Two years ago, Croton-on-Hudson resident Justin Wagner came within two percentage points of upsetting State Senator Greg Ball (R,C,I/Patterson) in the 40th District, the closest race in the state involving an incumbent.
The 33-year-old Democrat has returned this year for another shot at the same seat, this time against Yorktown Councilman Terrence Murphy after Ball opted not to seek reelection.
“I’m running for the State Senate because of all the government bodies we can make the most change and there’s the opportunity for reform,” Wagner said. “The desire for reform and change unifies the region. Everybody wants something new. We have a very good chance of winning.”
Wagner is a district leader in the Town of Cortlandt. He works as an attorney at the law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges where he is a litigation associate in the Complex Commercial Litigation group. In 2009, he spent four months working pro bono in Brooklyn representing indigent homeowners facing foreclosure proceedings.
He is currently on a leave of absence from his firm and said he will leave his practice if he is elected to the Senate on November 4.
“I’m no Greg Ball. I have no chicken suits,” Wagner remarked. “I’ve put forward a set of substantive ideas. We want to push our issues. Let them push the garbage. He’s (Murphy) only been there (on Yorktown Town Board) for one term. It’s not like he is some sort of Socrates of local government.”
Wagner said his approach to economic development would be to focus on small businesses by maybe offering tax incentives. He said he supports Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Start Up NY plan.
“I support that type of creativity,” Wagner said, noting he believes the tax code can be revised to reward businesses that create jobs. He also maintained unnecessary and burdensome regulations that hamstring businesses should be repealed.
Wagner has joined the anti-“Murphy Pipeline” movement by criticizing his opponent for voting to ask the state Legislature for permission to pursue the alienation of parkland in Yorktown to clear the way for a proposed expansion of a controversial natural gas pipeline. He also stressed Murphy was silent when Spectra Energy representatives appeared at a work session to discuss their plans.
“When he had them for an hour in front of him he didn’t ask one question. His board had the leverage,” Wagner said. “This is not for any public benefit. What are we getting? We’re getting a lot of construction and a lot of radon. I was one of the first people to speak out about this. I sat down with Spectra and it became very apparent that they would just railroad this through.”
Wagner, who was endorsed by the Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization, said he was “very skeptical” about hydraulic fracking, but added “if there is a way to do it and create jobs, let’s do it. I will defer to people we have at the state who study this.” He noted he would, however, vote for both a moratorium bill and a ban on hydraulic fracking.
Women’s Equality Act
Wagner said he would support all 10 points in the proposed Women’s Equality Act, and labeled Murphy “anti-choice” for being against the controversial 10th point where abortions would be allowed at 24 weeks or later if a woman’s health, including her emotional health, was in danger.
“I support all 10 points and I could vote individually on them,” he said. “Those decisions should be between a doctor and a woman.”
NY SAFE Act
Following the school shootings in Newtown, CT, Wagner joined the Board of Directors of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, an organization that sponsors programs in schools to educate youth about gun violence and teaches non-violent conflict resolution strategies to students.
Wagner said he supports some parts of the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013. The gun control law was passed by the New York State Legislature on January 15, 2013, and was signed into law the same day by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
However, he said he “takes exception to how it was passed,” noting he supports legislation that prohibits voting in the state Legislature after 9 p.m.
“So many deaths are attributable to unlocked guns,” he said. “90% of Americans support background checks. I care deeply against the crisis of gun violence. I reject the idea that we can’t do anything to make the streets safe.”
Rick has more than 40 years’ experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, running the gamut from politics and crime to sports and human interest. He has been an editor at Examiner Media since 2012. Read more from Rick’s editor-author bio here. Read Rick’s work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/pezzullo_rick-writer/