We have a chance to open a new chapter for our community in the next election. But we will have to face two challenges to do it:
Here are some of the questions I’m asked as I travel our district and some of the answers I give.
How can you win this district?
We have lost three straight elections in this district because people have lost faith in our message, our messengers and our goals. We have to reconnect with the deepest traditions and legacies of the Democratic Party—in FDR, Truman and JFK—to rediscover our purpose and place. We must be the party of patriots and working people. We need to nominate a candidate with a proven record of government service who is working in the district trying to raise a family himself and who knows the struggle our citizens are facing. We cannot continue to do the same things and expect a different result.
Who can beat John Faso this time?
As a local schoolteacher here in Woodstock, a former US diplomat who served with distinction in Iraq, and a Hudson Valley farmer, I can beat John Faso and the corrupt culture he represents and truly represent our unique part of New York State. It’s not about money. It’s about people. I believe the right candidate and cause can help us discover a hidden solidarity binding the many constituencies in our district. I believe we can #UniteNY19 with a coalition of working people, farmers, students, veterans, small-businesspeople and more.
I’m standing up now for my community, my family, and the country I served to make sure that we win the representation we deserve in Congress. We are opening the next great movement for social and economic justice in our country. I hope you’ll join our movement.
How can we improve our health care?
I support universal health care and I see the need for it every day in the thousands of uninsured and under-insured people suffering in our district. Over sixty thousand people have no insurance at all and thousands of others can’t afford their deductibles and co-pays and are going without life-saving care. I plan to cast a vote in Congress to provide Medicare for All. Healthcare is a human right and should not be a privilege of the rich. Getting health care shouldn’t depend on your job. It’s time for us to act on what we know is right for all of us and fiscally best for our country. House Resolution 676 calls for Medicare-for-All. We should add our voice to it.
Can our country afford a single payer plan?
Single payer health care will save us money—and save lives. We know this from experience. We already run single payer health insurance plans in the form of Medicare and Medicaid. Those health programs cost us far less in administrative costs than private insurance and produce better results.
Can you help with the cost of prescription drugs?
We can and we must. Many seniors I meet in our district are skipping their medicine or rationing out half-doses because they can’t afford their own prescriptions. There’s a terrible reason those prices are so high: lobbyists and big pharmaceutical firms have rigged the market to rip us off. We must negotiate a fair price and the way to do it is reversing a corrupt decision by our own Congress that made it illegal for us to negotiate a better deal.
Can you protect Medicaid?
We must protect this vital program—it is saving the lives of children right here in our district. I was startled to see our own member of Congress, John Faso, write legislation that would have cut Medicaid for local governments by $2.3 billion and slashed or eliminated health coverage for over 2.7 million New Yorkers. Faso’s proposal would have cut $13.7 million from 13 hospitals here in our district. He is writing policies that would cost us jobs and lives—all to provide tax breaks wealthy Wall Street donors who do not live in our district.
Can you do anything to improve Social Security?
We have to strengthen and raise Social Security benefits. I have traveled through nursing homes and met many seniors in our district who are struggling too hard and with too little help to make ends meet. Seniors on fixed incomes in our rural communities depend on this income. We can increase their benefits by simply eliminating an outrageous loophole that allows the wealthiest individuals to avoid paying Social Security taxes on all of their income as the rest of us do.
What is your plan to address income inequality?
Income inequality is at the heart of our problems here in America and we have to address it head on by providing better jobs and improving the jobs we do have. Without a strong middle class and the promise of equal opportunity America isn’t America. There are a raft of policies that must be pursued to get our country back on the right track. They include a real pay equity law for women, raising social security benefits, passing universal health care, passing paid family medical leave, and more.
Do you support increasing the minimum wage?
Laws in New York are already in place to increase the minimum wage, and I support them. An increased minimum wage is the best economic stimulus package we can offer, not just to the workers, but to everyone they buy from. I also strongly support paid family and medical leave so that working people can lead productive and fulfilling lives without being financially punished.
Our rural economy is being ignored. What are your plans?
I support a rural and disadvantaged jobs initiative so that young adults and teenagers get the opportunity to join the workforce. When you travel across our district you see firsthand how much we are in need of infrastructure improvement and what a difference it can mean. We must invest in roads, reservoirs, bridges, rail, ports and water treatment. We must invest in broadband and recognize that when the Internet is not covering rural America, rural economies suffer.
What do you think about climate change?
Climate change is not only a phenomenon proven by science, it’s a reality myself and farmers in our area are witnessing. The rhythm of nature is out of whack. You can see it when you are attuned to agriculture or livestock and dependent on reliable growing seasons. We have to take action to fight climate change—our economy, our farms, our tourism, and our heritage all depend on it. I will push to put us back into compliance with the Paris Climate Agreement. I will make sure the Environmental Protection Agency is fully funded and put science back to work solving climate-related issues.
Do you support green energy?
I spent much of my career in the Middle East, where endless oil speculation has led to environmental degradation and instability, not success. We need to be innovating in sustainable and renewable energy sources—solar, wind, hydrogen and more. We already have three times as many jobs in solar as in coal, and we could have so many more. We can be creating green jobs that won’t ever be shipped overseas.
What is your plan to deal with unsafe drinking water in our communities?
We must fully fund the EPA and put scientists, not political hacks, back in charge of protecting our drinking water. We’ve paid a terrible price for poor government oversight in Hoosick Falls and Newburgh. We need to increase monitoring of companies that use hazardous chemicals and eliminate the risk of polluting drinking upstate drinking water systems. And companies that break these laws must be held accountable.
Will you defend women’s reproductive rights?
We must defend a woman’s right to choose. Women across our district are rightly disturbed by the backward steps our federal government is contemplating. We must rally together to defend Planned Parenthood too —this is a vital public health service that saves lives and strengthens our communities. We must never be tricked by a congressman who pays lip service to these rights while siding with those who want to strip them.
Do you support LGBTQ rights?
We are America and we don’t discriminate. My own students, who lead LGBTQIA clubs and regularly support each other, are my model here. They know by instinct the kind of society we are supposed to be. I support ending discrimination against all people, LGBTQ and transgender included. No one should be discriminated against because of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, or religion. Workplace or community discrimination of any type must be stopped.
Where do you stand on immigration reform?
We need immigration reform. Many people are brought here as children and need a path to citizenship. We have too many people living in the shadows. We have families torn apart over technicalities in our immigration laws. That is inhumane and un-American. We are a nation of immigrants. I am the grandson of four immigrants. All of my grandparents were Holocaust survivors who came to this country to build a better life. Our country welcomed them as immigrants, and that is how we have built and grown our country.