Candidates For the 103rd Assembly Talk About Issues

By Miranda Reale

NEW PALTZ – New York State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (D-Ulster, Dutchess), pointed out that last Thursday night’s event had been his “first in person happening this year.”

Organized by the New York Public Interest Research Group Fund (NYPIRG), Assembly member Kevin Cahill and Sarahana Shrestha shared a stage at Meet the Candidates night on SUNY New Paltz’s campus.

During introductions Assembly member Cahill emphasized his investment in the state’s educational institutions and the lengths he will go to sustain the agenda he’s been refining since serving as state legislature. “I was ahead of my constituency on issues. The very same agenda I had in 1993 and 1994 ultimately became the law of New York State over the past several years.” Advocating for criminal justice, climate justice, and accessible higher education, he said he looks forward to another term. Running against Sarahana Shrestha, she utilized her introduction to tell her story as a Nepali-American. Shrestha came to America as a student and a first generation immigrant. Growing up in Nepal “formed her politics,” she said, and brought her to fight for a more transparent democracy.

“When those in power abandon people who need to work for a living, it can cause chaos,” she said. From the experiences in her hometown of Kathmandu, Nepal, Shrestha has committed herself to the possibility that democracy holds. “When I came to the United States I realized, the issues are the same. People need the infrastructure –whether it’s physical, social, or care infrastructure in order to flourish, and that’s what we want.”

Kevin Cahill, who returned as an alumnus of SUNY New Paltz, is serving his 13th two-year term in the Assembly and running for re-election while challenger Sarahana Shrestha enters her first race for New York State Assembly. New York is a closed primary process and the election will take place on June 28, 2022, but the deadline for voter registration was February 14. The timeline for the candidates to accumulate support is closing quickly with limited in person events, making last Thursday’s Meet the Candidates important for meeting voters.

The mission of the NYPIRG is to bring the voices of New Yorkers to policy makers with the intention of improving democracy and administrative transparency. Through community engagement like Thursday night, the NYPIRG dedicates itself to improving the education and safety of communities all over the state. Issues to which some attendees of Meet the Candidates night posed to the candidates. Following the introductory sequence, the candidates received an opportunity to answer submitted questions from organizations at SUNY New Paltz. A representative from the New Paltz College Democrats asked about the future of climate change and the effect it could have on resident’s safety. “If elected, or re-elected, what are specific actions you would take for the health and safety of community members?”

Over the course of the night, a lot of the focus was on the youth’s involvement with the 103rd Assembly’s next chapter. Particularly the question of green energy was posed by multiple campus representatives.

Shrestha sees possibility, saying that “in the long term we need a democratic system in control and 100% renewable energy system in need right now, and that’s what I would do if elected,” whereas Assembly member Cahill presented himself as the realist of the two candidates. “As much as I want to say yes to everything people say to me because they sound like it makes sense, but there are times where we need a reality check.”

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