Last week, a month after filing the official paperwork to qualify to run, Rosendale town councilwoman Jen Metzger, 53, formally announced the launch of her campaign to unseat Republican John Bonacic, 75, of New Hope for New York’s 42nd State Senate District.
A registered Democrat, Metzger was also endorsed by the Working Families Party in her last two elections, as well as by the Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation AFL-CIO. Prior to becoming a member of the Town Board in January 2014, she served as chair of the town’s Environmental Commission for six years, as commission liaison to the Planning Board for three years, as deputy town supervisor from November 2011 until January 2013 and as a member of the Zoning Code Review Committee from 2008 to 2013. She was narrowly defeated by Jeanne Walsh in the 2011 election for town supervisor.
Metzger’s tenure on the Town Board has been characterized by a strong interest in environmental and energy issues, spearheading such initiatives as establishing Rosendale as an Energy Smart Community, replacing all streetlamps in the town with LED bulbs, siting an EV charging station in the municipal parking lot on Main Street and coordinating the Finding Rosendale street signage project. She also serves as the town’s eyes and ears on the Pilgrim Pipelines, proposed to run through Rosendale along with other New York State Thruway communities, and has led efforts to organize municipal leaders from Albany down through Orange County to oppose the project.
The candidate is perhaps best-known regionally as the founder/director of Citizens for Local Power, a local not-for-profit organization that provides a voice for community interests at the New York State Public Service Commission, serves as a local utility watchdog and promotes a more equitable, affordable, locally based clean-energy economy. She is currently fighting for a reduction in Central Hudson’s customer charges, which are among the highest in the country. A native of Queens, Metzger earned a Ph.D. in Political Science from Rutgers University and a BA in Government from Oberlin College. She and her husband, John Schwartz, former chair of the Rosendale Democratic Committee, have lived in the town for 17 years and are the parents of three sons.
Represented by Bonacic, an attorney and former assemblyman, since 1998, State Senate District 42 spans all of Sullivan County and portions of Orange, Delaware and Ulster Counties, including the towns of Rosendale, New Paltz, Gardiner, Shawangunk, Wawarsing and Denning. In the 2016 election, Bonacic defeated Pramilla Malick of Minisink — a relatively unknown candidate who won the Democratic nomination via write-in vote – by a 61-39 percentage margin, after having run unopposed in 2014 and 2012. Long regarded as a Republican stronghold, the New York State Senate currently includes 30 Republicans, 28 Democrats and five “swing” seats who identify with the Independent Democratic Caucus but typically vote with the Republican bloc.
Metzger said that she understands firsthand the challenges faced by families in rural communities, and that she is done waiting around for state senators to do their jobs. “Fully funded schools, healthcare for all and a clean-energy economy that creates good local jobs will remain out of reach unless our state representatives are willing to fix New York’s broken tax system and pass legislation that helps working families. But year after year, they continue to serve the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of the rest of us,” she said. “All of us in the Catskills and Hudson Valley deserve a fair chance to keep our homes, grow our businesses, swim in our rivers and achieve our full potential. I’m running for State Senate because our pay-to-play state legislators have failed us. It’s time to replace them with representatives who will get the job done.”
Among the regional officials who have already endorsed Metzger’s State Senate bid are Ulster County executive Mike Hein, 2016 congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout, assemblymen James Skoufis and Kevin Cahill, Middletown alderman Sparrow Tobin, Ulster County comptroller Elliott Auerbach, New Paltz town supervisor Neil Bettez, Ulster County legislator Manna Jo Greene, Sullivan County Democratic Committee chair Donna Schick, Ulster County Democratic Committee chair Frank Cardinale and Ulster County Young Democrats president Ashley Dittus.