As the June 23 primary approaches, candidates for New York’s 17th Congressional District seat are in the home stretch of a highly contested race.
For the past 32 years, Democrat stalwart Nita Lowey has had a lock on the United States House of Representatives seat that includes all of Rockland County and parts of Westchester County. After announcing in 2019 that she would not seek re–election, Rep. Lowey’s aspiring successors quickly surfaced to pursue the Democratic and Republican nominations.
Mondaire Jones, who could become the first openly gay black member of Congress, said that, in the face of COVID-19, his team “transitioned pretty seamlessly to a digital format of campaigning.”
The Democrat said with “virtual town halls you can get more people to log into a campaign event through the comfort of their homes…It makes it more accessible to them than driving to a location.”
Citing her past experience in the Department of Defense under President Obama and as the Executive Director of the Congressional WMD Commission, Democrat
said that since she recognized “the United States’ vulnerability to a pandemic threat,” she “knew early on that this virus would upend our lives.” When the lockdown went into effect, her team was already working remotely with a full digital plan.
In a crowded fall 2019 race for the Democratic nomination that became overshadowed by the pandemic, State Senator David Carlucci emerged with a high profile, owing in part to his elected role representing much of Rockland County.
“The time is now to elect someone with true leadership experience who knows how to write legislation, work with fellow lawmakers to deliver results, and has a deep understanding of the issues in our community,” Carlucci told us. “It’s easy to say you have delivered results and harder to prove you actually made a difference.”
His opponents have criticized him for previously caucusing with Republicans in Albany.
Adam Schleifer, a former federal prosecutor instrumental in the Operation Varsity Blues investigation into college admissions briberies, has been particularly critical of Senator Carlucci during the Democratic primary race.
Citing his prosecutorial work and time as a consumer-protection regulator for Governor Cuomo, Schleifer stated that, unlike Carlucci and the others running, he is the one “candidate with the values, vision, and energy to both fight for justice and bring people together to get things done.”
Despite the GOP not fielding a candidate against Lowey in 2018, Republican Yehudis Gottesfeld, a 25-year-old chemical engineer, hopes to flip the seat red.
Gottesfeld knows firsthand the impact of Covid-19, having lost both of her grandfathers to the disease. Echoing a party line, she wants China to face more accountability for the coronavirus.
Other points she emphasized are that “taxes and the cost of living are too high, healthcare is too expensive, and there aren’t enough job opportunities that can keep pace. Taxes and over-regulation make basic living and starting families difficult, and make it challenging to start or keep a business.”
Allison Fine, the former NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation board chairwoman seeking the Democratic nod, said, “We have a patchwork system for healthcare that is making the recovery much more difficult to understand and control. Our federal government needs to get cash assistance directly to people, not to large corporations.
“We need to extend unemployment benefits and the PPP funding for small businesses, increase money for SNAP for food assistance. We need more free COVID tests available, plus PPE for frontline workers, and we need a plan for distributing a vaccine if one is developed.”
New York State Assemblyman, and former Lowey intern, David Buchwald said the federal government’s response is all the more reason to send a Democrat to D.C. to represent NY-17.
“The Trump Administration’s misinformation, half-truths, and outright lies only heighten the urgent need to restore the role of facts to policy making,” he said, adding that his work fighting for legislation that provides paid sick leave to New Yorkers who tested positive for COVID-19 and their families makes him the ideal choice for the nomination.
Jon Jackson is a writer and editor who hails from Brooklyn.