Goshen man running for Congress

Immigration is Smith's main focus as he gathers signatures for ballot

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  • Scott Smith, an independent candidate for Congress from Goshen, chats with Pine Bush resident Margaret Engelsen outside the ShopRite plaza in Chester while collecting signatures to run against U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. (Photo by Nathan Mayberg)

By Nathan Mayberg

— Standing outside of ShopRite with his wife collecting signatures for his Congressional campaign, Goshen resident Scott Smith said the first question he is usually asked on the campaign trail is about immigration.

"It's an embarrassment that we're not doing more on our border," he said.

Within minutes, he walks up to a woman to ask that she sign his petition drive. He needs 3,500 signatures to get on the ballot.

The first question from Margaret Engelsen, of Pine Bush, is what he would do about the border.

Smith is running for the 18th District seat presently occupied by Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney, who is being challenged by Republican and former congresswoman Nan Hayworth. The district encompasses all of Orange County, part of southern Dutchess County and northern Westchester County.

He's running as an independent — that is, not affiliated with any party. He called the Independence Party, the fastest-growing in Orange County, just an arm of the Republican Party.

A teacher in an immigrant community

Smith, 41, is a middle school science teacher in the East Ramapo School District, which has a large immigrant population, he said.

"There are a lot of students who don't speak English," he said.

Having a secure border is important to him. He believes citizenship should be earned, and that amnesty "rewards illegal behavior," creating another block of citizens for politicians to appeal to.

Smith said he supports legal immigration. "The more the merrier," he said.

Asked about the situation involving migrant children who are being stranded at the border, Smith said, "I have no doubt there there is some kids. I don't think that's all."

The children should be returned home, he said.

"It comes down to if as a nation are we a rule of law or not."

He thinks that legislation that would allow hearings for children is "being taken advantage of."

Congress has been gridlocked with President Barack Obama on the issue. The House of Representatives passed two bills last week that would make it easier to deport children who unlawfully entered the country, but it doesn't have the president's support. Smith said Congress should have stayed in session to get the bill finalized instead of going on recess.

"It's being handled poorly," he said.

Maloney voted against both bills but wasn't available for comment.

Going where the people are

A 1991 graduate of Washingtonville High Schoool, Smith says he collected about 5,000 signatures and turned them in to the board of elections this week.

"It's a bit of a relief," he said recently.

The father of three has been out collecting signatures for weeks. He started one recent day at 4:30 a.m. in Newburgh at the bus stop on Route 17K, where he gathered 80 signatures, and then to the Goshen Post Office and farmer's market.

"You have to go where there's people," he said.

Public reaction has been "a mixed bag," Smith said.

"Thirty percent of the people, the minute you mention it's politics, they want to run," he said. "They want no part of it." Another 30 percent is only interested in which party Smith identifies with. The rest will "hear you out."

He wants to revamp the tax code, saying it unfairly benefits corporations. And he foresees a correction in the economy. "I don't think our economy is in the rosy shape that some people think it might be," Smith said. "I'm not as optimistic as we've been led to believe."

Unemployment is a problem, he said. "It's unbelievable the number of people who are out of the workforce today," he said. "I don't think it gets enough attention." He doesn't think government is "an effective tool at creating jobs."

Smith said he has never been affiliated with a party.

"Both parties serve their own interest above the public interest," he said. "I'm very frustrated with the government right now. I think there is a lot of people who would like to see a third choice on the ballot. I'm trying to make an effort to provide that."

Hayworth did not return a message left at her Chester campaign headquarters seeking comment.

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