishkill, accuses Lalor of not doing enough to cultivate industry during his tenure. Lalor notes that the biggest obstacle facing businesses right now is COVID-19. He says Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo has largely mishandled the pandemic.

“They are continuing to target restaurants for small violations. At one point they had the ridiculous policy where Governor Cuomo was literally telling people what counted as a meal. It’s almost impossible to comply with a policy that’s constantly changing," Lalor adds. "So other than having a calming influence, I can’t think of anything that the state or the governor’s office did right during the pandemic.” 

The Cuomo administration warns of a $60 billion revenue shortfall through 2022. Giardino, like Cuomo, argues New York is owed at least some level of federal support. Lalor says he supports direct aid to local governments and schools – but the state should prove itself responsible first. Lalor says the state budget was rife with wasteful spending from the get-go, with a roughly $6 billion deficit before the pandemic. He’d like to cut what he says is roughly $7 billion in “corporate welfare,” and see lawmakers tighten their own belts.

“The state offers you money to clean your office. You know what I do? I vacuum the office myself, I bring the garbage out myself," says Lalor. "Just that little step there saved the taxpayers $20,000. So by doing little things like that...the savings would be in the billions. The federal government would be calling New York state for a bailout.” 

Lalor contends there’s no need to raise taxes to bridge the gap. While progressive lawmakers have proposed a new tax on billionaires, Lalor sides with Cuomo, worrying such a move could push wealthy residents out of the state.

“You don’t wanna drive the people who pay the highest income tax rate [out of the state], you don’t want to drive businesses out of the state – because then you lose their personal income tax money, you lose the corporate tax money, you lose the sales tax money on their spending. Tax cuts don’t happen in a vacuum," he explains. 

Giardino disagrees. She says a billionaire tax is necessary and reasonable.

“Studies have shown whenever there’s a tax rate on them, they haven’t left. They won’t leave, this is the place to be. This is where their economic commerce is," she assures. "And how many of them are even asking to be taxed? [Michael] Bloomberg is asking to be taxed.”

Perhaps where the candidates disagree most is the subject of police brutality and racial justice. Following nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, Governor Cuomo ordered municipalities across the state to reexamine their police departments for possible reforms. Reports are due to the state by April. Giardino would like to see police departments require extensive training for officers, better coordination with social workers, and more interaction with the community. 

“I hate that word, 'defunding.' It has such a negative connotation," Giardino adds. "We need to look how we’re spending our money with the police department. Let’s stop militarizing our police, use that money to further train our police, and put that money into other programs that will work with the police.”

Lalor, meanwhile, says systemic racism in the police force is a “myth,” and that the issue stems from individuals resisting arrest. He supports legislation to make resisting arrest a felony, and designate any attack on a police officer a hate crime. He says his top priority in the Assembly, aside from the pandemic and budget, is repealing the state’s bail and discovery reforms that took effect at the beginning of the year. 

“We have a shooting epidemic around the state — not just New York City, upstate cities have a violence epidemic and a shooting epidemic. And a lot of it is because you can arrest somebody for a violent crime and they get an appearance ticket, and they’re told ‘Yeah, come back in three weeks to show up for your court date,'" says Lalor. "So the police officers are saying, ‘Why am I gonna risk my life to catch this guy, if in two hours he’s gonna be out on the street?’”

To be clear, the reforms enacted in January centered on eliminating cash bail for non-violent offenses – but state lawmakers have already moved to reexamine that list, finding some offenses worthy of posting bail.

Democrats already control both chambers of the legislature and the governorship, which is not likely to change after Tuesday. Lalor touts his ability to work across the aisle in the state Assembly. As for Giardino, her performance in 2018 has her feeling pretty good about her chances. 

“I won 43 percent of the vote. Compared to previous people who have run against him, I cut the number in half – the vote difference," she boasts. "People in my district are ready for change.”

Early voting is already underway for the election on Tuesday. 

Jesse King is the host of WAMC's national program on women's issues, "51%," and the station's bureau chief in the Hudson Valley. She has also produced episodes of the WAMC podcast "A New York Minute In History."