Democrats may need to make room on the June primary ballot for one more candidate looking to succeed Rep. Nita Lowey.
The already crowded field vying for the Democratic nomination in the 17th Congressional District expanded to at least 10 candidates Sunday with the surprise announcement by longtime Pleasantville Board of Education Trustee Shane McGaffey that he would join the race.
Disappointed that the current crop of candidates has failed to address regional issues, including education funding and key tax matters that he argues have shortchanged the district’s and state’s taxpayers, McGaffey said he decided to jump in to help widen the debate.
“I know it’s a long shot, but I am there to advocate for our district and local issues that aren’t being discussed by the other candidates,” he said. “I’m putting together a team right now. It may be late in the game. I understand that it’s going to be a tough road to hoe, but there are some important issues and no one’s talking about them, and if we don’t talk about them, we can’t accomplish them.”
McGaffey, 49, said he would advocate for a regional cost index to help calculate federal income taxes. The current federal brackets impose a 22 percent tax rate on households earning $77,400 to $165,000 a year. In Westchester County, those earning at the bottom of that bracket are at the poverty level for a family of four when adjusted for regional costs.
Meanwhile, families earning less than that in many other areas of the country not only have the benefit of having their money go farther, but they’re being taxed at 12 percent.
“That’s serious money that we’re leaving on the table that we’re not getting back, plus on top of that, the state and local tax deduction, they’re now capped at $10,000,” McGaffey argued.
He said there has also been little conversation so far in the campaign about finding ways of repealing the $10,000 limit on state and local income tax deductions or at least getting that threshold raised.
The fact that New York is one of the top donor states in the country also needs to be tackled, McGaffey said. Last week, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a report that New York receives just 90 cents on every dollar it sends to Washington, the third worst in the nation.
Westchester also severely lags in reimbursement by the federal government for special education costs, he said.
McGaffey, a former Republican, works as the station manager at Pleasantville Community Television. He has served on the Pleasantville Board of Education for the past 10 years and is a former board president.
He said that national issues such as advocating for women’s rights, equal pay, the impeachment debate and many of the social issues of the day are of critical importance.
“A lot of those issues are already being highlighted and I would work on them as well,” McGaffey said. “They’re important issues, but issues that are specific to our district, regional cost, the value of the dollar is so much less, and so when people talk about taxing the rich, they’re talking about us.”
He said each candidate needs to collect about 1,250 signatures on their nominating petition by the Apr. 2 filing deadline. He plans to shortly launch his candidate’s website once he receives his federal identification number that would enable him to start fundraising.
McGaffey said that with such a large field it also may not take more than 20 percent of the vote to win the primary, and he may be able to capitalize on the tax issue. However, he acknowledges that he has a lot to do in a short period of time.
“Build momentum, getting that message out there and making people understand how we’re not getting our fair share,” McGaffey said of the task he faces.
Other declared Democratic candidates for the 17th Congressional District are Assemblyman David Buchwald; state Sen. David Carlucci; Sleepy Hollow resident Allison Fine; Evelyn Farkas, a former assistant deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration; Mondaire Jones, who worked in the Department of Justice under President Obama; veteran Asha Castleberry-Hernandez; former prosecutor Adam Schliefer; County Legislator Catherine Parker; and Rockland County resident David Katz.