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Republicans Set Sights on Nomination for 17th District

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Left to right: Michael Lawler, Charles Falcigli, Jack Schrepel and William Faulkner.

Historically, the congressional mid-term election is often seen as a boon for the party that is in the minority. With Democrats holding the White House and razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate, it isn’t surprising multiple candidates are vying for the Republican nomination in next week’s primary for the 17th Congressional District. It covers the northern half of Westchester, all of Rockland and Putnam counties and small portions of Dutchess and Orange counties.

Whether it’s history, soaring inflation, or a newly-configured congressional district for what could be called an open seat despite the presence of incumbent Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney running in his party’s primary.

Assemblyman Michael Lawler (R-Pearl River) is seen as the frontrunner, endorsed by much of the party’s leadership, including former Westchester County executive Rob Astorino. He is joined on the ballot by Somers Councilman William Faulkner, Rockland County Legislator Charles Falciglia (R-Suffern), businessman Jack Schrepel, a resident of Chester in Orange County, and Harrison resident Shoshana David.

Faulkner and Lawler are also facing off in the Conservative Party primary.

David failed to respond to requests for an interview and did not participate in the League of Women Voters’ candidates’ forum.

Charles Falciglia

In his seventh year on the Rockland County Legislature after serving a term on the Suffern Village Board and losing a tight race for mayor, Falciglia said he entered the primary to give himself a chance to address larger issues.

He announced his candidacy in May 2021, before the original redistricting, which was thrown out after state Republicans sued and new lines were drawn.

“I said I’m going to take a shot at a bigger prize, a bigger election where you can really talk major issues,” said Falciglia, who worked in banking for 41 years in a variety of capacities from mortgage lending to being a bank secrecy officer, where he monitored suspicious financial activity for his last 15 years. “You can talk about health issues, corruption, Social Security.”

He also hopes to bring decency to Washington rather than engaging in counterproductive quarreling with Democrats and some new ideas to help solve some of the most pressing issues of the day.

One of Falciglia’s more intriguing proposals would be to create hospital-zone districts, where instead of employees and their company paying a private health insurance company, that contribution would go toward their local hospital. The rationale is that since hospitals don’t turn away anyone seeking help in the emergency room, this would ensure the hospital receives payment.

Another out-of-the-box proposal would be to remove the wage cap on Social Security so the highest earners continue to pay into the system and help keep it solvent. For 2022, that cap is $147,000.

Falciglia would also lower the full retirement age to 65, eliminate the earnings limit for those collecting before full retirement age, raise the “ridiculously low” $255 death benefit to a surviving spouse and provide a death benefit to someone’s heirs if they should die before collecting.

“I believe the economy works best the more disposable income people have and I would expand Social Security,” Falciglia said.

To combat gun violence and crime, Falciglia said he supports the addition of 100,000 law enforcement personnel. An overwhelming majority of the gun violence is committed with handguns, many of those illegal, he said.

Falciglia said the new hires would include 50,000 police officers patrolling the streets while the other 50,000 would be in the form of prosecutors, FBI agents, U.S. marshals and IRS criminal investigators, he said.

Increasing capital reserve requirements would slow down the economy, which would help to start ease inflation.

Falciglia believes the nation should invest in more nuclear plants and solar power to battle climate change. Continuing to develop electric car technology is vital, he said.

“We are moving in that direction, Falciglia said. “Solar fields and solar panels, I would make an investment in that, and nuclear energy.

Unlike his primary opponents, Falciglia said abortion is a national issue and he opposes the patchwork approach of having the states decide its parameters. In fact, there should be a national referendum voted solely by women, he said.

“This is a national issue; this is not a state’s rights issue,” Falciglia said. “It’s sort of a cop out.

During his campaign, Falciglia said women he has spoken to have almost universally said they would never have an abortion but it should be legal.

Falciglia supports term limits for Congress and would tax campaign contributions 10 percent.

William Faulkner

Faulkner became interested in running for Congress last winter after Westchester County GOP Chair Doug Colety e-mailed office holders in the party to see if they would be interested in running for a variety of positions up for election this year. It came two months after he was elected to a third term last November on the Somers Town Board.

Initially, Faulkner appeared to be on his way to the Republican nomination for the 16th Congressional District seat now held by Rep. Jamaal Bowman. The lines were redrawn and Somers was placed in the 17th District. The switch had no consequence on Faulkner’s decision to continue with his campaign.

“I know we will prevail; I know we will be successful and the reason for that is simple – we are the choice of the people,” Faulkner said. “Everybody I’ve spoken to and on the issues, we are in dead alignment with all the major issues that are dedicated to today.”

Those issues start with the economy and tackling steep inflation, registering nearly 9 percent, and what is likely now a recession. For Faulkner, the solution is to cut taxes and spending, the opposite of what has been happening. The more than $30 trillion deficit is a result of the country continually spending more than its revenues.

“I spent 25 years in Fortune 100 companies, all in finance, and you have to have accountability,” said Faulkner, who now owns and operates three flight schools. “I don’t see accountability in Washington.”

While assistance was needed to help those most deeply affected during the height of the pandemic, Congress took advantage of the crisis, he said.

Raising or eliminating the cap on the state and local property tax (SALT) deduction is a priority for Faulkner, if elected. He said homeowners in high-tax states should not be penalized because the cost of living is greater.

For those locally concerned about abortion, the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade has no impact in New York.

“Let’s remember that in the state of New York, nothing changes. Nothing changes,” Faulkner said. “We have some of the most liberal abortion laws in the country and the overturning of Roe v. Wade has zero impact on the citizens of the 17th district.”

Asked whether legislation is needed to protect access to contraception and marriage equality, Faulkner responded that he would not support any extreme measures like that.

Faulkner characterized himself as a Second Amendment supporter and a defender of all the amendments. A law-abiding citizen should be able to receive a handgun permit in less time in New York in order to protect themselves. In some cases, he said, it takes as long as two years, which is in violation of the state constitution.

“I don’t think we need anymore legislation keeping honest citizens from defending themselves because Democrats won’t fund the police to do that for us,” Faulkner said.

He did laud the Safe Streets program, which has proven successful in Westchester and other locations where local and federal agencies partner on

Faulkner backs the financial and weapons support for Ukraine against Russia, but would not support troop involvement. He said over the past 25 to 30 years, the United States has placed its allied like Ukraine in peril during Democratic administrations because they have failed to heed President Ronald Regan’s words of peace through strength.

Ukraine, along with Sweden and Finland, should be supported to join NATO, Faulkner said.

With respect to China, the U.S. should similarly protect Taiwan against Chinese aggression. However, Faulkner said China is much more patient and disciplined and are watching carefully what happens in Ukraine.

Michael Lawler

Lawler, who previously worked for Astorino and is in his first term in the state Assembly representing a portion of Rockland County, said he jumped into the race because of the mistakes made as a result of one-party rule in New York and in Congress.

“What we’re seeing right now, the Democrats control everything in Washington, everything in Albany and from an economic standpoint and from a public safety standpoint our country and our communities are in shambles, and that’s something that really drove me two years ago and is driving me now to run in this newly-configured 17th Congressional District, which I believe is very competitive,” Lawler said.

Reigning in runaway spending and putting an end to printing money are the first and most critical steps to addressing inflation, he said.

“The only way you’re going to get out of it is by cutting spending, cutting taxes and regulation and allowing the free market to work because what’s been going on under Biden and Pelosi and Maloney is not working,” Lawler said.

To get gas prices under control, the nation must have greater energy independence, according to Lawler. That means continuing to produce oil and natural gas while the country develops more renewables.

He blasted Maloney for being unsuccessful in raising or eliminating the cap on the SALT deduction cap from the current $10,000 despite the Democrats controlling Washington the past two years. Lawler said if Republicans regain Congress, he would be able to reach a compromise with legislators from elsewhere in the country as he has done in Albany.

With the nationwide surge in crime the past two years in some areas, Lawler pledged to support sending resources to communities. Lawler said the country needs to signal its support for police by helping to provide them with the training and resources to do their job properly.

“The federal government has an obligation to make sure that if we’re going to be sending resources to the states, they’re using these resources appropriately and to protect the residents,” Lawler said. “You can’t allow criminals to walk free, especially violent criminals.”

Lawler is a supporter of red flag laws, as long as due process is ensured, and background checks to prevent firearms from falling into the wrong hands. However, citizens have the right to protect themselves, he said.

“People have the right to bear arms and they have the right to protect themselves and their families and that is something that I certainly support,” Lawler said.

Government and law enforcement must work to fight illegal guns. Penalties should be stiffened for offenders who commit a crime with an illegal firearm as well as anybody caught trafficking guns, Lawler said.

He said he is supportive of federal legislation to protect gay marriage and LGBTQ rights. On abortion, the Supreme Court ruling returns it to the states, which is appropriate.

“Abortion in the state of New York is not going anywhere,” Lawler said. “I think the issue to me is the extreme position of Sean Patrick Maloney in which he supports abortion to the day of birth.”

Lawler said support for Ukraine is essential, but the Biden administration, along with NATO allies, should have been doing more to arm the Ukrainians before Russia’s invasion.

“This has really been unfortunate, and frankly, had a Republic president been in office, this would not have happened,” Lawler said.

Lawler said by strongly supporting Ukraine, it sends a clear message to China that unwarranted aggression will not be tolerated.

Jack Schrepel

Schrepel is making his first run for public office, having come out of the private sector working in marketing and digital advertising. He also heeded the call of Colety, the Westchester GOP chair, for Republicans to step up to a variety of offices.

Schrepel decided to run for the seat after he recently retired.

“I am not one to complain and sit idly by while things are not going the way they should,” Schrepel said. “I’ve seen a distinct change with this administration back in January ’21 and I wanted to step up and serve my community.”

The candidate said sharp inflation, which has been about 9 percent in recent months, can be traced to the start of the Biden administration. That includes the spike in gas prices.

Schrepel supports opening up the Keystone XL pipeline and providing leases to the oil companies, which would make the U.S. energy independent again.

“It all seems like too simple a formula but things were going quite well and in the right direction with the previous administration,” he said.

Schrepel wants the country to continue planning for the reduction of fossil fuels by developing a wide range of energy sources, including renewables as technology improves.

Penalties must be strengthened to combat the proliferation of illegal handguns. Using illegal firearms in the commission of a crime must be a felony, and the sentence should include jail time, Schrepel said.

Abortion is now rightfully left to the states, he said. Schrepel decried the extremes on the issue, criticizing those who support abortion until the day before birth while also supporting some exceptions, such as allowing termination of a pregnancy when the life of the mother is in jeopardy.

It is not entirely coincidental that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine came within six months of the Biden administration’s flubbing the departure from Afghanistan, Schrepel said. The U.S. must do everything to protect its national interests.

“We have to beef up or military, our defense spending significantly, and again, strength would be a deterrent to aggression and substantiate our role as the world’s peacekeeper by a strong military,” Schrepel said.

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