Questions for Candidates: State Assembly Democrats

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The boundaries of District 95

There will be three candidates in the June 28 Democratic primary for state Assembly District 95, which includes Philipstown. The seat had been held for nearly 30 years by Democrat Sandy Galef, who announced earlier this year she would not run.

Vanessa Agudelo (vanessaforny.com) is a former member of the Peekskill Common Council. She has been endorsed by the New York Working Families Party, Progressive Women of New York and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.

Dana Levenberg (danaforassembly.com) is the Ossining town supervisor. She has been endorsed by Galef, as well as Philipstown Democrats and Putnam County Legislator Nancy Montgomery, whose district includes Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley.

Colin Smith (colin4assembly.com) is a two-term member of the Westchester County Legislature, where his district includes Cortlandt, Peekskill and Yorktown. He is a former member of the Peekskill Common Council and has been endorsed by the Cortlandt Democratic Committee.

We asked each candidate to respond to two questions.

Why are you the best candidate for the Democratic line?

Vanessa Agudelo

Vanessa Agudelo

Agudelo: I’m the best candidate to face our district’s challenges head-on because I’m the one with a record not just of progressive policies, but years of bold progressive action. I came into this work as an activist after watching the community I grew up in exploited, endangered and polluted for the sake of profit, all while working families like mine struggled to make ends meet.

Professionally, I have years of experience working in state policy and advocacy, and most recently led the successful fight to establish the Excluded Worker Fund, a historic statewide $2.1 billion investment in pandemic relief for undocumented workers, made possible by raising taxes on the ultra-wealthy. Even as a city council member, I’ve creatively used every tool available to leverage my power and advocate on issues impacting our communities to move important legislation forward — testifying at state and federal hearings, lobbying state and federal officials, organizing protests and town halls with issue experts and those directly impacted. After years of organizing as part of a statewide movement, I believe our campaign is best positioned to usher in the kind of change working families need in this urgent moment, and we would make history by electing the first Latina outside of New York City into the state Legislature by doing so.

Dana Levenberg

Dana Levenberg

Levenberg: Voters who want a representative with the experience, knowledge and skills to hit the ground running on Day One and deliver results should choose me. For progress on all the issues voters in this district care most about — climate action, economic recovery, affordability, women’s rights, gun reform and so on — you need an effective legislator. People who know well what it takes to be successful in this role, including the current Assemblywoman, Sandy Galef, have endorsed me for this reason. Indeed, of all the candidates in the race, I have the most endorsements from people and organizations who know this district, the candidates and the job.

My approach is very different from that of my opponents. I am an active and engaged leader; I’m the type to attend every meeting, ask lots of questions and pore over details. I also surround myself with people who complement my knowledge and skills, and build strong relationships and collaborations that endure over time and produce results.

I am in my seventh year as the Ossining town supervisor, following nine years as a school board trustee and eight years as Sandy Galef’s chief of staff. I’ve accomplished a lot in my career, with a strong record of results on the environment, improving the fiscal health of Ossining, expanding affordable housing, promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in our schools and the community, and more.

Colin Smith

Colin Smith

Smith: My story starts in Peekskill, where I was raised in a union home by mixed-race parents — one Black, one white. Like many of our neighbors, my parents worked hard to make ends meet and afford me the opportunities to get a quality education. As a proud public school and community college graduate, I know that a good public education can level the playing field for every kid, no matter their background or ZIP code.

That’s why I got involved in politics — first on the Peekskill school board, then the Peekskill Common Council, and now the Westchester County Legislature. I’m ready to bring that experience to Albany.

I was the first Democrat ever elected to my county legislative seat and will be the first person of color to represent the 95th Assembly District. I have made a career of giving voice to the voiceless and standing up for everyone from all walks of life. I hope you will join me in this historic campaign.

What do you feel are the two most pressing issues facing the 95th District?

Agudelo: Our district is facing the brunt of many overlapping crises: increasingly unaffordable housing pushing working families out of neighborhoods; the reckless greed of dirty energy companies threatening our climate, drinking water and safety; and the need to overhaul a broken health care system whose injustices and inefficiencies have been illuminated during this pandemic. Without recognizing the conditions that enable this growing gap of inequality in one of the richest states in the U.S., none of these issues is put in context. 

Whether you are a renter or a homeowner, the costs of living are becoming impossible to manage for all of us. While billionaires get richer, the middle- and lower-income class are being squeezed out and forced to carry the brunt of running society. The wrong people are being taxed, but to change this we need bold leaders in Albany who are not beholden to corporate interests and who will fight to center the needs of the people and our climate. We must reform our outdated tax system, close unfair tax loopholes and make the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share to ensure the prosperity in our state is shared by all.

Levenberg: Everything I do is part of my mission to build healthy communities in every sense of the word — environmentally, economically, mentally and physically, all through the lens of equity. I list the environment first for a reason. Because the 95th is largely composed of river towns, combating climate change and promoting environmental resiliency must be a top priority for our next representative. And it is not enough for that representative to be able to describe the problem; they also need to be able to work productively with other legislators to get things done. 

I am best positioned to deliver results in this regard. Economic recovery, housing and health care are also critical issues that need to be addressed — for all of these things, and more, we need a legislator who will be effective on Day One.

Smith: I ran for office to protect our kids, our tax dollars and our communities. As a county legislator, I’m proud of my record where I’ve (1) led the charge to create an office of police accountability, (2) sponsored a bill to increase penalties for trespassing and verbal attacks on women at abortion clinics seeking the necessary health care they deserve, (3) helped keep our community hospitals open in the height of COVID-19 and (4) worked with other local officials to electrify our county bus system.

We can build on these accomplishments for the 95th Assembly District. I’m running to bring my progressive values and results-driven approach to Albany. I’ll work with my colleagues to provide necessary funding and broadband access to our schools, fight for high-quality health care for all New Yorkers and generate sustainable jobs to help our workers and environment.

Other June 28 Primaries

Early voting for the primary elections will take place daily from June 18 to 26. Beacon residents can vote at Fishkill Town Hall, 807 Route 52. See elections.dutchessny.gov for hours. Philipstown residents can vote at the North Highlands Firehouse, 504 Fishkill Road. See putnamboe.com for hours. You must a registered member of the party to vote.

Governor (Democratic)

Kathy Hochul
Thomas Suozzi
Jumaane Williams

Governor (Republican)

Rob Astorino
Andrew Giuliani
Harry Wilson
Lee Zeldin

Lt. Governor (Democratic)

Ana Maria Archila
Antonio Delgado
Diana Reyna

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6 thoughts on “Questions for Candidates: State Assembly Democrats

  1. Colin Smith hasn’t filed any of his financial disclosures. He’s either irresponsible or hiding something — which is it? People have a right to know who is funding these campaigns. Democrats also need to know who will be able to mount a credible general election campaign; if he were to win the primary, he’d be facing two opponents, one of whom hasn’t had to spend any money and one that has a lot of outside money being spent on her behalf. Why isn’t the media reporting on the money in this race?

    • In January, Smith told the Board of Elections his campaign had a balance of $7,496, but he has not filed a report since.

      Vanessa Agudelo told the Board of Elections last week that she has raised $92,082 and spent $32,552. Her largest donors are the Courage to Change PAC, which is associated with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ($4,700); three individuals, including a family member, who gave $4,700 each; the Democratic Socialists of America ($4,500) and the DSA’s Lower Hudson Valley chapter ($2,000). The largest local donor is Antigoni Kanaris of Philipstown ($630). Agudelo has no opposition to appear on the Working Families line.

      Dana Levenberg reported last week she has raised $142,603 and spent $18,824. Her largest donors are Murray Azaria, a family member ($12,000), and five individuals who gave $4,700 each. The largest local donors are Peter Davis of Garrison ($2,500) and Putnam County Legislator Nancy Montgomery ($1,000).

  2. I am supporting Dana Levenberg to represent us, the 95th district, in the New York State Assembly.

    Dana has the background, experience and qualifications necessary to serve on the Assembly, and that sets her apart from her opponents. In my observation, she is the only candidate in this race that has a real grasp on issues and needs in Cold Spring and Philipstown, and is ready to address them right from the start.
    Dana is in her seventh year as Ossining town supervisor, following nine years as an elected school board trustee and eight years as Assemblywoman Sandy Galef’s chief of staff. During those eight years working alongside our representative, Dana helped deliver state funding for important projects in Cold Spring and Philipstown. She knows how hard it is to properly plan and carry out capital projects without state dollars getting where they are most needed — here on the ground at the local level.

    It says everything that Dana is endorsed by Sandy Galef. Sandy knows best what it takes to succeed in this role, having done so for 30 years. I am proud to be one of the elected officials from across the district who have joined Galef in endorsing Dana, including Putnam County Legislator Nancy Montgomery and my fellow mayors Vivian McKenzie from Peekskill and Rika Levin from Ossining, as well as deputy mayors Patricia Riley from Peekskill and Ann Galleli from Croton. Our expectations are high for Dana, and we feel confident that she will meet them.

    Dana would be an incredible partner for Cold Spring in the state Assembly, and I am excited to work hard with her on behalf of our village. Make a plan to vote for Dana during early voting through Sunday (June 26) or on primary day, Tuesday (June 28).

    Foley is the mayor of Cold Spring.

  3. As I review Dana Levenberg’s qualifications to represent the 95th District, I am struck by how superbly credentialed she has become for the job. Her experience in local government has been thorough and successful, her working directly for Sandy Galef herself is a tremendous asset, and her training and “on-the-job” growth will enable her to hit the ground running.

    When you couple all that experience and training with a personality that’s as exuberant, energetic, articulate and diligent as Dana is, you will have a powerhouse representing us in the Assembly. As beloved and effective as Sandy Galef was, I can-not imagine anyone more equipped to fill her huge shoes than Dana Levenberg.

  4. If you’ve ever wondered why nothing ever seems to get done in Albany, one reason is that our state government is designed to work that way. A laughably short legislative season (it’s already over), lax campaign finance laws, a stifling leadership structure and other roadblocks virtually guarantee that progress is slow if it happens at all, especially when it challenges entrenched money and power.

    This year, despite having one-party rule with supermajorities in both houses, the Legislature failed yet again to pass major climate, health care or housing legislation. We did, however, get a billion-dollar giveaway to the billionaire owner of a football stadium.

    Another reason for this inertia is a dearth of champions in state government willing to fight on behalf of working families rather than moneyed interests. The good news is that we have a chance to elect someone right now who has spent her adult life fighting for ordinary New Yorkers.

    Vanessa Agudelo, a Democrat running for Assembly District 95, has been on the front lines of the struggle for climate, health care, housing and immigrant justice for many years. The daughter of Columbian immigrants and a lifelong Peekskill resident, Vanessa is the youngest person ever elected to the Peekskill Common Council, a seasoned official and dedicated activist running on a bold platform to rapidly expand New York’s renewable energy, to guarantee comprehensive health care to every New Yorker, to massively invest in green jobs at a living wage, and to systemically address New York’s income inequality and housing crises.

    I’ve had the good fortune to organize alongside Vanessa, and I can tell you she’s the real deal: smart, compassionate, strategic and fiercely devoted to creating a better world. Electing more people like Vanessa is the only way we’ll ever break through the logjam of New York State politics. Early voting has already started, and Election Day is June 28. I strongly urge you to vote for Vanessa Agudelo.

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