Democratic New York state Assemblyman James Skoufis of the 99th District kicked off his campaign for state Senate Monday in Orange County. State officials and a Hudson Valley Congressman were on hand to lend their support. Skoufis is running to replace Republican Bill Larkin, who announced earlier this month he would retire.
Standing before a packed crowd in the Palaia Winery in Highland Mills, Assemblyman Skoufis announced he will run for the 39th Senate District seat, which contains a large part of Orange County and portions of Rockland and Ulster Counties.
“We’re going to win this race because we’re going door to door, neighborhood to neighborhood, town to town, to speak to every single voter,” Skoufis says. “And I don’t care whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent, they will hear from us, we will hear from them, and I’ll be proud to represent them in the state Senate.”
State Senator Michael Gianaris, chair of the Democratic conference, says enlisting Skoufis to run for state Senate is a coup.
“Let me tell you something, all these years I’ve been trying to get James to run, there was an incumbent here who’s pretty well respected, I think you all know,” Gianaris said. “He was so well respected that when he announced he was retiring, even we didn’t attack him, which is unusual for us.”
He refers, of course, to Bill Larkin. With Republican Senator John Bonacic also retiring, the 42nd District is also up for grabs. State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says the Hudson Valley is a prime swing area in the state.
“You have very independent-minded voters. You have increasing Democratic enrollment in what has been traditionally a Republican stronghold,” says DiNapoli. “And certainly when you have a candidate like James Skoufis, who has such incredible grassroots support, and you have an open Senate seat as well, not the only open Senate seat in the Hudson Valley, it’s very clear that the Hudson Valley is going to be the real battleground for control of the state Senate.”
Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney says winning in Orange County isn’t easy, but he is proof, three times, that it is possible.
“And I know that when you show up, a lot of people say, oh, you’re not going to be able to do it, oh, this is hard, those guys got more money, they’ve had the power forever. They got people like the Mercers throwing money at races like this. I heard every one of those things when I ran for Congress. I heard it all three times I won this congressional seat, and I’m hearing it today about this race. But I want to tell you something, we have something that’s better than that. We have something that’s better than that. We have citizens and neighbors who know the work of this good man, who know that this guy is one of those who will fight for you when he gets power,” Maloney said. “A lot of people want to get power for themselves. James Skoufis gets power to fight for every one of you. I have watched him do it. And that is why I am all in on this campaign, I am all in with you on this campaign. We are going to win, we are going to win big, and we’re going to send him to Albany.”
Skoufis, who has served in the Assembly since 2013, said Newburgh, which is not in his Assembly District but is part of the 39th Senate District, has long been treated as an outcast by the state and that would end if he were senator.
“Let’s repave the roads, let’s give them clean water, let’s prioritize the police and fire services, let’s give them money for their land bank, and let’s heal the political and racial divides so that Newburgh can thrive once more,” Skoufis said.
Jonathan Jacobson is a Newburgh city councilmember and Orange County Democratic Committee member.
“James is going to be a great state senator. He’s been so effective in Albany. He knows what to do. He focuses on the issues. He is not ideological. He knows how to get things done,” Jacobson says. “It’s important that he recognizes Newburgh because Newburgh needs an effective state Senator.”
On the Republican side, Stony Point Councilman Tom Basile has received support from Larkin and the Orange County Republican Committee. In a statement, Basile says of Skoufis’ announcement, in part, “He’s voted for or proposed more programs, more taxes, and more spending proposals than even Governor Cuomo. That’s not a solution we can afford.”
Republican Orange County Legislator Mike Anagnostakis also has announced he would run, leading to a Republican primary.