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Meet the Candidates: Incumbent Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and Challenger Phil Oliva

The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

In the 18th Congressional District race incumbent Sean Patrick Maloney is running to retain his seat versus challenger Phil Oliva. Maloney is running on the Democratic, Working Families, Independence and Women’s Equality lines. Oliva is on the Republican, Conservative and Reform lines. The Sentinel and Orange County Post reached out to both candidates, so readers could get to know them better.


(photo provided)

Sean Patrick Maloney
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your qualifications?

I started my career working in the Clinton Administration and I’m proud that I was part of the team that balanced the budget and presided over the strongest economic growth in our country’s history. After my time working in the White House, I went on to start my own small business right here in New York. I think we need folks in Congress who’ve had to make a payroll, and understand the challenges of starting a new company. I’m the son of a Navy veteran who was nearly killed aboard the U.S. Manchester – he taught me what it means to serve your country. Now I am a father to three beautiful children, including two teenage girls who go to school in Putnam County.

Why are you running for reelection in the 18th Congressional District?

I’m running for reelection because I want to build on my bipartisan record of getting things done for the Hudson Valley, despite Washington gridlock. During my short time in Congress, I’ve passed 35 bills through the House of Representatives, 23 of which have been signed into law. These bills ensure that our veterans get the benefits that they’ve earned, that we empower our communities to fight the heroin and opioid epidemic, and that we keep our families safe from dangerous oil trains, and water contamination. I’m also working to clean the PCB’s out of the Hudson River once and for all, and to hold GE accountable; and to stop the dangerous anchorage proposal, which would turn our beautiful river into a parking lot for oil barges and large commercial ships. I am running because I want to keep working to get things done for folks in the Hudson Valley – fighting for clean water, making our schools better, helping veterans afford college and get good jobs when they come home, combating the heroin and opioid epidemic, and getting the Hudson Valley working.

What are some of the biggest problems/challenges facing constituents in the district?

After keeping the Hudson Valley working again, the biggest problem I hear about – during the nearly 60 in-person town halls I’ve held – is the heartbreaking stories of addiction and loss as the result of the heroin and opioid epidemic. I know there is no silver bullet solution but there are things we can do like increasing access to Narcan and treatment, giving police the discretion to send addicts directly to treatment, and educating our well-meaning doctors on overprescribing. I’ve also been focused on ensuring everyone in the Hudson Valley has access to clean drinking water – especially in Newburgh. Earlier this year we discovered that there was an alarming and unacceptable amount of chemicals known as PFOS and PFOA in Newburgh’s drinking water. I got to work and immediately secured a clean water source for the city, made sure those responsible were held accountable, and worked with Governor Cuomo to get blood testing for Newburgh residents. I’ve also heard from hundreds of my neighbors about the disastrous proposal to install ten new anchorage sites along our beautiful Hudson River. This proposal would allow oil barges and other large commercial ships to park along our river. We can’t let that happen and I am fighting to Congress to stop this proposal.

If reelected, how would you help remedy those problems?

I believe we should fix problems and stop all the fighting. That’s why when I got to Congress I focused on working across the aisle to get things done. That’s why I’ve been able to pass 35 bills through the House of Representatives and 23 have been signed into law – by working together, not playing political games. I have legislation that was signed into law that would help combat the opioid epidemic by educating well-meaning doctors on the dangers of overprescribing and incentivizing the use of anti-abuse technologies by drug companies. I’ve also wrote legislation with Republican Congressman Richard Hanna that would give our local law enforcement officers, at their discretion, the ability to divert people suffering from addiction directly to treatment instead of booking them and sending them through the criminal justice system. I’ve also been working to build a bipartisan coalition with folks like County Executive’s Marcus Molinaro and Steve Neuhaus, State Senator Bill Larkin and Assemblyman James Skoufis to make sure our water is clean. I’ve secured a commitment from the state to hold GE accountable for polluting the Hudson River with PCBs, and I will continue fighting the disastrous Coast Guard proposal for additional anchorage sites on the River. I successfully extended the comment period for the proposal and secured a commitment from the Coast Guard to hold public hearings to ensure that my friends and neighbors have the opportunity to express their concerns.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Four years ago you gave me your voice and your vote in Washington. Since then I have worked to get things done for folks in the Hudson Valley, despite the division and gridlock in Congress. I’ve worked across the aisle with Congressman Chris Gibson to pass the best Farm Bill ever written for the Hudson Valley, I’ve worked with State Senator Bill Larkin to help our veterans get the compensation and recognition they deserve, and I’ve worked closely with County Executive Steve Neuhaus to combat the heroin epidemic, secure funding to rebuild after storms Irene, Lee and Sandy, and invest in our local infrastructure. What I heard when I first ran for this job was folks were sick of the fighting and game playing in Washington – so since day one I’ve been focused on getting results for you. It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve the people of the 18th District, and I humbly ask for your support on Nov. 8.


(photo provided)

Phil Oliva
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your qualifications?

I’m 43, married father to three children under the age of five. I was born and raised in a working class household in the Bronx. The two things my sister, brother and I never lacked were love and discipline from our parents.

I learned early on the values of hard work, honesty and personal responsibility and it’s carried me through my life from earning an MBA, to starting a successful small business to raising a family and running for Congress.

I have over 20 years experience in the private and public sectors. I’ve worked in health care and started a business called Gipper Communications where I help start-up and established businesses with marketing, communications and business strategy.

I also was a senior advisor to Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. When Rob ran for Governor, I wrote (with him) his economic plan that the Wall Street Journal called “A plan for New York’s revival.”

The pro-growth policies contained in that plan, like tax reform, regulatory reform, skills training and hi-tech acceleration are policies that I would pursue in Congress. 

Why are you running for election in the 18th Congressional District?

I believe the country is heading in the wrong direction and our congressman has not done the job. He was 70 days late to comment on the plan to park 600-foot oil barges on the Hudson River. He never told us about the new federal Common Core rule that will label any school with more than 5 percent of kids opting out of the standardized tests, “in need of improvement.” He never told us about the new Syrian Refugee Resettlement Office soon to open in Poughkeepsie.

He’s earned one of the worst voting attendance records in Congress this year after campaigning in six states for Hillary Clinton.

It’s not surprising then, that in a moment of honesty about his record this summer, Maloney called a disruptive political sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives “the best day I’ve had in Congress.”

We deserve much better and I will be much better.

What are some of the biggest problems/challenges facing constituents in the district?

High property taxes, not enough good paying jobs and an intrusive federal government that burdens us locally. A more isolated concern that affects us all is the heroin epidemic.

If elected, how would you help remedy those problems?

High property taxes – This is more a state and local issue but a congressman can help. Here’s how. I would seek to change the 1965 Medicaid law that allows states to shift a portion of their 50 percent cost share to local governments. Only four states do this and New York is the only state that splits half their costs with local governments. This is why New York pays more on Medicaid than Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania combined and why New York pays the highest property taxes in the country. If we can make the change I suggest, we would see dramatic property tax relief and Albany would be forced to reform a broken program.

Jobs – The federal government instituted 21,000 new regulations in the past eight years. Not coincidentally, the economy only grew by only 1.7 percent the past eight years – the worst 8-year rate in history. I would seek to reduce job-killing regulations and develop a flatter, fairer and simpler tax code. The tax code is over 70,000 pages. Only the wealthy and well connected can afford the best tax lawyers to find all the loopholes and deductions. I would cut the world’s highest tax rate (39.1 percent) and bring it to the industrial world’s average of about 25 percent. I would work to bring in infrastructure funds. For instance, if we could add a third lane to Route 17 and turn it into I-86 (finally) it would be a boon for the Chester Industrial Park and other sites. I’ll help recruit businesses to the airport industrial park and other sites shovel ready for industry, and I’ll work with our local businesses and leaders. I have an MBA and started a business. I know what it takes to grow the economy and create jobs.

Federal overreach – For several years Westchester has been fighting HUD’s attempt to take over local zoning. We’ve watched Common Core take over our classrooms. We see the proposal to park 600-foot oil barges in the Hudson and now the plan to open a Syrian Refugee Resettlement Office in the City of Poughkeepsie. On all of these and more, Sean Patrick Maloney has been AWOL. He either never informs us, doesn’t do anything about it, or is late to the game.

I will fight to keep the federal government off the backs of our communities. The budget authority congress possesses is the stick, but I will work with all the federal agencies and develop relationships to the point where we aren’t blindsided by these mandates and decisions, and hopefully prevent them. This is the job of a federal representative.

Heroin – Major public health issue. I’ve been to a heroin funeral. I know a family dealing with it now. It’s horrible. We need to cut down the overprescribing of opiates. I’d also like to see mandatory detox and treatment for any addict “saved” with Narcan. Focus on family therapy as well because addiction takes a toll on everyone touched including the loved ones. They are often neglected.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I’ll introduce legislation to limit the number of terms a member of Congress can serve and get rid of the lifetime pay that members of Congress receive. I have publicly pledged to serve no more than four, two-year terms. I don’t have any interest in being a career politician. I think they are part of the problem in Washington. I’m only interested in getting things done for our community and for getting America back on the right track.

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