The 2016 congressional election circuit has officially hit New Paltz.
On Feb. 19, a meet-and-greet for Fordham Law professor and Democratic congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout was held at the home of a New Paltz resident. The event hosted around 30 people, including Deputy Town Supervisor Dan Torres, village trustee Tom Rocco and former town councilwoman Kristin “Kitty” Brown.
Teachout discussed various topics throughout the hourlong event, including repealing Common Core, income inequality, campaign finance reform and environmental concerns. As the former national director of the Sunlight Foundation which focuses on transparency in government and CEO of Mayday PAC, which focuses on publicly financing elections, Teachout cited her staunch opposition to dark money in politics.
“Somebody is telling us that we can’t have a thriving small-business economy. That we can’t actually have clean water because we’re going to lose all of our jobs. That we’re going to lose all of these big companies if we don’t give them what they want,” Teachout said. “But it is not true. That mindset represents the people of the 19th century, not the 21st century.”
In her fight against “big money” in politics, Teachout stressed an emphasis on developing a strong ground game for her campaign. She said that donations in the first month of her campaign have averaged around $30 per person. Campaigning for support amongst grassroots activists is a substantial part of Teachout’s strategy as she openly acknowledged the pushback she has received from Democratic leaders around the state for her policy positions.
Teachout was careful to criticize the popular Republican incumbent and outgoing Congressman Chris Gibson. Instead she praised his bipartisanship, his efforts of battling Lymes Disease and his embodiment of the independent streak that defines politics in the the Hudson Valley.
Teachout cited her desire to serve in the mold of former Democratic Congressman Maurice Hinchey, who represented the Hudson Valley from 1993 to 2013, and Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of the 18th Congressional District. Teachout spoke highly of their ability to maintain their integrity in office while still working with those they didn’t agree with to get effective legislation passed.
On the issue of student debt, Teachout was impassioned though self-admittedly working through the specifics of her plan, which she said she would have available with the rest of her platform in March.
“I tend to be broadly aligned with the principles [U.S. Senator] Elizabeth Warren has laid out in terms of responding to this,” Teachout said. “I tend to favor a small cost to education, that way people work steady and you can work it out.”
Teachout said as much as she wanted to propose her ideas, she aimed to spend as much time listening to her constituents’ concerns and comments about her campaign. She spent a large amount of time heeding advice from prominent local environmentalists, educators and peace activists.
“I am standing up for all those people who are very unhappy with what is going on in Washington; it is broken, corrupt and gridlocked,” Teachout said. “But we actually have things to say in this district because we can imagine a different America; an America where there isn’t this radical, terrible inequality.”