The four Democratic candidates running for Congresswoman Nan Hayworth’s District 19 seat this year promised to fight for clean, renewable energy, social security, the health care bill, and for infrastructure improvements to create jobs last night.
The candidates - Dr. Richard Becker, a Cortlandt Town Councilman; Tom Wilson, Mayor of Tuxedo Park; Matt Alexander, Mayor of Wappingers Falls and Duane Jackson, Buchanan resident and New York City businessman – introduced themselves to a crowd of about 50, gathered in the . The forum was hosted by the Peekskill Democratic City Committee and was the first of its kind this election cycle.
All candidates emphasized a need to create jobs by improving infrastructure and taking advantage of emerging industries; protecting social security; fighting for unions and supporting renewable and clean energy. See our breakdown below of candidates’ stances on key issues. You can read more about the introductions they gave and find links to biographies at the end of this article.
- INDIAN POINT/ENERGY
The one issue on which they differed slightly wasthe nuclear power plant located in the Town of Cortlandt. All except Jackson strongly supported the closing of Indian Point. Jackson did not say he was against closing the power plant; he said he felt Indian Point was something to be concerned about, especially regarding its location on the but needs “a little understanding” because of the jobs it provides for the local community.
Jackson agreed with the other three candidates that it is essential to work towards alternative energy sources that could provide jobs that would be lost by closing the power plant.
Councilman Becker pointed out that because he lives in Cortlandt and serves as a board member the issue is personal for him. He said Indian Point should be closed because: it would never be built today and now we are stuck with it; it is on a fault line; an evacuation would not work; and the requirements needed for its relicensing would cause new environmental and potential health problems.
“If America gets behind replacing nuclear power we can have safer energy,” Becker said.
Wilson and Alexander also advocated for closing the plant, both explaining the importance of supporting and researching alternative clean energy sources.
When the candidates mentioned finding and utilizing new energy sources, none were referring hydro fracking, as all spoke against the controversial gas drilling process when asked about their position on the issue.
“I fought this fight,” Alexander told the crowd, explaining that a lake in his town was destroyed by pollution. “I will make sure that our primary resource is always taken care of,” Alexander told a receptive crowd.
“It reminds me of what I was told by my scout leader as a boy – ‘When you go to a camp site, you leave it better than how you found it,’” Jackson said.
A United Auto Workers member asked how the candidates feel about unions. All candidates strongly supported unions and agreed on the need to create projects that include union jobs.
Candidate Tom Wilson said he was in favor of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s idea to make unions a partner in the new Tappen Zee Bridge project.
“We should look for unions to be partners in building municipal infrastructures,” Wilson said.
Jackson brought up his background in city planning and said that infrastructure improvements, union work and education need to be considered together to create a comprehensive and sustainable plan.
Becker told the crowd that “we should not be arguing to take away what unions have, but to give everyone the benefits union members enjoy.”
- HEALTH CARE
As with almost all the other issues, the candidates were all in favor of universal health care and President Barack Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act. “We need the right people in Washington to protect it,” Alexander said.
- SOCIAL SECURITY
All candidates agreed on the issue of social security when it was brought up by an audience member. They echoed each others’ answers that social security is something to be protected, that is safe as long as it is not used to cover other federal costs, and should be guaranteed.
Matt Alexander, the current mayor of Wappingers Falls, said he brought a divided town board together to created an infrastructure plan that grew the town by 17 percent during the recession and that created a system to clean up its drinking water supply, which created long-term jobs and will save residents $30 million dollars over the next 30 years.
“I have literally gone from Wall Street to Main Street,” he said of his former career in finance. He is a certified public accountant. Alexander said he sees a sense of hopelessness in America that his residents saw in Wappingers. He said he wants to give Americans hope like he gave his residents hope with his programs and policies. He was motivated to run when he met Nan Hayworth a year ago and she told him that the most important thing is to put money in the pocket of taxpayers and because of her belief in an “unregulated, unfettered economy,” he said.
Tom Wilson, mayor of Tuxedo Park, gave a brief introduction. He stated his beliefs in tax cuts to the middle class, job creation, infrastructure improvements, civil and gay rights, women’s right to choose, and getting rid of people in politics “who perpetuated hate and prejudice.” Wilson said he faced a challenge battling a $15 billion real estate company who he is now fighting in New York State court to prevent irresponsible development. He founded the Tuxedo Land Trust to raise money for the fight against this development. He said he can take on the challenge of running against well-financed Hayworth in this election.
Dr. Richard Becker, a Cortlandt Councilman and practicing cardiologist, discussed the progression of his medical career which has given him small business experience. Becker worked at the Hudson Valley Hospital as Chief of Medican, president of the medical staff and a board chair, then founded the Hospital Medicine Associate private practice. He sold the practice but still practices.
He explained his dedication to saving Dickerson Mountain in Cortlandt and how that got him interested in politics, lead to his current position as board member and his work spearheading a Cortlandt Home Oil program, a cooperative fuel program that provides discounted oil to homeowners. Becker said that neighboring towns have copied his program, proving its success. Becker also emphasized the importance of jobs and rebuilding infrastructure.
The candidate spoke in detail about promises Hayworth made to voters that he said she did not back when it came to voting for legislation involving health care, job creation and abortion. He said he decided to run once Hayworth sent a letter to constituents saying she saved Medicare, despite a vote against it. Read more on that in his Patch blog .
“As a doctor I believe I could go toe to toe with her,” Becker said. “I believe I can win.”
Duane Jackson, a Buchanan resident, owner of Duane's in NYC and the “Times Square” hero (he called in the bomb found in Time Square in May, 2010), started off with accolades about living in the beautiful Hudson Valley. He spoke about the need to “energize the democratic base,” and take up the fight against the “rascal Republicans,” who do “not have our interest at heart and do not even understand our interests,” he told the Democratic crowd. He also emphasized a need to bring a comprehensive plan to the Hudson Valley to solve the regions problems with “synergy.”
To read more on each candidates background and positions, click their hyper-linked names above.