“It struck me like a dagger when Donald Trump became president,” said Abe Uchitelle of Kingston. “I thought I was partially to blame. I said to myself, I need to get involved.” A year and four months after that initial realization, Uchitelle decided to run in the Democratic primary (if there is one) on Thursday, Sept. 13 for the state Assembly seat representing most of northern and central Ulster County and the Dutchess County towns of Rhinebeck and Red Hook. The legislative seat now constituting the 103rd Assembly District has been occupied for the last 20 years by Kevin Cahill, also of Kingston. Cahill is widely expected to seek re-election.
Both Uchitelle and Cahill graduated from SUNY New Paltz majoring in political science. Cahill, who will turn 63 the day before the Nov. 6 general election, graduated that school in 1977. Uchitelle, now 29, graduated in 2010. He has been president of the 25-employee boutique digital marketing agency DragonSearch, recently rebranded Dragon 360, since February 2016 and has worked for the Kingston-based firm for over five years.
“A community’s choice in a representative should come down to selecting a leader who listens to their constituents, walks among them, and advocates for them,” Uchitelle said in a press release. “I believe that it is time for a change, and that I can offer a new voice reflective of the evolving nature of this district.”
The area needs a strong voice in Albany and allies at every political level, the Dragon360 executive said. When officeholders get involved in political vendettas, “the losers are the people,” he said. He wasn’t specific about how existing examples of partisan politics and longstanding personal feuds could be dealt with, other than to say he wanted to avoid them. He favored “a completely different approach.” A new generation, he said, could “change the rules” and “rewrite the rulebook.”
Uchitelle suggested a focus on three broad areas of issues: job creation, education and training, and responsible housing policies, “while upholding the progressive values of our community.”
As a college student, Uchitelle collaborated with various entities and levels of government to organize a New Paltz bus loop in New Paltz. Concentrating on other things, he said after the last election he felt he was getting complacent. He had skills he wasn’t using. He told himself he could be helping people with real problems. That line of thinking led to his wanting to get involved in politics, he explained.
Uchitelle serves on the boards of the Kingston Land Trust and Family of Woodstock. He has been on the picket line outside Congressman John Faso’s Kingston office. He has done volunteer work in Kingston and he’s helped out at People’s Place. Uchitelle held a campaign kickoff at the Senate House Garage Tuesday afternoon, at which time he was endorsed by activist and Kingston resident Callie Jayne, formerly of Citizen Action Hudson Valley, and downtown restaurateur Merle Borenstein. His website is abeforassembly.com.
“Bring it on!” declared Cahill.
This Tuesday, Kingston Mayor Steve Noble gave Cahill a strong re-election endorsement. Cahill didn’t waste time circulating it.
“There have been issues on which we haven’t agreed, but we have used those moments to listen and to learn from each other, and I know that I am stronger leader today because of him,” wrote Noble in part. “He is my mentor and friend, and above all he is a fighter. Whether he’s standing up to big polluters threatening our environment or advocating for comprehensive healthcare, Kevin doesn’t back down.”