State senator takes on House incumbent
Early voting starts Saturday (Aug. 13) for the Aug. 23 primary for congressional seats and the state Senate. It will be the second primary of the summer following one in June for the state Assembly.
Because of redistricting based on 2020 census data, Beacon residents will no longer share a member of Congress with Philipstown. Instead, Beacon will be part of District 18 and Philipstown will shift to District 17. (The Highlands will remain in the same state Senate district.)
Those new boundaries caused sparring between Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Philipstown resident whose district now includes the Highlands, and Alessandra Biaggi, a state senator elected in 2018 to represent a district that includes lower Westchester County and part of New York City. They will square off on Aug. 23 for the Democratic line on the November ballot.
Biaggi felt Maloney should have run in the new District 18, which is more competitive, and left District 17 for another candidate, especially given his role as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Maloney, first elected in 2012, chose to run in District 17, where he lives, although there is no residency requirement for House seats.
Voting in the Democratic Primary
Unlike in the general election, you must be a registered member of the party to cast a ballot.
The polls will be open Aug. 23 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. There are two polling place changes in Philipstown for the primary: If you usually vote at the Continental Village clubhouse, you will vote at the Garrison Firehouse at 1616 Route 9. If you usually vote at the North Highlands Firehouse, you will vote at the Methodist Church at 216 Main St. in Cold Spring.
How to register
The deadline to register to vote in the Aug. 23 primary has passed. If you are not sure of your status, visit voterlookup.elections.ny.gov.
The polls will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from Aug. 13 to Aug. 21, except Aug. 16 and 18, when they will be open from noon to 8 p.m. Philipstown residents can vote at the North Highlands Firehouse, 504 Fishkill Road, and Beacon residents at Fishkill Town Hall, 807 Route 52.
In District 18, which will include Beacon, there are three Democratic congressional candidates: Aisha Mills, Moses Mugulusi and Pat Ryan, the Ulster County executive. The Republican candidate will be Colin Schmitt, who represents parts of Orange and Rockland counties in the state Assembly.
There is no primary for the state Senate seat that will represent the Highlands. The Democratic and Working Families candidate is Julie Shiroishi, a Beacon resident who is the former chief of staff for Jonathan Jacobson, whose Assembly district includes Beacon. The Republican candidate is Rob Rolison, the mayor of Poughkeepsie.
The primary for the state Assembly was held in June. Dana Levenberg won the Democratic line for the district that includes Philipstown and is represented by Sandy Galef, who will retire. The Republican candidate is Stacy Halper. Vanessa Agudelo ran unopposed for the Working Families line but the party has now endorsed Levenberg. Jacobson is running unopposed.
Five candidates for House District 17 will appear on the Aug. 23 ballot (Shoshana David, Charles Falciglia, William Faulkner, Michael Lawler and Jack Schrepel), as well as two on the Conservative Party ballot (Faulkner and Lawler). Four of the candidates (excluding David) met in a League forum on July 28; their responses are excerpted here.
Biaggi and Maloney took part in a virtual forum on Aug. 1 sponsored by the League of Women Voters; some of their responses are excerpted below with editing for clarity. (The forum can be viewed at bit.ly/17-Democrat.)
Because they have not met for a forum, The Current plans to ask the three Democratic candidates in District 18 to respond to questions by email.
Abortion / Supreme Court
Biaggi: It is incredibly important that we [Democrats] use our power to do things, not just passing bills, but to really think about how we can use the levers of power that exist. How can we make sure we are doing everything in our power to elect champions of reproductive justice? One of the most important things we can do, not just as legislators but as American citizens, is reform the Supreme Court. That means we take this radical Supreme Court and expand it. Congress can pass ethics reform. We can also hold accountable justices who have perjured themselves as well as not recusing themselves from important cases where they have clear conflicts of interest.
Maloney: This is an out-of-control, run-away, MAGA Republican [pro-Trump] Supreme Court. It won’t stop. And families like mine aren’t going to fit in, in this world, where they rip away 50 years of substantive, constitutional, due-process rights. [Maloney, who is gay, has three adopted children with his longtime partner.] One thing more: It’s time to end the filibuster, so we can move legislation in the Senate. For too long, anti-democratic procedures in the Senate — they aren’t in the Constitution — have stopped all progress, on everything from reproductive freedom to marriage equality to gun safety, climate legislation and so much more.
Maloney: I’ve been on the House Agriculture Committee for 10 years and I love the work. In my district, we’ve got some of the best farmland in America. We have small family farms, usually under 200 acres. I rewrote the crop insurance requirements so they’d have their losses covered. I have a whole program on beginning farmers. We’ve also got to keep the cost of farmland low. You do that by conserving the land. This is such a win-win, with the land trusts and conservation efforts like those I’ve led on the Agriculture Committee. You do that by allowing people to put land into conservation more easily; we’ve written new rules so people can do that. That gives you open space, cleaner drinking water, cheaper farmland. And you can protect the new generation of farmers.
Biaggi: In the state Senate, I’ve also served on the Agriculture Committee. I understand that the industry of agriculture is changing. We have to be thinking how we can invest in alternative farming, like hydroponic farming in urban and more city environments. There are many high schools in the state Senate district I represent where we have provided funding to make sure that kids in inner-city schools can also understand and have the skills of how to farm and then take those skills to farms upstate. It allows these young kids to have an opportunity outside of their community but also gives them a tool to be able to succeed when it comes to choosing a career. One of the most important things we can do is protect talent. I was a co-sponsor of a bill that made it possible for farmworkers to be treated with dignity, be paid a living wage and take a day off, because without the talent these farms cannot function.
Maloney: The Inflation Reduction Act [which cleared the Senate on Aug. 7 and is expected to be re-ratified by the House today, Aug. 12] is the most important legislation ever passed in Washington: a package of $369 billion to reduce carbon 40 percent over the next eight years. That’s huge. It’s not the whole thing, but it’s a big thing. I’m an original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal bill. If you can find another Democrat in a Trump district [President Trump won District 18 in 2016 and 2020] who supports the Green New Deal, let me know. I’ve written legislation that would put a tax on carbon; I did that long before anybody used the phrase ‘Green New Deal.’ I believe the market can properly price the dirty effects of fossil fuels and speed development of renewables. These are the key things, together with infrastructure legislation, investment in electrification, building hundreds of charging stations: We can electrify our transportation system.
Biaggi: One of the most important topics I’ve championed in the state Senate is the climate threat. In the first few months we were able to pass historic climate legislation. In Congress, we can stop taking money from the fossil fuel industry, as Democrats, to prove we actually care about this issue. We can reverse climate change by putting an intense amount of money into electrifying everything, building zero-carbon electricity grids, exploring direct carbon-capture, not having gas hookups for buildings. We can also do things like adapt to the climate crisis and make sure we are fighting to reverse it by weatherizing our homes, building coastal infrastructure. My opponent supported the Danskammer plant in Newburgh and has taken thousands of dollars from big oil and gas and voted with Republicans for the Keystone pipeline.
Maloney: I took on the oil companies and banned oil barges on the Hudson River. They are some of the most powerful interests in Washington. I would also take 50 percent of oil company profits and give it back to you; I have a bill to do that.
Maloney: We’ve got to do more. It can happen anywhere. And we know this. That’s why I’m so proud that we passed, for the first time in decades, out of the House of Representatives, a ban on new sales of assault weapons. We also have passed in the House and Senate historic gun legislation, signed by the president, the first in 28 years. It’s not enough, but it’s a good step forward. Now we’ve got to get the assault weapons ban enacted. By the way, the [presumed] Republican [candidate] running for this seat, Michael Lawler, is in the pocket of the big gun companies. We’d better have a Democrat who can beat Republicans and hold this seat, so we have a pro-gun safety congressperson in Washington.
Biaggi: One of the most important issues I ran on in 2018 and will continue to run on — it will be the issue of our lifetimes, until we get this right — is gun safety. In Congress, one of the most important things we can do is continue to fund violence-interruption programs, because we can pass all the bills we want, but we have to prevent the gun from going off in the first place. There is the People’s Response Act by Rep. Cori Bush (D-Missouri) that I would support as a member of Congress. [Among other things, the bill aims to “reduce criminal-justice contact while expanding opportunity, including a particular focus on groups that have been disproportionately harmed by the criminal justice system.”] Lastly, we have to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms law to make sure gun manufacturers do not have legal immunity.
Maloney: My opponent was the lead advocate in the state Senate for defunding the police. That’s a very dangerous idea, a terrible idea. Body cameras, better training, better accountability, databases, de-escalation — those are the kinds of good reforms we can do.
Biaggi: One of the most important things we can do in our lifetime is to make sure every single person has access to health care. I’m a co-sponsor of the New York Health Act, which is the equivalent of a single-payer system. I favor making sure people have access to health care by supporting policies that are able to actually bring these kinds of things forward. Medicare for all is certainly one of them. We know it’s going to cost a lot. We know we can’t do it overnight, so being able to phase it in, in a way to provide these kinds of services [is an option].
Maloney: Health care is a right, not a privilege. Every American needs access to affordable and quality health care. I don’t support Medicare for all. It’s prohibitively expensive, and it’s huge tax increases. Worse, there’s no provision for what’s going to happen to the VA [Veterans Affairs] health system after the first decade. And 25 percent of the people I represent are from military families. So before we screw around with their health care, we should know what we’re doing. In addition, my opponent’s plan would take away your private insurance coverage. That’s a terrible idea. A better thing to do is finish the job of the Affordable Care Act [initiated by President Obama]. We can allow everybody who hasn’t been allowed to access Medicaid, in all those Republican states that still haven’t done it, to buy into the federal program. That would get you to universal care. We’ve got to avoid pie-in-the-sky stuff and just get results for people.
Biaggi: Medicare for all could fit right into what the soul of this party represents. We can pay for it by transitioning from outrageously high employer-side health care spending to payroll taxes and other financial means. My opponent has taken over $650,000 from the health care industry and big pharma, then voted with Republicans against parts of the Affordable Care Act six times. So I’m not surprised he doesn’t support Medicare for all.
Biaggi: Obsessed with “climate crises,” worries about it daily. Maloney: Founding Father of the Green New Deal. What more do you need to know, folks?
Really excellent article, thanks.
What I look for from our representatives is (1) Good versus evil/democracy vs. autocracy; (2) Focus on a better world, i.e. the climate crisis; (3) Drug abuse by big pharma, greedy doctors and pharmacists. There’s no doubt the drug manufacturers include lawsuits in their budgets. Why are they not in jail? (4) Quality education for all.
I’ve been receiving invites to free lunches from candidates. Do they really think they could buy my vote with a free picnic? Can they buy yours?
Thank you to The Current for publishing the text of the League of Women Voters’ forum with Maloney and Biaggi. I am a Biaggi supporter and I would like to briefly address the “elephant in the room” — namely, her June 2020 tweet in support of “defunding the police.”
I believe it is disingenuous of Maloney, and especially a political action committee that supports him, to attempt to use that tweet to suggest that if Biaggi were in Congress she would vote to zero-out police budgets. I recommend that voters read her detailed interview with The New York Times editorial board in which she confronts the issue head on. Suffice it to say, she is not for zero police budgets.
What she is for is holding police departments accountable for the misbehavior of some of their members. Does Maloney believe there are no problems in police departments? Does he not worry that bad apples are too often protected — thus threatening to destroy the entire barrel because of the blue wall of silence?
Finally, I want to make a more important point about the primary election. The supporters of whoever loses this primary must come together with supporters of the winner to unite against whoever the Republicans nominate. The Republican candidate who wins the primary may be nice and decent as an individual — I don’t know any of them personally. However, a Republican majority in either house of Congress will spend almost all of its time interfering with the prosecution of those who created the Jan. 6 insurrection. Failure to hold those leaders (including former President Trump) accountable will pave the way for a Trump (or Trumpist) victory in 2024.
With Trump (or a Trumpist like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis) in the White House, the American democratic experiment will be over and we will end up with a fascist-style government. This is not hyperbole — it’s an obvious projection of the trends already visible in some states with respect to voting rights, women’s rights, you name it.
Democrats vote at much lower rates than Republicans, and that is the only reason Democrats lose to Republicans in general elections. This is why I am thrilled to see so much energy and excitement around Alessandra Biaggi’s campaign to unseat Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in the Aug. 23 Democratic primary for District 17.
I am especially pleased to see how many young volunteers have been knocking on doors and phone-banking for Biaggi. It is this enthusiasm that carried Biaggi to two terms in the state Senate after unseating a moderate Democratic incumbent who outfunded her 10 to 1.
Biaggi’s proven commitment to abortion rights, environmental protections, working-family-centered tax policies and more are what garnered her endorsements from numerous abortion rights organizations and the Working Families Party.
Should Biaggi win in the primary, I believe she will get Democratic voters to the polls as she did in her state Senate races. And that is how we Democrats win elections.