Metzger faces challenge from Martucci in state senate district 42

Jen Metzger and Mike Martucci.

First-term state senator Jennifer Metzger is running for reelection to 42nd State Senatorial District. She will be on the Democratic, Working Families and SAM (Serve America Movement) party lines. The Rosendale resident is opposed by entrepreneur and political neophyte Michael Robert Martucci, am Orange County resident who will appear on the Republican, Conservative and Independence party lines.

Both candidates have the support of those who usually lend their allegiance to the candidates of the major parties. Metzger has received the endorsements of a long list of trade unions. Other organizations endorsing her candidacy include environmental and civic organizations. 

Martucci has received the endorsements of a long list of law-enforcement associations. He also has support from some small-business groups.

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The district was long represented by moderate Republican John Bonacic, In 2018 Metzger won the seat against a strong Orange County Republican, Annie Rabbitt, by a relatively narrow 3700 votes with over 100,000 ballots cast. 

The sprawling senatorial district, whose greatest single part in terms of population is in western and southern Orange County, now contains about 37.6 percent enrolled Democrats and 29.7 percent Republicans. Donald Trump carried it by five points in 2016, and Barack Obama by eight points in 2012 

The Democrat’s deeply involved in energy, climate, agricultural and environmental issues. She’s the policy wonk with the advantages of incumbency. In this political season, she announces awards of state money to her constituents almost daily. 

The Republican’s a self-made millionaire and philanthropist who founded a large school-bus-contract company. He’s not a politician, he says, he’s a businessman, a father, a husband and a farmer. 

A Rosendale resident since 2001, married with three sons, Metzger holds a college degree with high honors from Oberlin College and a doctorate in political science from Rutgers University. She spent five years on the Rosendale Town Board, 2013 to 2018, and was also the director of Citizens for Local Power. From 2010 to 2012 she served as Rosendale’s deputy town supervisor, narrowly losing to Jeanne Walsh in the 2011 race for supervisor. She served on Rosendale’s Environmental Commission from 2008 to 2014, ultimately becoming its chair, and on the Zoning Code Review Committee from 2008 to 2014.

A New Hampton resident who grew up in Westtown, Martucci is married and has a son and a daughter. He holds a BS and an MBA and BS from Marist College. He currently runs a family farm in Westtown part-time, having sold the business he founded, Quality Bus Service, in 2018. He has served as a member of the NY Association for Pupil Transportation and the NY School Bus Contractors’ Association and was elected president of the latter in 2015.

He is a director of the SUNY Orange Foundation, where he chairs the annual SUNY Orange Golfing for Scholarships event, and his family established a foundation to provide college scholarships for children impacted by 9/11who live in Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties.

Here’s what the candidates said in our recent interviews with them. 

First, Jen Metzger:

HV 1: Why did you decide to run for reelection at this time?

JM: When I was a child, the rug was pulled out from underneath my family when my father was laid off.  We went from living a comfortable, middle-class life to being poor. It was a difficult time, and I remember feeling shame and embarrassment, as if I had done something wrong.

But I worked hard in school, took full advantage of a good public education and went to college with a full financial aid package. Having access to these opportunities changed the course of my life. I believe that everyone should have the opportunities that I had, everyone should have the chance to live with dignity and everyone has the right to succeed and thrive. I believe that it is the role of government and society to provide and protect those opportunities.

In 2018, I was elected to the New York State Senate. I campaigned on a message of values like building a caring community, stepping up to support neighbors in need and conserving the natural resources we rely on. I have been working very hard to model those values, and to build bridges across an ever-widening political chasm.

We’ve accomplished so much in my first term. We were finally able to pass many pieces of critical legislation that had been stalled in Albany for years: passing the Child Victims Act, closing campaign finance loopholes, demonstrating nation-leading climate leadership and much, much more.

There is so much more to do to build a New York that works for all of us, and I look forward to continuing this work together.

What have you accomplished in your career that makes you feel particularly proud?

JM: In the Senate, I am proud of the wide bipartisan support I have earned for all 22 of my bills that have been signed into law. These laws will help people get remote medical care, preserve family farms, support our growing hemp industry, protect the environment and more. We can only create lasting solutions if we do the hard work to find common ground.

I am also proud of the meaningful work we have done to provide much-needed property tax relief, fight the opioid epidemic, support small businesses and improve emergency services.

I am especially proud of my accessibility to constituents. My office has resolved over 2500 constituent cases. People struggle with all sorts of frustrating problems, from unemployment issues to challenges with their small businesses and farms, and it’s very rewarding to be able to help them. I’ve also held a dozen town halls and hosted almost 50 roundtables and other events. In addition, my office has held dozens of pop-up mobile office hours to help people all over our 2400-square-mile district.

Finally, I am proud that I have never taken one cent of lobbyist or corporate money. Too many elected officials are more interested in helping the industries that give them money than helping the people who they represent.

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What experience, skills or approaches do you feel make you the most qualified candidate for the office of State Senate representative for District 42?

 JM: I have a deeply personal understanding of the challenges and frustrations that people face every day, because my family struggled when I was growing up. I know that those challenges rarely have easy fixes. The only way to improve people’s lives in a meaningful, sustainable way is to listen and engage as completely as possible, and to do the hard work of working together to find a solution.

I worked in local government for over a decade, and that experience has been invaluable. In local government, you see the people you serve every day. You can’t make excuses; you have to be accessible and you have to be accountable.

I have made this a priority during my time in the Senate. I have held roundtables in the communities I represent on strengthening emergency services, job opportunities for young people in rural areas, nursing homes and elder care, housing and homelessness and other critical issues. My office participates actively and regularly in meetings of local coalitions, including the Hudson Valley Veterans’ Task Force and the Joint Membership of Health and Community Agencies. Government works best when the people doing the work on the ground are equal partners in any policy decisions.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing New York State and District 42 at present, pertinent to the responsibilities of the State Legislature?

JM: Obviously, our greatest current challenge is the devastating effect the Covid pandemic has had on our health and our economy. In New York State, we are constitutionally bound to balance the budget every year, which means we can’t spend money we don’t have, and this year we’ve seen a huge decline in revenue while the amount of support that people need has gone up exponentially.

This is a problem with no easy solution, but it is a moral imperative that we do everything we can to help people who are struggling. Even during this crisis, the super-wealthy have gotten far richer as giant corporations profit while small businesses close their doors. I support efforts to increase revenue from the very richest New Yorkers, those making many millions of dollars per year, to help our families, small businesses and farms get through this challenging time.

What is your vision for New York State ten years from now?

JM: With a lot of careful hard work, I believe we will build back what we have lost to the Covid crisis and continue our progress toward a New York that is truly fair for all of us and a clean-energy economy that creates good local jobs. We have made real progress in progressing beyond the old ways of doing things in Albany – the insider dealing, corporate-funded legislation and outright corruption – but there’s a lot of work left to do. We can only restore the health and well-being of our economy, our environment and our society if we work together with a spirit of cooperation and shared success.

 

On what issues does your platform differ most markedly from your opponent?

JM: My opponent is a multimillionaire who got rich on school-bus contracts paid for by taxpayers. He has not said much about his platform, other than that he supports dangerous rollbacks on critical protections for our clean air and water and opposes transparency in our criminal justice system. As far as I can tell, his only campaign message is fear. It is deeply partisan and divisive political messaging.

If reelected, what would be your top-priority actions to take in your first year of the next term?

JM • Fix the way we fund our schools. Last year we made the property tax cap permanent, but more relief is needed. I was able to change my own circumstances in life thanks to a good public education, but our current way of funding schools creates a vicious cycle, making homeownership unaffordable and depriving schools of needed resources.

• Revitalize our rural communities. Directing economic development resources toward locally owned businesses rather than large corporations will ensure that capital and opportunity stay local, while also protecting our farmland and environment.

• Fight the opioid crisis. There is no one-size-fits-all answer for at-risk youth, veterans and seniors suffering from chronic pain, or people who feel trapped by the lack of opportunity in their lives. We must expand the availability of local services and treatment and improve programs that can help each individual sufferer where they are in their own lives.

What committee assignments within the State Senate do you feel are the best fit for your skills and interests?

As the representative of over 2000 small family farms, I am proud to serve as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Small farms play a vital role in our rural economies, and agriculture is central to vital issues of regional feed security, sustainability, preservation of open space and even fighting climate change. When I entered the Senate, I immediately asked for this committee assignment, because these issues are so critical for our region.

I also serve on the Environmental Conservation, Energy and Telecommunications and Local Government committees, and the Commission on Rural Resources. I have decades of experience working on these issues at the local and regional levels.

Just as importantly, I am a member of the Education and Health committees. These are two of the most important issue areas for everyone in our state, and I feel it’s vitally important to provide a strong voice for upstate and rural New Yorkers, and to fight for our fair share of representation and resources.

And then Mike Martucci:

Why did you decide to run for office at this time?

MM: As a father, farmer and small business owner, it is clear to me that New York is heading in the wrong direction. New York’s bad policies, like the new dangerous bail “reform” that immediately releases offenders onto the streets, have made all of our communities less safe. Our state’s tremendous tax burdens have forced many to leave New York, and the cost of living in our state continues to skyrocket. I am running to change our state’s direction and make changes so that families can afford to live here and feel safe.  

What have you accomplished in your career that makes you feel particularly proud?

MM:At 22 years old, I purchased one school bus and began driving it on a contract serving displaced school students in Orange County. As soon as I had saved enough money to purchase a second bus, my grandmother became my first employee. Over the ten years to follow, I grew the company from that first bus to a school transportation company that employed over 550 local people.

Additionally, my wife Erin and I created a charitable foundation, the Michael & Erin Martucci Family Foundation (that is managed by the Community Foundation of Orange & Sullivan Counties). We pledged $250,000 to help address the needs of the region. The foundation is focused on four key areas: Women & Children, Education, Agriculture and Jobs. 

What experience, skills or approaches do you feel make you the most qualified candidate for the office of State Senate representative for District 42?

MM: I am not a politician; I am a businessman, a father, a husband and a farmer. I have never run for office and will not bring the perspective of a political lifer to the job. I am a lifelong resident of the region, and I understand the struggles that New Yorkers face. As a small business owner, I know that we are overtaxed. I will fight to cut taxes and job-killing regulations. I will stand with workers and job-creators and fight against stifling regulations, high taxes and government bureaucrats who think they know best.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing New York State and District 42 at present, pertinent to the responsibilities of the State Legislature?

MM: The legislature needs to do its job and not abdicate its responsibility to the governor. Our overtaxed, overregulated companies are at a disadvantage as they compete in the global marketplace. In addition, the 42nd Senate District borders two other states, and our farmers are now at a distinct disadvantage relative to farmers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey due to new agricultural labor laws that make it more expensive to do business here in New York. That needs to change. In addition, families need to be safe. I’ll fight to repeal the dangerous bail elimination laws that are now putting dangerous criminals out on the street almost as soon as they are arrested.

What is your vision for New York State ten years from now?

MM: My vision of New York is a state that puts families first. We need to enact policies that create safe streets and safe families. We need to cut taxes, protect taxpayers and rebuild our economy. We need to make sure healthcare is affordable and our families are healthy. We need a legislature that fights for better schools and a brighter future for our families, and we need local jobs and a strong economy. I will work to make these issues a reality.

 

On what issues does your platform differ most markedly from your opponent?

MM: First and foremost, we differ on public safety. My opponent was the architect of New York’s dangerous bail-reform law, which prioritizes felons over the safety of our families. As the former president of the New York School Bus Contractors’ Association, I was able to garner bipartisan support for legislation that protected children from predators. As a state senator, I will push to eliminate this dangerous law and introduce bills that put the safety of families first.

On taxes, my opponent has voted to raise our taxes by over $4 billion over the next three years. We deserve better; I will say no to new taxes.

If elected, what would be your top-priority actions to take in your first year of the next term?

MM: The first thing I will work to do is to repeal Senator Metzger’s dangerous bail-reform law. I will also work hard to restart our economy that has been severely impacted by the Cpvid-19 pandemic. We need to work to cut taxes, create jobs and foster economic development in New York.

 

What committee assignments within the State Senate do you feel are the best fit for your skills and interests?

MM: Education, Transportation, Economic Development and Finance.

 

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