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Vying for the key ballot spot to represent residents in Peekskill, Cortlandt, Ossining, Philipstown and Kent are Ossining Town Supervisor Dana Levenberg, Westchester County Legislator Colin Smith and former Peekskill councilwoman Vanessa Agudelo.
Levenberg served as Galef’s communications director and later chief of staff prior to being elected supervisor in 2015 and has been endorsed by her former boss. She also served nine years on the Ossining Board of Education. She has been endorsed by former Peekskill mayor Andre Rainey, who was forced out of the race when his petitions were challenged by Smith, and Cold Spring Mayor Kathleen Foley, among others.
“Voters who want a representative with the experience, knowledge and skills to hit the ground running on Day One and deliver results should choose me,” Levenberg said. “For progress on all the issues voters in this district care most about – climate action, economic recovery, affordability, women’s rights, gun reform and so on – you need an effective legislator.”
“My approach is very different from that of my opponents,” she continued. “I am an active and engaged leader; I’m the type to attend every meeting, ask lots of questions and pore over details. I also surround myself with people who complement my knowledge and skills and build strong relationships and collaborations that endure over time and produce results.”
Smith won his second term on the Board of Legislators last November. He previously served on the Peekskill Common Council and the Peekskill Board of Education. He has been endorsed by the Cortlandt Town Board, along with the Westchester County Corrections Superiors Officers Association and the Officers Benevolent Association.
“Having dedicated my career to giving voice to the voiceless and standing up for everyone from all walks of life, I’m equipped to win this election because my story resonates with voters,” Smith said.
He was the first Democrat elected to his county legislator seat and would be the first person of color to serve the 95th Assembly District. Smith, who is biracial, was raised in Peekskill in a union home.
“Like many of our neighbors, my parents worked hard to make ends meet and afford me the opportunities to get a quality education,” he said. “When it comes down to it, Westchester and Putnam counties deserve a representative that is willing to roll up their sleeves and address real, everyday issues that directly impact our neighbors.”
Smith said his service on the Board of Legislators has prepared him to tackle the challenges in Albany. During his time in office, he has helped to establish an office of police accountability, sponsored a bill to increase penalties for trespassing and verbal attacks on women at abortion clinics, helped keep community hospitals open during the height of COVID and worked with local officials to electrify the county bus system.
Agudelo made history in 2017, at the age of 25, as the youngest person ever to be elected to the Peekskill Common Council. She made her presence felt by sometimes clashing with her Democratic colleagues on local, regional and global policy issues.
A first-generation Colombian-American, Agudelo is the New York Immigration Coalition’s Hudson Valley member engagement manager. She boasts some star power in her endorsements, having been backed publicly by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and progressive activist and “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon. She has secured the Working Families line in the November election.
If elected, Agudelo would be the first Latina woman to serve the Hudson Valley in the state legislature.
“I’m the best candidate to face the challenges facing our district head on because I’m the one with a record not just of progressive policies, but years of bold progressive action,” Agudelo said. “I came into this work as an activist after years of watching our communities be exploited, endangered and polluted for the sake of profit, all the while working families like mine struggled to make ends meet.
Agudelo said she fought against the militarization of police, demanded community benefits from developers and affordable housing and helped passed the city’s first tree ordinance.
An immigrants’ rights organizer, Agudelo said she helped write state policy and organize statewide campaigns to pass transformative legislation like the Green Light Drivers Licenses expansion, Protect Our Courts Act and NY Heroes Act. “Last year I led a successful statewide fight for the largest investment for excluded workers in the country, a historic $2.1 billion investment to provide pandemic relief for those left out of the current unemployment safety net,” she said.
As a city councilmember, Agudelo said she used every available tool to advocate for issues impacting communities at every level of government. That included testifying at state and federal hearings, convening lobbying meetings with state and federal officials, organizing protests and town halls with experts on a topic and those directly impacted.
“As leaders, we must leverage our power and platform to help move important legislation forward as well as rapidly respond with collective action when the time calls for it,” Agudelo said. “After years of organizing as part of a statewide movement working to build a safe future where all families can live with dignity and thrive, I believe our campaign is the best positioned to usher in the kind of change working families need in this urgent moment.”
She said her campaign is also part of a larger effort to take back Albany and ensure government functions for the benefit of the people, not wealthy corporate interests. “Not only has our campaign been endorsed by eight progressive state senators and Assembly members ready to work with us on Day One, but our campaign is also rejecting donations from real estate developers, fossil fuel executives and corporate PACs in order to remain accountable to the working people,” Agudelo added.
Each candidate was asked what they considered the top issues facing the 95th Assembly District.
Levenberg: “Everything I do is part of my mission to build healthy communities in every sense of the word – environmentally, economically, mentally and physically, all through the lens of equity. I list the environment first for a reason. Because the 95th is largely composed of river towns, combating climate change and promoting environmental resiliency must be a top priority for our next representative.
“And it is not enough for that representative to be able to describe the problem; they also need to be able to work productively with other legislators to get things done. I am best positioned to deliver results in this regard. Economic recovery, affordable housing and healthcare are also critical issues that need to be addressed. For all of these things, and more, we need a legislator who will be effective on day one.”
Smith: “I’m running for Assembly to bring my progressive values and results-driven approach to Albany. I’ll work with my colleagues to provide necessary funding and broadband access to our schools, fight for high-quality healthcare for all New Yorkers and generate sustainable jobs to help our workers and environment.
All of these issues have an important thread that ties them together: they are focused on preparing New Yorkers for our future. In a polarized nation amongst an increasingly competitive global economy, we owe it to our children to give them the best possible foundation. For me, that means a high-quality education, access to doctors and medical facilities, a planet they can live and thrive on.”
Agudelo: “Our district, and the entire Hudson Valley, is facing the brunt of many overlapping crises: increasingly unaffordable housing and gentrification pushing working families out of their neighborhoods; the reckless greed of dirty energy companies threatening our climate, drinking water and beautiful natural landscape; and the need to overhaul a broken healthcare system whose injustices and inefficiencies have been illuminated for us all during the COVID-19 pandemic.
None of these crises are put into context, though, without recognizing the conditions that enable the growing gap of income inequality in one of the richest states in America. Whether you are a renter or a homeowner, the costs of living are becoming impossible to manage. While people making hundreds of millions or billions of dollars get away with paying very little in taxes every year, the middle and lower-income class are being forced to carry the brunt of running society. The wrong people are being taxed and to change this we need bold leaders in Albany who are not beholden to corporate interests, and that will fight to center the needs of the people and our climate.
We must reform our outdated tax system, close unfair tax loopholes and make the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share to ensure the prosperity in our state is shared by all.”
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/