The Race for 95 

There are four candidates in the race to represent New York State Assembly District 95, a seat that has been held for 30 years by Democrat Sandra Galef, who is retiring when her term ends Dec. 31. The district encompasses Briarcliff, Cortlandt, Kent, Ossining, Peekskill, and Phillipstown.  Assembly members serve two-year terms and are paid $110,000 a year.  

Vanessa Agudelo, Dana Levenberg and Colin Smith are running in the June 28 Democrat Primary to win the “D” line on the ballot in the Nov. 8 election. Stacy Halper is the sole Republican who has declared her candidacy for the seat. She has no primary challenger.  

River Journal North invited all four candidates to submit campaign statements, which are presented here in alphabetical order.

‘We can create a fair economy by taxing the ultra-wealthy.’

Vanessa Agudelo 

I’m a proud daughter of Colombian immigrants, a lifelong Peekskill resident, and former Peekskill city council member. I know what it’s like to grow up in a community that corporations treat as a dumping ground for profit. I know what it’s like to live without health insurance. I’ve seen my parents struggle to pay the mortgage and work unfair conditions to make ends meet. This is the story of so many of our neighbors.

Our communities are paying the costs of failed incrementalism. Despite having a Democratic supermajority for years, New York continues to uphold the status quo. Establishment legislators are blocking necessary climate legislation, while our energy grid remains at 4% wind and solar and monthly energy bills skyrocket. Housing affordability is a statewide crisis, with renters facing impossible rent increases. 

Our state has the resources to pass universal programs that leave no one out. But right now, the wrong people are being taxed, the wrong people are being asked to bear the costs of running society, all so the wealthiest can continue to hoard our collective resources.

Last year I helped lead the successful fight to pass the first statewide fund for excluded workers. By passing bold tax reform, we won and funded a historic $2.1 billion stimulus fund for immigrant workers when no one thought it was possible.

We can create a fair economy by taxing the ultra-wealthy. That is why our campaign is rejecting donations from real estate, fossil fuel, and corporate PACs in order to remain accountable to you.

It’s time New Yorkers won the Good Cause Eviction bill to stop unconscionable rent hikes. It’s time to pass the Build Public Renewables Act so that New York can build and own affordable, renewable energy to stop the climate crisis. It’s time for the New York Health Act to provide New Yorkers the healthcare they need, regardless of ability to pay.

Six sitting State Senators and Assembly Members, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the NY Working Families Party, and the Democratic Socialists of America, Cynthia Nixon, and countless others have endorsed our campaign, and are ready to work together. I would be honored for your vote, and hope you will join us too. 

‘All our problems today come from government intervention.’

Stacy Halper 

I’m Stacy Halper, raised in Brooklyn, attended public schools in Flatbush and Sheepshead Bay. My real dream was to be a musician and I pursued that for many years.  Later, I landed a job at Random House where I started at the bottom and worked my way up to marketing manager. I worked there for ten years until I married and stayed home to care for my children.   

Going forward I wanted to get a good paying job, so I went back to school, completed my degrees, and became a New York City music teacher in the South Bronx.  I taught for 10 years and just retired in 2019.  Why is all this background important?  Because you should know I’m NOT a career politician. I’m an experienced professional who knows how to ascertain problems and find solutions.  

I was raised in the late ‘60s so I’ve seen racial unrest and bankrupt cities. But I had faith in our country because we had the best governmental framework in the world.  Our Constitution is a living document that allows all our citizens an opportunity to live their lives in peace and liberty.  What I like about the Constitution is that its main purpose is to RESTRICT government.  All our problems today come from government intervention: whether it’s the supply chain problem, inflation caused by out-of-control government spending, the baby formula shortage, the ridiculously high gas prices, and the vaccine mandates which have deprived people of their jobs.   

 But why should you vote for me?   

I promise you that I will propose and/or support bills that …  

  • will fix our roads, bridges, school buildings, and transportation services 
  • stop special interest spending that drains the budget and creates inflation 
  • utilize a combination of energy sources: oil, natural gas, electricity, solar 

               energy, instead of getting rid of oil completely 

  • take gender indoctrination out of our schools 
  • will stop dividing our communities by teaching race theory in our schools 
  • create no-nonsense voting procedures to safeguard our elections 

 We need to again think of ourselves as community members and not divide ourselves according to color, religion, gender, or political party.  I want to represent all the people in this district and so I’m asking for your vote because we really are all in “this” together. 

‘There is no Planet B, and nothing else we do will matter if we do not have a healthy Mother Earth.’

Dana Levenberg 

Voters who want a representative with the experience, knowledge and skills to hit the ground running on day one and deliver results should choose me. People who know well what it takes to be successful in this role, including the current Assemblywoman, Sandy Galef, have endorsed me for a reason. My Democratic opponents and I don’t differ a lot on our positions, but our approaches are different. I am an active and engaged leader; I’m the type to attend every meeting, ask lots of questions, and pore over details. I also surround myself with people who complement my knowledge and skills, and build strong relationships and collaborations that endure over time and produce results. 

Everything I do is part of my mission to build healthy communities in every sense of the word – environmentally, economically, mentally and physically, all through the lens of equity.  I list the environment first for a reason – there is no Planet B, and nothing else we do will matter if we do not have a healthy Mother Earth. Because the 95th is largely composed of Rivertowns, combating climate change and promoting environmental resiliency must be a top priority for our next representative. And it is not enough for that representative to be able to describe the problem; they also need to be able to work productively with other legislators to get things done. I am best positioned to deliver results in this regard.  

I am in my seventh year as Ossining Town Supervisor, following nine years as an elected school board trustee and eight years as Assemblywoman Sandy Galef’s chief of staff. I’ve accomplished a lot in my career, with a strong record of results on the environment, improving the fiscal health of the Town of Ossining, expanding affordable housing, promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in our schools and the community, and more.  

I encourage voters to visit my website, danaforassembly.com, and like and follow me on social media – @dana4assembly on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – for all of the details I couldn’t fit into this word limit!  

‘I have made a career of giving voice to the voiceless and standing up for everyone from all walks of life.’

Colin Smith 

I’m Colin Smith, a Democrat running for New York State Assembly. I’ve been honored to serve our community over the years in the Westchester County Legislature, Peekskill Common Council, and Peekskill School Board. Now, I’m ready to bring that experience to Albany.   

My story starts in Peekskill, where I was raised in a union home by mixed-race parents – one Black, one White. Like many of our neighbors, my parents worked hard to make ends meet and afford me the opportunities to get a quality education. As a proud public school and community college graduate, I know that a good public education can level the playing field for every kid, no matter their background or zip code. 

It was important for me to give back to the community that raised me, so I ran for School Board, City Council, and then County Legislature to continue fighting to protect our kids, our tax dollars, and our communities. As a county legislator, I’m proud of my record where I’ve …  

  • Led the charge to create an office of police accountability  
  • Sponsored a bill to increase penalties for trespassing and verbal attacks on women at abortion clinics seeking the necessary healthcare they deserve  
  • Helped keep our community hospitals open in the height of Covid  
  • Worked with other local officials to electrify our county bus system 

Now I’m running for Assembly to bring my progressive values and results-driven approach to Albany. I’ll work with my colleagues to provide necessary funding and broadband access to our schools, fight for high-quality healthcare for all New Yorkers, and generate sustainable jobs to help our workers and environment.   

I was the first Democrat ever elected to my county legislative seat and will be the first person of color to represent the 95th Assembly District. I have made a career of giving voice to the voiceless and standing up for everyone from all walks of life. I hope you will join me in this historic campaign. 

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