James Skoufis launches state Senate Campaign


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  • Provided photo Assemblyman James Skoufis announced this week he will eschew what should be a safe re-election bid this November and run instead for the state Senate District 39 seat held for the last 28 years by Republican William J. Larkin Jr. Larkin will retire at the completion of this term.




  • State Senate District 39 stretches from the southern Ulster County towns of Plattekill and Marlborough, down through the Orange County towns of Crawford, Montgomery, Newburgh, Blooming Grove, New Windsor, Chester, Highlands, Cornwall, Monroe and Woodbury, plus the City of Newburgh, then into the Rockland County towns of Stony Point and Haverstraw.




— Assemblyman James Skoufis (D-Woodbury) announced this week his bid to run for State Senate in the 39th Senate District, which has been held for the last 28 years by Republican William J. Larkin Jr.

Larkin is retiring at the end of this term.

“I’ve been proud to serve our region in the State Assembly where I’ve stood up to special interests and pushed to level an out-of-whack playing field in the Hudson Valley,” Skoufis said Monday before a packed house at Palaia Winery in Highland Mills. “Now, as we approach a crossroads, I am proud to announce our campaign to serve in the State Senate. I’ll continue to fight against those forces in Albany and New York City who look to treat the Hudson Valley like a punching bag and ATM. As our senator, I’ll make sure we get our fair share of education and infrastructure aid as well as continue to represent my constituents with the ethic and integrity they deserve. It’s high time we make New York fair again and demand Albany fully and unequivocally respect the Hudson Valley.”

Many prominent Democrats throughout Orange County, as well as several from the towns in Ulster and Rockland counties in the 39th Senate District, were among the crowd at the announcement. Several times that crowd broke out in chants: “Skoufis, Skoufis, Skoufis.”

'A commitment to the people you represent'State Sen. Michael Gianaris, the chair of the state Senate’s Democratic Conference, said Skoufis had a reputation in Albany for being a decent guy “who has never forgotten his humble origins ... who cares for his constituents ... who has a proven track record.”

At 30 years old, Skoufis is completing his sixth year in the Assembly.

Thomas P. DiNapoli, the New York State Comptroller, was among the officials to speak. He described Skoufis as the son of an immigrant and as the product of public schools (Monroe-Woodbury). The comptroller said Skoufis was among the first people to introduce the notion of a tuition-free state college education.

Perhaps, though, the most important job of a legislator is constituent service, DiNapoli said: “A commitment to the people you represent.”

The comptroller also noted that Skoufis was giving up what he described as a “safe seat” to run for the state senate. The goal, he said, was to be able to do more.

“James is an independent thinker, not blinded by loyalty to party,” DiNapoli said. “He has been tested. He is trusted.”

'We are all in'U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney said he well knew what it was like to be a Democrat in the Hudson and to be told you cannot win here.

“We’ve been through a lot in the last year,” Maloney said. “James Skoufis will be part of the push-back. Skoufis will work with constituents. He is there to help (and) we are all in, citizens and neighbors.”

'We are going door to door'Skoufis began his remarks by thanking his wife, Hillary. The couple had just celebrated their first anniversary on Sunday.

He then spoke of the struggles of the middle class, the need to cut taxes, the importance of assisting small businesses, increase education aid and funds for infrastructure.

And he noted that he won his last election to the Assembly in a district where Donald Trump won by double digits.

“Voters want to know who has their back,” Skoufis concluded. “We have an army that will deliver. We are going door to door. They will hear from us. We will hear from them.”

Words set the tone early in this campaign

HIGHLAND MILLS — There was more than a hint Monday of what the tone of the campaign for the N.Y.S. Senate’s 39th District seat will be between now and Nov. 6.

• In his initial remarks announcing that he would seek to become the state senator representing the 14 towns and one city within the 39th district’s boundaries, James Skoufis acknowledged Sen. William J. Larkin Jr.’s service.

“Before I get to the reason why we’re all here,” Skoufis said, “I want to take a moment to acknowledge Senator Larkin’s public service to our region. Even when we’ve disagreed on political issues, my respect for his dedication has always been paramount and he deserves our gratitude.”

• But within hours of the Skoufis announcement, Larkin’s office issued the following statement:

“James Skoufis is more concerned with writing press releases and holding press conferences than doing the work of the people. His self-promotion only serves to benefit his own political ambitions, not the needs of constituents that I have spent the last forty years fighting for. Tom Basile is the man I trust and the candidate you can trust. Tom will serve honorably and effectively as our next state senator and I plan to work tirelessly to ensure he is elected this November.”

• Later in his remarks, Skoufis advanced positions made earlier during his announcement by state Sen. Michael Gianaris, the chair of the Senate’s Democratic Conference, and to a lesser degree by U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, that Stony Point Town Councilman Tom Basile was a purveyor of dark money politics.

Dark money is funds given to nonprofit organizations that can receive unlimited donations from corporations, individuals, and unions, and spend funds to influence elections, but are not required to disclose their donors.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, “spending by organizations that do not disclose their donors has increased from less than $5.2 million in 2006 to well over $300 million in the 2012 presidential cycle and more than $174 million in the 2014 midterms.”

The New York Times editorial board judged that the 2014 midterm elections were influenced by “the greatest wave of secret, special-interest money ever raised in a congressional election.”

Even without naming names, Skoufis struck the unusual pose of offering an opinion about the expected GOP primary for the seat.

Skoufis said Republican primary voters: “will choose between a decent, honorable man who serves in the Orange County Legislature and a Rockland County man who has made his living as a political operative for the most extreme, destructive wing of his party. For the sake of our democracy and for the sake of providing voters with two respectable candidates in November, I hope Republican primary voters make the right choice.”

• The Basile campaign wasted little time to respond:

“Like so many in our area, I’m raising kids here, running a business and living in the real world. For six years, Mr. Skoufis has cranked out one sound bite after another. 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 health care 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. 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.”

• Later in the day, the other Republican seeking the nomination, Orange County Legislator Mike Anagnostakis, offered the following:

“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.”

- Bob Quinn



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