It took until he was 70 years old for Dr. Liviu Saimovici to run for public office.
Born and raised in Communist Romania, the Rye resident and ophthalmologist immigrated to the U.S. in 1981. His candidacy was prompted by what he felt has been an increasing shift to the left by the Democratic Party and decided to challenge state Sen. Shelley Mayer in the 37th Senate District.
“I feel like we’re slipping toward this Communist society, and I don’t mean to sound like a freak or anything to suggest anything like that is going to happen, but you know that Hitler was democratically elected and so was Chavez, so I don’t want to see these things happening,” Saimovici said.
What he sees happening is an increasing dependence on government to solve problems and policies that are antithetical to successful business, and throwing money at issues that fail to solve problems. Saimovici cited, for example, the state’s current average public school per-pupil spending of about $22,000 a year, but the statewide results have been middling at best.
He would like to see a common-sense rollback of overbearing regulations – from the hundreds of hours of required training for someone to give shampoos at a hair salon to the state’s Scaffold Law– that is causing businesses to flee or avoid New York. Retaining and attracting businesses will help the state rebound more quickly by enlarging the tax base.
“New York State has become one of the least business-friendly states,” Saimovici said. “Part of the problem is the high taxes and the high amount of regulation.”
Regarding the state’s response to COVID-19, Saimovici said Gov. Andrew Cuomo imposed the mask mandate too slowly. He said more vigorous testing of nursing home residents, staff and visitors could have eased some of the disastrous impacts of the virus that has claimed more than 6,000 lives in the facilities and allowed people to visit.
The state should be more aggressive regarding school attendance, particularly if districts have enough room and use gymnasiums, auditoriums and other large-space areas, Saimovici said. In New York City, use of hotels and other facilities that are currently underutilized could provide temporary classrooms for schools there along with temporary structures, he said.
Saimovici is strongly opposed to the NY Health Act, explaining that when the state gets involved in running large bureaucracies it is beset with problems. Having spent time in Israel and England, he said socialized medicine isn’t the answer either, Saimovici said.
He called for health insurance companies to be regulated by the state similar to utilities.
“I don’t think that United Healthcare should be listed on the stock exchange and strive to make a profit every quarter,” Saimovici said.
Saimovici agreed with the legislation allowing medical marijuana, but opposes its recreational use because it could be another source for impaired drivers or become a gateway to other addictions.
Saimovici reserved some of his strongest comments for the state’s bail reform. While agreeing that poor people should not be held in jail longer for the same offenses as those who have more money, letting suspects walk out of jail for serious offenses has been wrong.
“I couldn’t believe they were so stupid to pass it in the first place,” Saimovici said. “It was very political and they (the Democrats) were pulled to the left by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her gang.”
Instead, he said the state should have passed legislation resembling the First Step Act, federal prison reform guidelines that were adopted by Congress in late 2018 to reduce recidivism and lower the prison population.
Saimovici said he is for responsible gun ownership, background checks, training and licensing. But the current spike in crime, in particular the rise in shootings this year in New York City, has taken place despite some of the supposedly strongest firearms laws in the nation, he said.
“I’m not for a free-for-all, to go to the supermarket and get a gun,” Saimovici said. “Don’t get me wrong on that. I believe in very strong training and proof that you know what you’re doing. I grew up in the shadow of World War II and I believe that six million of my people would not be so easily gassed had they been able to defend themselves.”
Saimovici said he supports expanding renewable energy but fears passage of the postponed $3 billion referendum that was to be on the ballot would become “a boondoggle.”
Finally, Saimovici is a strong advocate for term limits, believing that it propagates professional politicians instead of encouraging citizens to serve the public.
“I’m not a professional politician, that’s why I’ll make decisions not based on the lobbyists and professional politicians,” he said.