Conservative slams incumbent on marriage equality

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

The battle for New York’s 41st State Senate District, a contest with many twists, came to Cold Spring Monday night (Oct. 22) as the trio of contenders all pledged to put their constituents’ interests above politics.

But a one-sided political slugfest ensued nonetheless, as Neil Di Carlo, a Conservative “pro-family” advocate, repeatedly attacked incumbent State Sen. Stephen Saland, a Republican who angered the religious right by supporting same-sex marriage last year. The third candidate, Democrat Terry Gipson, drew little attention from Di Carlo and general rebuttals from Saland, who observed that neither challenger had his level of experience.

In one of the unusual turns to the race, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, last Friday (Oct. 19) endorsed not fellow Democrat Gipson but Saland, an Albany veteran known for his bipartisanship on some controversial issues. Earlier, in another quirky development, statewide redistricting threw Saland into a new 41st district, making him both an old-hand legislator and a new face, at least in Philipstown, previously part of the 40th district of State Sen. Greg Ball (another Republican).

Di Carlo’s insurgent campaign threatens to split the non-Democratic vote, adding yet another dimension to a chaotic fight. Last month, in the GOP primary, Saland narrowly defeated Di Carlo, who rebounded, claiming the Conservative Party line on the ballot.

New York State Sen. Stephen Saland, left, Terry Gipson, and Neil Di Carlo speak at candidates’ forum. Photo by Jeanne Tao

The three candidates addressed an Oct. 22 forum sponsored by the Putnam County News & Recorder in the Haldane Central School District cafeteria. All declared their intent to focus on economic issues and reforming Albany, among other concerns, if successful in the Nov. 6 election.

“I want my children and future grandchildren to grow up in the Empire State the way we were” able to do, finding opportunities. “It’s not going to happen,” declared Di Carlo, a Brewster resident employed by Advanced Equities Services Corp., at the New York Stock Exchange. “New York is in economic ruin,” ranking 50th in friendliness to business, and Saland “has contributed mightily to the demise,” he argued. “You need a true conservative, social and fiscal. I am that candidate. I’m going to take care of your wallet and not special interests.”

Besides watching the budget “I will work vigorously to make marriage once again something for a man and a woman” and repeal the same-sex marriage law, he told the approximately 70 forum attendees.

Gipson said, “New York state has a great opportunity to create jobs, improve the quality of living, improve education, protect women’s right to reproductive health … make the Hudson Valley the center of the renewable energy industry” and increase the minimum wage, because “it’s a repressive” inequity to not do so. “I’m ready to get the things done that nobody else seems able to get done,” he said. Moreover, “I’m the only candidate up here who wants to ban hydrofracking.” A trustee on the Rhinebeck Village Board and small-business entrepreneur, Gipson founded Gipson Design Group Inc.

Saland, a lawyer from the Town of Poughkeepsie, cited his three decades of work in public office and his bridge-building across party lines. “I am a product of the Hudson Valley. I want to make it a better place than I found it” and to continue to forge bipartisan solutions to state problems in Albany, he said. Through reform efforts, “we are turning the ship around,” he said. “We’ve taken the dis out of disfunction,” enabling New York state to work better.

He cited some of the latest accomplishments, such as legislation opposing cyberbullying, establishing a state forensic DNA database, and updating the domestic-abuse laws, as well as initiatives to overturn oppressive regulations, deal with taxes, establish the Hudson Valley Greenway, and assist his constituents.

Going forward, he said, he wants to promote jobs, increase the state bond rating, otherwise improve the economy, and address other needs. He suggested the so-called “social issues” that Di Carlo champions matter less than the basics to New Yorkers. Likewise, he defended his stance on marriage equality: “I haven’t any apologies or any regrets.”

Gipson praised Saland’s gay-marriage vote. “It was the right thing to do,” he said, adding that “there are many, many courageous things to do in Albany. I want to go up and do them for you.”

But Di Carlo accused Saland of accepting contributions from a “gay mafia. All you have to do is follow the money. Saland has taken money and not voted the right way.” Moreover, “he [Saland] and Cuomo lie” about balancing the budget without raising taxes, Di Carlo alleged. “Albany lies consistently. Albany is broken and corrupt and I’m the only one” determined to do something about it, he said.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Armstrong was the founding news editor of The Current (then known as in 2010 and later a senior correspondent and contributing editor for the paper. She worked earlier in Washington as a White House correspondent and national affairs reporter and assistant news editor for daily international news services. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Areas of expertise: Politics and government