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Mayer Seeks Re-election in 37th State Senate District Contest

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Sen. Shelley Mayer and Frank Murtha

State Sen. Shelley Mayer (D-Yonkers) is bidding for her third full term in the state legislature’s upper chamber next week. Mayer has served in the Senate since the spring of 2018 when she won a special election to succeed George Latimer in the 37th District after he became county executive.

Prior to being elected to the Senate Mayer was an Assembly member for six years.

This year, Mayer takes on psychology counselor, educator and businessman Frank Murtha of Scarsdale, who appears on the Republican line.

As chair of the Senate Education Committee, Mayer arguably has one of the most important positions in the legislature outside of Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. Helping students and schools bounce back from the upheaval caused by COVID-19 has been a top priority.

“We put money in and the feds put money into having mental health professionals in schools, and schools have done a great job,” Mayer said. “But that’s not the only solution and that’s not forever. That federal money is going to end in a few years.”

Introducing pre-K statewide was a key focus to help working families along with funding afterschool and extended programs and providing services for children with disabilities.

Education was also a key motivation for Murtha jumping into the race, along with public safety and the cost of living. Never politically active, Murtha became disturbed with his own kids’ education, particularly in the wake of COVID-19. He said he identified what he called “a certain wokeness,” where the curriculum focuses too much on people’s differences.

“I found myself thinking this is not healthy and it’s not necessary for kids to do things this way,” said Murtha, who wished more schools found a way to stay open during the pandemic. “We need to focus on what we have in common, not what we don’t.”

If elected, he would concentrate on officials respecting parents’ rights and listening to their concerns. He would also like to introduce financial literacy into the curriculum for older students.

Murtha said he would also work to reverse cashless bail and to restore judges’ discretion, which has been a failure. He would also support additional resources dedicated to the police, including additional training, so they can do the job to the best of their ability.

Mayer doesn’t completely disagree on some points, particularly on making greater use of a judge’s discretion. She acknowledged the original bail reform needed revisions, although she agreed with the general concept that money should not determine whether a suspect is released awaiting trial.

However, Republicans have exaggerated the negative impact of bail reform on crime rates, Mayer said. She said she strongly supports law enforcement, but there must also be justice. Plus, anecdotal reports of prosecutors and judges steering away from bail for offenses that could require is concerning, Mayer said.

“I make it my business to continue to talk to police departments, public officials, people on the ground,” she said. “What is your opinion? What do you think?”

Murtha said he would aggressively look for ways to cut taxes to help families survive. Furthermore, the state should reconsider its limitations on natural gas, which is economically efficient, he said. Renewables are part of the equation, but until they became a larger piece of the energy puzzle, other strategies are crucial.

“We all want clean, efficient, affordable energy and we’re on our way there, but in the meantime, we need an all-of-the-above energy policy because we’re not meeting the needs of the people and that needs to come first,” Murtha said.

Mayer is a strong supporter of the $4.2 billion environmental bond that would not only make a sizeable investment in improving water and sewage infrastructure but also helps school districts with converting their bus fleets to electric.

Murtha said he wasn’t familiar with all of the aspects of the proposition but that it sounded like a lot of money.

Mayer recognizes that Westchester and other areas of the state must find a way to provide more housing for the middle class, including more rent protections for people living in unregulated apartments.

“I’m worried about the future if only rich and poor people can live here,” she said.

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