For the first time in a decade, Beacon will not be represented by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat who lives in Philipstown and first won his seat in 2012.
Instead, it will be represented by either Rep. Pat Ryan, the former Ulster County executive, or Colin Schmitt, a two-term state Assembly member from Orange County.
Because of redistricting based on 2020 census figures, Beacon will become part of a newly drawn District 18, while Philipstown will join District 17. Ryan is the Democratic candidate and Schmitt has the Republican line.
(Ryan joined Congress earlier this year when he defeated Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro in a special election to fill the current District 19 seat, which was vacated by Antonio Delgado when he became lieutenant governor. Ryan will represent District 19 through the end of the year; Molinaro is the Republican candidate for the new 19th district.)
The newly drawn District 18 includes nearly all of Dutchess and Orange counties and parts of Ulster. The political analysis site FiveThirtyEight projects that Ryan is slightly favored to win the seat.
The candidates each claim that the other represents “extreme” ideologies. They discussed their positions during a debate on Oct. 18 at Marist College in Poughkeepsie.
Schmitt called inflation the “No. 1 concern we hear from voters across the Hudson Valley.” He cited consumer prices, which he said are at “a 40-year high” as the result of “failures of the Biden administration and House Democrats like Pat Ryan.” Schmitt predicted that a majority of Republicans in the House would stop “out-of-control spending,” while restoring energy independence with an “all-of-the-above approach.” Republicans will also restore an “all-American supply chain” to end U.S. dependence on China, he said.
Ryan agreed that inflation is “top of mind for everyone that I’m talking to” and pledged to provide consumer relief in Congress as he said he had in Ulster County. He pointed to an inflation relief plan that “cut our county’s gas tax in half,” as well as cutting property taxes to the lowest level “since the year I was born, in 1982.” Ryan also said that he has “battled hard against Central Hudson,” the gas and electric utility “that’s been ripping off our consumers.”
Schmitt also blamed the “Biden economy” for the lack of affordable housing in the region. He said that interest rates — the Federal Reserve has raised them six times in 2022, most recently this week, in an attempt to curb inflation — “are pricing people out of homes” and driving up rents. If interest rates are controlled, then “we’re going to be able to start solving the problem and easing the burden for Hudson Valley residents,” he said.
Ryan said that he declared a housing emergency in Ulster County “as we saw pretty much everyone, except for the ultra-wealthy, unable to afford our own communities.” He said that he wants to replicate projects like one at the former Ulster County Jail, which is being razed to make way for 160 units of senior and workforce affordable housing. “One of the biggest solutions is we need more housing,” he said. “We need more supply to bring down the prices, with federal dollars and resources” to make projects like that easier.
When asked whether he would vote to reinstitute a ban on semi-automatic AR-15s and other military-style rifles, Schmitt responded that he supports the Second Amendment. “We should be focusing on common-sense solutions to support law enforcement” while also funding mental health resources “to take care of any issues that we might have in our communities when it comes to safety,” he said.
As for background checks, “we need to make sure that every purchase is a legal purchase of firearms,” Schmitt said, calling himself an “outspoken proponent for lawful and legal ownership of firearms, something that I exercise myself, and that needs to be enforced at the federal and state level.”
More than half of Republicans running for Congressional and state offices in the midterm elections can be classified as “election deniers,” according to an analysis by The Washington Post. The list includes seven candidates for Congress in New York state and Lee Zeldin, the Republican gubernatorial hopeful.
The Post included candidates on the list if they (1) directly questioned the victory by President Joe Biden in 2020, (2) opposed the counting of Biden’s electoral college votes, (3) expressed support for a partisan post-election ballot review, (4) signed onto a lawsuit seeking to overturn the 2020 result or (5) attended or expressed support for the rally on the day of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Colin Schmitt, the Republican candidate for District 18, was asked during a debate with Pat Ryan if he believed the election had been stolen from Donald Trump. Schmitt replied, “No.” He has faced criticism for addressing a busload of residents before they left for Washington, D.C., in the early morning of Jan. 6, 2021, but said during the debate that they were from a “faith-based organization” — Orange County Right to Life — and had nothing to do with the protests. Schmitt also said that “anyone who illegally entered the Capitol or committed a crime on Jan. 6 must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Ryan called a federal assault weapons ban that was in effect from 1994 to 2004 “common sense.” He said that gun deaths went down over 60 percent during that decade. Referring to recent shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, he said that “10-year-old kids are getting gunned down at a grocery store or a school, yet you sell out to your A-plus rating from the NRA [National Rifle Association].
“That’s not common sense,” he continued. “That’s not what the vast majority of the American people want.” Ryan said he supports an assault weapons ban, along with universal background checks and red flag laws.
Schmitt said he is pro-life and that his voting record in the Assembly reflects “common sense and a compassionate approach.” Ryan, he said, has made the election “about his extreme politics, supporting partial-birth abortion up to the moment of birth, non-doctors performing abortion, removing parental notification for minors in a distressful situation and removing penal law protections for pregnant and expectant mothers who are the victims of a violent assault.”
By comparison, “I’m not about the extreme politics; I’m about common sense and compassion,” Schmitt said.
Ryan said that for more than 50 years, Roe vs. Wade kept the “personal decision” of whether to end a pregnancy “in the hands of a woman and her doctor and her family.” But “for reasons I truly cannot understand, the extreme right and the Supreme Court ripped that fundamental American freedom and right away from tens of millions of people.”
He said that a majority of Americans disagreed with the Court’s decision in June to reverse course, “yet, even after the strong outcry, my opponent and the Republican Party are doubling down, calling for a national abortion ban, even in the cases of rape, incest and threats to the life of a mother. That’s not who we are as a country.”
Ryan responded to the allegation that he supports abortion up to the moment of birth, saying, “the number of ‘late-term abortions,’ which isn’t even a medical term — it’s created to divide us — is so low.” Instead, “we need to focus on protecting that decision and the ability for a woman and their doctor to make that decision, not the government,” he said.
As the debate ended, each candidate was allowed to ask his opponent one question. Schmitt noted that Ryan was a senior executive at Dataminr, a company that he said the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee believes mined Americans’ personal information from social media and sold the information to a Russian company founded and funded by Vladimir Putin to, according to The Washington Post, attack the West and democratic ideals. “Do you now regret selling our data to Putin?” he asked Ryan.
Ryan called the claim a “complete mistruth,” and argued that “most of the Republican Party of today’s time seems increasingly pro-Putin, if anything.”
When it was his turn, Ryan returned to abortion, calling it not his question but “the question of our community.”
He asked Schmitt to imagine the 10-year-old girl, who in July, in Ohio, was raped and then “re-traumatized” when she had to travel out of state to get an abortion, “because her state had such barbaric and archaic laws.” He said that Schmitt and other Republicans oppose access to abortion, even in cases of rape, incest or threats to a woman’s life. “What would you say to that 10-year-old if she were sitting here today?” he asked.
Schmitt accused Ryan of politicizing a tragedy involving a minor. “I have compassion and fully stand with victims of a horrific attack, of rape, of incest, life of the mother — that’s a common-sense and compassionate thing to do,” he said.
I recently attended a citizen’s preparedness training session in Fishkill, organized by Dutchess County. Thinking that weather would be one of our biggest challenges as far as disasters, I was surprised to find “civil unrest” and “active shooter” high on the list of threats.
The presenter cited “the summer of 2020” as the example of civil unrest — I think he was referring to the protests over the murder of George Floyd, which for the most part were peaceful events all over our country, calling attention to the historic and severely unjust treatment of a particular segment of our fellow Americans. There was no mention of the civil unrest that took place at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, which to me was a much bigger threat to our society than Black Lives Matter.
In regard to “active shooters,” common-sense gun laws might help mitigate such a disaster. It is easy to frame this as an action by some deranged individual, but it is disturbing that gun sales have reached record levels this past year. More Americans are armed while our political rhetoric and divide gets nastier and nastier, including the convincing of many Americans that, against all evidence to the contrary, our last presidential election was stolen.
We all want to feel safe in our communities, and we need to be honest about the real threats in our midst. Be sure to vote in this election, and please vote for candidates who are willing to say out loud that our last presidential election was not stolen, that the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was a serious threat to our country and that they will work for common-sense gun laws to promote public safety.