Just one year ago I publicly announced my candidacy for the New York State Senate. I did not then, nor do I now, think of myself as a politician. But, having been urged to run by many thoughtful and concerned people in both Columbia and Dutchess Counties, I took the plunge. It was 100 years since a Democratic candidate had been elected to represent this district in the NY State Senate — the last one being FDR in 1910. But to me, the election was not about political parties. It was about runaway taxes, entrenched incumbents, ethics, corruption and dysfunction in Albany. Both parties were responsible for the mess. I believed that there were enough folks who wanted a more transparent, accountable and sensible state government to elect an unconventional candidate: a mom, a problem solver, an outside-the-box-thinker, a citizen candidate!
Well, more than 38,000 people in the 41st district did vote for change. Though the final count proved a disappointment here, as it was in many other races last November, no turnout figures or percentage of the vote begins to tell the stories of the people, young and old, that we connected with during the campaign. We gave voice to many, many folks throughout this district who felt ignored for way too long and talked openly about issues many preferred would remain undiscussed.
I talked about the importance of marriage equality — which has not yet passed the New York State Senate — and which our local senators voted against. I talked about the state’s important role in safeguarding reproductive rights — which was truly prescient. Having spent more than 20 years as an advocate for safe and accessible reproductive services, even I did not imagine how quickly women’s health — indeed, women — would become a target of the new Congress. I talked, as well, about an open, independent redistricting process. County Legislative, State Legislative and Congressional districts will all be redrawn shortly. We must make our elected officials accountable to their campaign promises to support independent redistricting!
I have lived in Millbrook for nearly 25 years, however, I fell passionately in love with the beautiful, diverse Hudson Valley in a whole new way. More importantly, I came to understand that the region is at a critical point. It became very clear that we need to find economic engines that attract sustainable jobs, protect our natural resources and farms, and celebrate the best of our region, its historic and cultural treasures — or we truly risk losing what we love about the Hudson Valley. We must be sure the towns and villages we treasure are vital and viable so the next generation of small business owners can afford to set up shop, the next generation of farmers can literally put down roots in our world class soils, and young families can raise their kids in a healthy and safe communities.
Which leads me to the launch of this blog: Diner Dialogues. The issues I spoke about during my campaign have not gone away. There are many ways to make a difference, to make change happen, to get a message out there. In true Hudson Valley style I have fashioned a method that’s both old school and high tech. The iconic diners of the Hudson Valley are one of my favorite images — and among my favorite places to catch up with friends over a steaming mug, a tuna melt or breakfast any time of day. So I’ve set up a virtual diner to dish on issues that impact us here in the Hudson Valley: Politics, Arts, Farms, Food, Education, History, Tourism — pretty much anything and everything. I’m hoping to blog at least once a week — maybe more. So pull up a stool and join me.