SUNY New Paltz Hosts Democratic Forum

SUNY New Paltz on Wednesday hosted a forum for Democrats hoping to win the nomination to challenge Republican Rep. John Faso, R-Kinderhook. From left are candidates Jeff Beals of Woodstock; Dave Clegg of Woodstock; and Antonio Delgado of Rhinebeck; moderators Melanie Zerah, editor-in-chief of our very own New Paltz Oracle, and New Paltz Deputy Supervisor Dan Torres; and candidates Brian Flynn of Hunter, Greene County; Gareth Rhodes of Kerhonkson; and Pat Ryan of Gardiner. Photo courtesy of John W. Barry

After rumblings of disappointment in New York Congressional District 19 over the actions of  U.S. Congressman John Faso, Democratic constituents districtwide have taken specific interest in the Democratic candidates gunning to unseat incumbent Faso in the upcoming 2018 election.

On Wednesday, Dec. 6, students and community members alike gathered in SUNY New Paltz’s Lecture Center 100 to meet the six men making strides towards gaining a spot for U.S Representative on the ballot in November 2018 at the Congressional Democratic Candidate Forum. 

The event, hosted by The New Paltz Oracle, SUNY New Paltz College Democrats, Move Forward New York, Gardiner Democratic Committee, New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) and the New Paltz Democratic Committee, was moderated by Oracle Editor-in-Chief Melanie Zerah and New Paltz Deputy Town Supervisor Dan Torres. Audience members were greeted by volunteers with question cards, giving them an opportunity to pose a question that would later be vetted, opening the floor for public conversation.

 After giving each registered participant two minutes each for opening statements, candidates were subject to five rounds of questions revolving around the following issues: qualifications for representing the district, the candidate’s plans for working on climate change, student loans and the protection of DACA students, willingness to take or  not takes contributions from designated entities and how sitting lawmakers should proceed in the face of credible accusations of sexual harassment/assault, an issue that Zerah explained was very close to her heart as a female journalist.

Jeff Beals, a local teacher and farmer in Woodstock and former U.S. diplomat, served with distinction in Iraq and began the night by asking the audience: “is everybody here ready to beat John Faso?”

After receiving a resounding “yes” from the audience, the night continued on, furthering the conversation of how each individual plans to supercede the current efforts in office of Republican Faso.

Faso, graduate of SUNY Brockport and Georgetown University Law Center as well as former Republican leader of the New York State Assembly, was elected to represent all 11 counties in the district in November of 2016 against Democrat Zephyr Teachout. According to The Poughkeepsie Journal, September earlier this year at a Esopus Town Hall meeting Faso addressed criticism for a lack of transparency in office, explaining that it’s hard for representatives to address the many different questions and concerns of the public since the president took office in January.

Chairperson of Ulster County Human Right Commission and SUNY New Paltz alumnus Dave Clegg confidently introduced himself to his constituents as “the guy to go face to face” with John Faso come election time.

Schenectady native Antonio Delgado cited his parent’s pursuing of the American Dream, his hardwork and perseverance and service for his qualifications for the race. Understanding that for many, the American dream is no longer attainable for many residents of the Hudson Valley, Delgado laid out his plan to prioritize the wellbeing of working families.

Brian Flynn, self proclaimed “antidote for John Faso,” called his constituents not his special interests, but his boss; he will not be taking money from corporations or Super PACs.

Born and raised in Ulster County, Gareth Rhodes informs the audience he is the leading the local fundraiser in this race.

“I’m the leading grassroots fundraiser in this race,” he said.

Small business owner and graduate of Georgetown University Pat Ryan comes from three generations of Kingston residents.

“I come from a family just like those I want to represent. My dad is a teacher and my mom is a small business owner,” he told the audience. “90 percent of the businesses in our district are small; that’s who I’ll fight for.”

The highly anticipated Democratic Primary is slated to occur in June 2018. The Oracle would like to thank the New Paltz College Democrats, Democracy Matters, NYPIRG, The New Paltz Democratic Committee, The Gardiner Democratic Committee and Move Forward New York for their contributed efforts towards the fruition of the forum.