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?
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.
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.
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.
Lt. Governor (Democratic)
Ana Maria Archila