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The race for the 94th Assembly District seat pits Yorktown Supervisor Matt Slater against Carmel resident and first-time candidate Kathleen Valletta. They are running Nov. 8 to succeed Kevin Byrne, who is running unopposed for Putnam County Executive to replace MaryEllen Odell. Odell is term limited.
Slater, who was re-elected without opposition to a second two-year term last November in Yorktown, has Republican and Conservative backing, while Valletta, a Putnam County attorney, will appear on the Democratic line.
New York’s 94th Assembly District encompasses Yorktown and Somers in Westchester and Carmel, Southeast, Patterson and Putnam Valley in Putnam.
“It’s not a small decision. It took a lot of conversations with my family,” Slater said discussing the process that led to him throwing his hat in the ring to move up the political ranks. “My wife wasn’t on board at first. At the end of the day, we recognized we have a responsibility. I think we have done a great job, but there are bigger problems, and we need leaders to step up and tackle those problems.”
“I felt I could offer something different and more perhaps,” Valletta said. “I’m a hands-on person. It’s what I do. It’s how I know how to be. I enjoy helping people.”
A graduate of Yorktown High School, Slater is no stranger to Albany. He worked for three years for the Assembly’s minority leader, two years as chief of staff for former assemblyman Steve Katz and four years as chief of staff for former senator Terrence Murphy.
Slater said he was first inspired to be a public servant when he visited Washington D.C. with his mom as an eight-year-old and President Bill Clinton’s motorcade drove by as he was standing outside the Capitol.
“Ever since then I’ve always had this passion for public service,” he said. “(In Albany) I understand the issues and I understand the process. I don’t think I will need any training wheels. I’m willing to work with anybody. I think it’s all about how you approach it. It’s an exciting opportunity. I have the experience to fight for our community.”
Slater cited affordability, inflation and public safety as some of the key issues residents are most concerned about in the district.
“People are really struggling and they are scared,” he said. “If you compare Yorktown’s taxes to financing with the state it’s night and day. New York State does not have a cash problem, it has a spending problem. It’s about respecting taxpayers. The easy thing to do is raise taxes. You have an obligation as an elected official to fight like hell to keep taxes down.”
Addressing crime, Slater remarked cashless bail was “an utter failure.”
“It’s just not working. What they have done is put people in jeopardy,” he said. “When you are a repeat offender, there’s got to be some consequences.”
For the last 35 years, Valletta has owned and maintained a private law practice that serves clients throughout Dutchess, Putnam, and Westchester counties. She serves on the board of directors for several nonprofit organizations and is serving her second term as president of Carmel Rotary. She regularly delivers food to the local pantries, and she cooks at the Brewster soup kitchen.
Among other volunteer organizations, Valletta has served several years on the Putnam/Northern Westchester Women’s Resource Center Board and is an officer for the Putnam County Bar Association and the Putnam County Legal Aid Society. As a member of the board of directors for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, she instituted the first bone marrow drive in Putnam County.
“I have helped to successfully bring change and peace to people’s lives,” she said. “Putnam County needs a loudmouth who is on top of this stuff. Yeah, I’m the underdog. I hope to make a respectable showing. I hope to win, because I should.”
Valletta said New York’s high taxes have been forcing too many people to relocate.
“You’ll hear politicians say they will lower taxes. It’s about making taxes fair,” she said. “It’s about fairness across the income groups. People have to want to stay here.”
Valletta said Putnam County is one of the safest places in the state and maintained there is no data to support the fear-mongering from Republicans.
“Violent felons are not getting out on bail,” she said. “They cite the most extreme examples. How about sensible gun restrictions? There’s like three guns for every resident in Putnam. It’s insane. We are 20 miles away from Sandy Hook. We are always talking about cashless bail, but we’re not talking about gun control.”
Rick has more than 40 years’ experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, running the gamut from politics and crime to sports and human interest. He has been an editor at Examiner Media since 2012. Read more from Rick’s editor-author bio here. Read Rick’s work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/pezzullo_rick-writer/