Five Democrats in primary to face Republican candidate

By Jeff Simms

Five Democrats will square off in a primary on Thursday, Sept. 13, to determine who will face Republican and Conservative Party candidate Scott Manley in November to succeed the late Assemblyman Frank Skartados.

The state seat, which Skartados held from 2012 until he died of pancreatic cancer in April, represents the 104th District, which includes Beacon and Newburgh.

Manley is a retired police officer and current member of the Newburgh Town Council. Sakima McClinton, a West Point graduate and former president of the Poughkeepsie school board, also filed to run on the Republican and Conservative Party lines but her nominating petitions were ruled invalid by the state Board of Elections.

The Current asked each Democratic candidate to provide biographical information and explain why he or she is running. Manley and his Democratic challenger will be asked more detailed questions before the general election. The candidates are presented in alphabetical order. Their responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.


Ralph Coates

Coates, a lifelong resident of Poughkeepsie, holds a bachelor’s degree in organizational management from Nyack College and is pursuing a master’s degree in public administration at Marist. He is director of Liberty Partnerships at SUNY Orange in Newburgh, a state-funded program to prevent Newburgh public school students from dropping out. Coates also served on Poughkeepsie’s city council, served two terms on its Board of Education and is a trustee of the Dutchess County Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES).

“As a resident of an inner city, I want what is best for cities like Beacon, Poughkeepsie and Newburgh, to see us grow and prosper,” he wrote. “I have spent a lot of time walking our communities’ streets, visiting churches and talking to its people. Beneath our feet lies a well of untapped potential that can be harnessed only with the reins of dedicated leadership and visionary talent from someone who has been working in the heart of our community. I do my homework and I ask the tough questions. I am equipped to represent our cities and towns from Day One in Albany.”


Jonathan Jacobson

Jacobson served as an assistant counsel to the speaker of the state Assembly on its Labor Committee, where he researched and wrote legislation. He also served as an assistant state attorney general in charge of the Consumer Frauds Bureau in Poughkeepsie and as a Workers’ Compensation judge. Currently a member of the Newburgh City Council, Jacobson chaired the Orange County Democratic Committee for 22 years. His law practice focuses on workers’ comp and Social Security disability cases.

“The three top issues are, first, ending the reliance on school property taxes to fund public schools; second, legislation to protect us from the excesses of the Trump administration and the Trump Supreme Court, from reproductive rights to health insurance to environmental laws; and, third, expanding free college tuition at state colleges to part-time students and vocational training,” he wrote. “I also favor developing a single-payer health plan, rebuilding our infrastructure and ending the culture of corruption in Albany. It is not enough to be on the right side of the issues — you need the experience, energy and ideas to be an effective Assembly member.”

Alex Kelly

Kelly, a journalist who lives in Beacon, was Skartados’ director of policy development and holds the same position with the New York State Assembly Majority Conference. According to his campaign website, he wrote many of the bills that Skartados introduced, including those designed to block pipelines, create public banks, end gun violence, restore public education and prevent overdose deaths.

Kelly says his eight years as a journalist, including for Truthdig, The Nation and Harper’s, will provide connections with experts who can inform his policies. He is also a community organizer who led the production of Skartados’ forum on opioid abuse and co-organized the Citizen Soapbox, where Beacon residents presented visions for the future of the community.

“The truth of this campaign is that we need each other,” he writes on his website. “We must combine our strengths and privileges — patiently, carefully and rapidly. People are committed to this work throughout the district, and I am running to support them. Skartados’ death left a hole in our leadership. In his absence, we need courage, ideas, experience and unequivocal recognition of the unnecessary hardship that most New Yorkers suffer.”


Kevindaryán Luján

Luján was elected last year to the Orange County Legislature, representing Newburgh’s 4th District. A first-generation Colombian-American, he holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Florida International University in Miami and a master’s degree in international relations and European studies from Central European University in Budapest. He is fluent in English, French and Spanish.

“I have worked in our cities as an advocate on issues such as mental health and substance abuse, municipal IDs and sanctuary city policy, environmental protection and reproductive rights,” he wrote.

“My priorities are increased funds for our public schools, improved public transportation, affordable housing, affordable child care, sustainable economic development and livable-wage jobs.”

“In the Assembly I will fight to bring the funds and support our region needs while also taking a firm position against the corruption in Albany.”

Jodi McCredo

McCredo, who represents Ward 3 on the Beacon City Council, owns and operates a printing company she started with her husband and last year was a recipient of the 40 under 40 Rising Star Award from the Business Council of Westchester County. A longtime public school advocate, McCredo helped form the grassroots organization Advocates for Beacon Schools and also served on the Beacon Commission on Human Relations.

“I want to work to improve our public education system, enact single-payer health care, bring grants into the district to help improve infrastructure and economic development and protect the Hudson River,” she wrote. “I also want to help bring tourism dollars to our beautiful riverfront communities, protect our farms and farmers, help small businesses get started and grow, and protect the rights of everyone.

“I am proud of the legislation I have passed since winning a seat on the Beacon City Council. I am willing to listen and learn, but also unafraid to stand up for what I believe is right for our families, communities and our environment. Together, we can build a safe, fair and healthy New York.”

Other races

In other local races, candidates are battling to win lines on the ballot that represent only a small number of voters, under the hypothesis that the more times your name appears, the more likely you will win.

The few registered members in the county of the Reform (42) and Women’s Equality (71) parties will decide which of two candidates receive their lines for Dutchess County Surrogate Court and Family Court judgeships.

For Surrogate Court, which handles trust and guardianship issues, the candidates for both lines are Thomas Mansfield, an attorney in Red Hook, and Michael Hayes, the town judge of LaGrange. Mansfield already has the Democratic and Working Families lines and Hayes the Republican, Conservative, Green and Independence lines.

For Family Court, Karen Hagstrom, a county district attorney, is challenging Jeffrey Martin, a lawyer and town justice from Red Hook, for both lines. Hagstrom has the Republican, Conservative, Green and Independence lines and Martin the Democratic and Working Families lines.

Behind The Story

Type: News

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

Simms has covered Beacon for The Current since 2015. He studied journalism at Appalachian State University and has reported for newspapers in North Carolina and Maryland. Location: Beacon. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Beacon politics