Two candidates with political experience will face off Nov. 3 to secure a seat representing the 106th Assembly District, which serves most of Columbia and Dutchess counties.
Polls will be open Election Day from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
To look up polling locations or to view sample ballots, visit sites.google.com/a/columbiacountyny.com/elections
The below candidates are listed in alphabetical order.
Occupation: Incumbent assemblymember representing NY’s 106th District, former journalist and museum professional
Education: Bachelor’s degree in communications from UCLA, master’s from NYU in American folk art studies
Military service? No
Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-Hudson, was first elected to the 106th Assembly in March 2012 after a special election to replace Marcus Molinaro, current Dutchess County executive. She is seeking her sixth term.
Barrett, who lives in Claverack, has not held, or sought election, to other public office.
She has two children, Alec and Annabel.
Barrett served on the board of Planned Parenthood in the 1980s and as a trustee for the Anderson Center for Autism in Staatsburg.
The assemblywoman wants to see improved communication between the state Legislature, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the executive branch to reopen businesses sustainably, economically and environmentally as the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic continues across the state and nation.
Barrett is open to a conversation with her legislative colleagues to examine the necessity of the governor’s continuing expanded authoritative and spending powers, which the Legislature granted Cuomo in March in the wake of the public health emergency.
“In many important ways, the governor has done an excellent job,” Barrett said. “I respect he has a game plan ... but how we move forward with the budget and funding all the important parts to the state... I’m always open to that conversation.”
The Legislature has tough budgetary decisions ahead as the state expects a nearly $50 billion revenue shortfall over two years due to pandemic spending. Widespread 20% cuts to health care, education and localities are expected in next year’s spending plan without additional federal COVID-19 assistance.
Barrett urged the federal government to step in and provide needed assistance to U.S. states and localities, but voiced support for revenue raisers to help close the state budget gap, such as increasing taxes on New York’s millionaires and billionaires.
“The devil’s always in the details on voting on bills and passing bills,” Barrett said. “I think we need to have a more equitable taxing structure where billionaires are paying their share and not make all of our revenues be carried on the back of working men and women and the working families, but I think there are other things to look at.”
The assemblywoman has mixed feelings about legalizing recreational marijuana and mobile or different types of sports betting in New York, which could raise state revenue.
“We have to look at the whole menu of these different options and see the kind of money they each will bring in,” she said. “I think that’s part of the calculus is how much are we talking about here?”
Barrett is in favor of the state releasing updated, clarified COVID-19 death totals in New York nursing homes, including fatalities that took place in hospitals — a controversial topic legislators explored for hours in two bicameral legislative hearings in August, but returned limited results from Health Department Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and top state officials.
“I think New York residents deserve to have more information,” Barrett said of COVID-19 nursing home fatalities. “I think there needs to be more clarity. We’ve been told we’re going to get information. I think we deserve to know that ... to even understand what we just went through and what worked, and what didn’t.”
The assemblywoman is concerned about isolation and signed a letter to Cuomo earlier this year in support of the state safely allow essential caregivers into adult-care facilities amid the pandemic.
“I think there has to be more openness and more communication,” Barrett said. “I think it’s really important we understand what protocols we can follow through on to allow families to see their loved ones. I think there has to be more clarity about what nursing homes need to do in order to be compliant.”
Barrett has fielded numerous daily calls from constituents, including health care providers, nursing homes, families, schools and small businesses since the shutdown began in March to help them understand state guidance and available services.
“We want people to be able to get their jobs back, but we have to do it in a way that’s safe and responsible,” she said.
Barrett, who chairs the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and Legislative Women’s Caucus, spoke of her success securing money for veterans and the Joseph P. Dwyer vet-to-vet support program, addressing mental and emotional health and behavioral health issues. The assemblywoman voted in favor of the unanimously passed Outdoor Rx act, which requires veterans’ services to review veterans’ abilities to access state parks, lands and facilities to aid treatment for mental health and substance abuse.
“This legislation would really take on how important it is to address these mental behavioral challenges,” she said.
Barrett, a member of the Assembly’s Agriculture Committee, sponsors a carbon farming initiative, or bill A02718, to establish a tax credit for farmers who maximize carbon sequestration potential through a “carbon farming” land management strategy; and directs the state Department of Environmental Conservation to develop regulations to certify the amount of carbon sequestered or reduced emissions, according to assembly.state.us. If passed, the measure will help soil health.
Barrett will continue to prioritize funding for child care programs and children with disabilities. The pandemic and sudden switch to remote learning revealed the state’s lack of adequate services and support.
The assemblywoman, a member of the Mental Health Committee, said if elected, she will advocate for a sufficient workforce to help adults with disabilities and issues surrounding elder care.
Barrett supports the Second Amendment and is in favor of measures on a case-by-case basis that would reduce the state’s number of gun deaths and suicides, she said.
“I take every bill on its merit, and as I’ve said before, the devil’s in the details,” Barrett said. “I definitely support the Second Amendment ad the important tradition it has here particularly.”
The assemblywoman does not have another job and said she works hard serving her constituents seven days a week.
“I really would love the opportunity to continue doing this work to make sure the voices of our district are heard in the halls of Albany,” Barrett said.
Occupation: Owns and runs Hometown Premier Agency LLC real estate and insurance company in Pleasant Valley, and has been self-employed for more than 30 years. Has experience in photography and television broadcast.
Education: John Jay High School graduate of 1979 — in same class as state Sen. Sue Serino, R-Hyde Park. Associate’s degree in communications from Dutchess Community College, bachelor’s from Marist College in integrated studies and applied business and accounting with a paralegal certificate, Master’s in Business Administration from SUNY Empire State College.
Military service? No
Town Councilman Dean Michael is running to enter the state political ring.
Michael lives in the town of Clinton with his wife of 35 years, Susan. He has three children, Chris, Deanna-Marie, Matthew; and three grandchildren, Christopher, Ryann and Charliekate.
Michael has served with an extensive number of organizations and volunteer work.
From 1997 to 2007, Michael served as the treasurer and co-chair of SCORE, a nationwide network of business mentors, and chaired the accompanying Business Education Committee.
He is the director of the Mortgage Bankers Association, board member of Dutchess County’s Resource Recovery Agency and is a member of the Pirate Canoe Club and Son’s American Legion (Overlook 1302). Michael was a member of Clinton’s Zoning Board of Appeals in 2006 and 2007, served on the Board of Realtors Membership Committee from 2015-2019, on the Education Committee of the county Regional Chamber of Commerce from 2013 to 2015 and is a former Hyde Park Senior League coach.
Michael is a former chair of Clinton’s committee to negotiate its CSEA contract
He also chairs Clinton’s Zoning Revision Committee, serving as a liaison to the town planning and zoning boards, and the Highway, Conservation Advisory and Scenic Roads committees.
Michael volunteers at the Dutchess County ASPCA’s Pets for Vets program, Love Holds Life Children’s Cancer Foundation, and previously volunteered with Angels of Light, which also serves children with cancer, from 2016 to 2019.
Michael has served as a councilman for the town of Clinton for 13 years after his initial election in 2007, and has been the town’s deputy supervisor for two years. He has not held or sought other public office.
Michael’s involvement with town government and volunteer work were significant experience that led to him running for state Assembly, he said.
“Even though I really do enjoy it, I feel I’m at the point where I’ve done as much as I personally can,” Michael said of his seat on Clinton’s town council. “There were so many issues that took place [this year], while I was driving down the road, people would call me and said ‘You should run.’”
Michael wants to bring a new voice to New York’s one-party control, he said, referring to the Democratic-led Senate, Assembly and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
He was particularly concerned last year after Assembly bill A2912A was proposed to mandate all children born after Jan. 1, 2009 receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, and potentially administer the immunization in school.
“I was really concerned,” Michael said. “I feel that’s a total violation of what this country was founded on — freedom of choice. I scratch my head in the direction we’re going in.”
Michael would advocate for religious exemptions to immunizations in the state.
If elected, Michael would fight to change the state’s scaffold law, which holds employers and property owners fully liable when an employee becomes injured after a gravity-related fall while working at high elevations without proper safety equipment, according to state law.
“It puts 100% of the liability onto the property owner and the business owner and doesn’t take into consideration comparative negatives,” he said, adding sometimes workers are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or become injured on their own accord.
The state’s controversial bail reform “is a disaster,” said Michael, who believes the state’s bail system needed work, but not the current measure, which he sees as extreme.
“I think a lawless party has created it and there’s no sense to it,” Michael said. “We’re turning criminals back on the street. To some respect, judges should have the ability to look at the case on the merits. If someone has a track record of violence and criminal activity, it’s easy to draw a conclusion this person is a danger to society or themselves and they should be held without bail.”
The law needs to be replaced with a new measure composed with all involved parties, including law enforcement. Critics of the law have said police did not get a much-needed seat at the table to provide input before bail reform was passed.
If elected, Michael also plans to focus on reducing state regulations.
“We are one of the overly regulated states,” the Assembly hopeful said, before speaking of the numerous requirements he had to satisfy to get his mortgage license in New York versus Florida, which took months to complete versus one week down south.
“New York’s regulations do not match what reality is. They’ve always been a high priority of mine.”
State spending must be reduced — especially in light of the mounting $16 billion deficit this year. Michael drew parallels to New York’s high taxes, and a high move-out rate.
Michael does not support cutting jobs, but is in favor of reducing staff by attrition, or as people retire, to limit the size of state government.
The candidate discussed addressing the 10 to 20% of waste and fraud — such as in Medicaid or fraud waste abuse — in the state budget, which would amount to a large chunk toward the debt, he said.
“It’s not something that’s a Democrat or Republican thing,” Michael said. “...We really need a zero-based budget where each department is zeroed out and they have to justify what they’re spending each year. That would bring to the surface waste and fraud and abuse.”
The state’s 2% tax cap mandate must be tweaked, Michael said, as it encourages counties and municipalities to spend their full amount from the state government.
Michael has worked with Republicans and Democrats alike during his time in public office, and would be open to working with diverse ideas and opinions if elected.
“We have a lot of lawmakers — they’re making policy based on opinion and not facts,” he said. “...The further up the chain you go, the farther away you get from the realities of life.
“I’ve been endorsed for the last three years by the Libertarian Party because of my common-sense business-minded ideas. ... Working with the town board, I have the understanding of the needs of the people in our communities.”