Senate Candidates Come Out Swinging
By Jesse King
Assemblyman James Skoufis (D-Woodbury) took a step forward in his political career on Monday when he announced his intent to run for state senator of the 39thSenate District upon Senator William Larkin’s announced retirement effective this December.
A Monroe-Woodbury HS graduate, Skoufis attended Columbia University, and George Washington University (Bachelors Summa Cum Laude) and then spent time in public sector business before deciding to go into public service. At the Palaia Winery in Highland Mills, he was surrounded by about 200 supportive local residents and officials backing his candidacy. One woman spoke about crisis intervention he had done for her disabled son when insurance coverage was abruptly stopped.
Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney advocated for Skoufis, calling him a “decent, humble guy who never forgets where he came from.”
Skoufis made a powerful stand to curb government corruption and keep the interest of the people at the forefront of his campaign. He said he was “sick of seeing officials dragged away in handcuffs” and promised to “put an end to sweetheart deals.” He additionally vowed that he was “going to turn around Newburgh.”
He cited several major accomplishments, including his authorization of legislation to bring about tuition-free SUNY education for those in need, free preschool, and specific incentives for lightening the tax load on the middle class.
With Tom Basile (Councilman, R-Stony Point) and Mike Anagnostakis (Legislator R-Newburgh) bidding for the Republican nomination to run against him, Skoufis addressed the legitimacy of the two candidates. He said, “You have a choice of two respectable candidates,” in reference to Anagnostakis and himself. Skoufis spoke well of Larkin and Anagnostakis, praising their devotion to the district.
The packed winery erupted in cheers often throughout Skoufis’ speech, giving him their full support in his bid for the Senate position.
But approval for the Democratic candidate is far from unanimous, particularly among his political opponents. Basile, a Councilman from Stony Point, pulled no punches in his response to Skoufis’s announced candidacy. He attacked Skoufis’ reputation with references to his popularity and financial backing. “While he’s proven capable of getting his name in the paper, he’s repeatedly failed the people in this area who actually pay the bills. Whether it’s his votes for giveaways to Hollywood producers, government-run healthcare that would bankrupt our state, or his own massive so-called ‘free’ college entitlement program, we simply can’t trust Mr. Skoufis to do right by our families and businesses… Someone who has relied on hundreds of thousands of dollars from New York City political bosses like Sheldon Silver can’t be trusted to advocate for policies that will create jobs, keep our kids here and help our local communities thrive,” Basile said. He questioned his opponent’s effectiveness in planning, claiming Skoufis is making dangerous promises. “Those of us out here in the real world know there’s no such thing as ‘free.’ The people of this area know that more government we can’t afford doesn’t make life fairer. It just drives up the cost of living here and drives people out,” Basile said.
Basile viewed the introductions by Maloney and DiNapoli as a detrimental factor of the announcement. “It speaks volumes about Mr. Skoufis that he was introduced by officials who don’t live in this district. I’m not interested in making headlines.” Larkin’s denounced Skoufis as well saying, “James Skoufis is more concerned with writing press releases and holding press conferences than doing the work of the people,” he said.
Amid the scathing attacks by Basile and Larkin, Anagnostakis returned praise for Skoufis on Tuesday, saying, “Mr. Skoufis is a hard worker and has fought his own party bosses for the good of Orange County citizens. I welcome him into this race.” Anagnostakis further spoke against his GOP opponent, Basile, saying, “I issue this first challenge to Mr. Basile: Cut your puppet strings and speak for yourself during this campaign! The people deserve to hear from the person on the ballot and not from handlers” (see letter to the editor for his entire statement).
Anagnostakis, also running for the Senate spot, criticized the Republican committee process by which they chose Basile, and said he is running for the people’s vote. During his tenure as a republican legislator he has been a fiscal conservative, fought to keep Valley View, the county nursing home, in county hands and running without a deficit and he has pushed for strict rules against “Pay to Play” politics where contractors use governmental loopholes to win bids in return for political donations.
With 6 months before the election, sparks are bound to keep flying among the candidates. Skoufis’ announcement to run set the wheels in motion, and the political drama is a self-sustaining battleground that will result in a heated race come election season.