Voters across the nation next Tuesday will face crucial decisions when they head to the polls.
Most of the attention in recent weeks has rightfully focused on the mid-term elections. But in the 40th state Senate District, comprising portions of Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties, the matchup is as important as any federal contest.
Two-term Republican state Sen. Terrence Murphy and Democratic challenger Peter Harckham are squaring off in what has predictably become an increasingly divisive campaign. It’s one of a handful of races across New York State that could determine the balance of power in the Senate.
For the first time in Examiner Media’s 11-year history, the editorial staff was unable to reach consensus on a race, leaving the decision on how to handle endorsements in this contest to each of the editors in the three different Examiner newspaper editions that are circulated within the district.
Given the upheaval facing Westchester, the state and the nation, the correct choice in this election for this territory in this year is former county legislator Peter Harckham.
Harckham is no newbie to government, having cut his teeth for more than seven years on the county Board of Legislators, including four years as its majority leader.
But more than resumes or whether you do or don’t believe the allegations against the candidates put forth by both campaigns, of primary importance is where the candidates stand on the most pressing issues of the day. On that front, Harckham unequivocally supports legislation in several vital areas. You may not agree with him but there is no guessing where he stands on these critical matters.
Harckham supports strengthening New York’s gun laws. While the state arguably has the strictest firearms legislation in the nation, it does not have the Extreme Risk Protection Order (or red flag bill) on the books that would provide a mechanism for temporary confiscation of a weapon for an unstable or violent gun owner. Banning bump stocks and raising the age to buy a gun to 21 are also good policies he backs.
Harckham is a strong advocate of the Child Victims Act that has been approved in the Assembly but has gone to die without a vote in the Senate. The bill would extend the statute of limitations for sex abuse victims and the time that victims could seek justice in civil court.
Harckham is for the Reproductive Healthcare Act, which would strengthen the legality of abortion in New York State, regardless of what happens in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Also, the balance of power at play in this election can’t be ignored when deciding how to cast your vote. If the Democrats regain control of the Senate, Harckham would likely be in a better position to legislate effectively. A Republican Senate has failed to rectify shortchanging Hudson Valley school districts with an outdated and unrealistic education foundation aid formula that places Westchester and Putnam with counties far to the north. Meanwhile, comparable Long Island districts are grouped with New York City and receive greater sums of aid. Without change in the Senate, there doesn’t appear to be much hope for more education aid for local schools.
And with the reality that the Indian Point nuclear power plant is going to close, Harckham embraces rather than fights the inevitable shift to renewables while also calling for a dedicated fund to help the Town of Cortlandt, the Hendrick Hudson School District and other entities that would be decimated by its closure.
One reservation is that he had a history of partisanship on the Board of Legislators. Hopefully, he will work to improve in that area.
In many years, Murphy’s performance and record in the Senate would be fine to merit re-election. As co-chair of the Senate’s Task Force Against Heroin & Opioid Addiction, he has been at the forefront in fighting the scourge that is the opioid crisis, passing legislation that requires coverage for a minimum of 14 days in rehab for its victims and advocating for the training of personnel to use Narcan.
He brings home funds for projects large and small, including for libraries, roads, community centers and other key facilities and infrastructure projects.
He has fought with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to stop the unsightly barges from being anchored in the Hudson River.
For all of his strong stances on issues and notable attributes, Murphy has been far less convincing on the high-profile matters that have been thrust into the spotlight. Murphy’s support for repeal of the SAFE Act gun legislation is incomprehensible and ludicrous, considering the events of the day. Just because repeal would never be approved by a Democratic Assembly shouldn’t give him cover to oppose it.
He supports much of what’s included in the Child Victims Act, as do some other Republicans, but nothing ever comes to the Senate floor for a vote.
Murphy justifies opposition to the Reproductive Healthcare Act by characterizing concerns for Roe v. Wade’s future as fear-mongering and that it allows non-doctors to perform abortions. If he’s against it for personal reasons, fine, but no one has a crystal ball to predict whether there will be changes.
Murphy also seemed to cling to the notion that Indian Point could remain open longer, but Entergy and other operators are fleeing nuclear energy mainly for economic issues.
Harckham and Murphy are equally capable of doing the job. But in an election cycle like no other, Harckham is on the right side of what is most important.