Cahill faces challenge from former town leader
Gardiner resident Hayes seeks to unseat longtime assemblyman
The race for the state’s 103rd Assembly District seat pits a veteran state lawmaker against a former Gardiner town supervisor.
Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, is seeking re-election. Cahill, 60, was elected to the Assembly in 1992, lost his seat in 1994, and was returned to office in 1998. His challenger, Jack Hayes, 73, of Gardiner, an enrolled Republican running only on the Conservative line, thinks it’s time for a change.
“It appeared that there might not be a candidate to run against Kevin Cahill and that did not seem right,” Hayes
The 103rd district includes the Dutchess County towns of Red Hook and Rhinebeck; and in Ulster County, the city of Kingston and towns of Shandaken, Woodstock, Kingston, Ulster, Olive, Hurley, Rochester, Marbletown, Rosendale, Esopus, New Paltz, Gardiner and Plattekill.
Cahill, a lifelong Kingston resident, has the Democratic, Working Families, and Independence party lines on the Nov. 8 ballot. He says he is a non-practicing attorney “to avoid the appearance of a conflict and because legislative duties require my full time.”
A graduate of Kingston High School, SUNY New Paltz, and Albany Law School, Cahill is a former Ulster County legislator. He has two grown daughters.
Cahill said he helped reform state Election Law to “assure access for people with disabilities,” and led an effort to upgrade the state building code to make every new multifamily
dwelling in New York state accessible.
Cahill, who has chaired the Committee on Ethics and Guidance, said there “have been several measures in both ethics and campaign finance reform over the last decade that attempt to raise the bar for public officials when it comes to their behavior and interests.”
More than a decade ago, the practice of lobbyists buying expensive dinners for elected officials was banned, he said. “In fact, many of the disclosure laws put in place were the very reason bad behavior was detected in recent years,” Cahill said.
Steps to protect victims of sexual harassment and preventing hostile work environments have doubled and redoubled in recent years, “particularly when that unacceptable behavior was brought into the light,” Cahill said.
He said that some loopholes in campaign financing laws have also been closed.
Cahill said that as chairman of the Energy Committee, he has led the state in advancing clean energy, including numerous incentives for solar power, and creating thousands
of new energy jobs.
“In addition to the broader legislative responsibilities, I helped secure over $200 million in capital resources for the improvement of SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Ulster and Dutchess Community College,” Cahill said. “I also brought resources back to the community for support of child care, LGBTQ services, (and) infrastructure improvements, including most recently the acquisition of a significant commercial parcel in the Village of Red Hook.”
Cahill said he also secured funding for the restoration of the Rondout Creek Bridge, the Hudson River Maritime Museum, the Rosendale Theater Cooperative, and the proposed Irish Cultural Center. He said he continues to advocate “to restore the contractual relationship between HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley and Empire Blue Cross, and has supported paid family leave, an increase in the minimum wage, the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes and marriage equality.
If elected, Cahill said, he will continue to fight for local education aid
and environmental protections, including a permanent ban on hydraulic fracturing.
“It is my constant hope that I have represented the people who elected me in a way that makes them proud,” Cahill said.
Hayes, a 40-year resident of Gardiner, was town supervisor in 2002 and 2003 and an Ulster County legislator in 2010 and 2011. A retired state trooper, he served with the state police from 1968 to 2000, including a stint as an undercover narcotics investigator, and was a security consultant for the New York State Bridge Authority from 2001 to 2004.
Arguing that the heroin epidemic is “linked casually with the use of opioid drugs and pain treatment,” he said major drug manufacturers have conducted a nationwide lobbying campaign of state legislatures in an effort to curb or slow legislation that restricts the abuse of prescription drugs.” Hayes points to a Poughkeepsie Journal article that identified Cahill as the highest recipient of donations from opioid manufacturers, receiving $4,500 between 2006 and
“As an active member of at least three drug abuse awareness projects, I am disappointed in the actions of the New York State Legislature,” Hayes said.
A U.S. Navy veteran, Hayes earned degrees from Marist College in Poughkeepise, SUNY New Paltz, Ulster County Community College and SUNY Delhi. He has three grown children.
“The failure of the current legislature to implement ethics reform is immensely troubling to me and core to my motivation for running for the Assembly this year,” Hayes said. He said Cahill “is part of the problem of the culture of corruption, if not by commission than by omission and failure to take greater action to end it.”
He said he supports term limits and modernizing voter registration. He said he supports campaign finance reform by reducing contribution limits, more restrictions on donors, and limits on housekeeping account activities and transfers and personal use of campaign contributions.
Hayes said health care is a top priority, arguing that the federal plan has
failed. “There needs to be collaboration and compromise between state and federal officials as to national healthcare policy,” he said.
Hayes says he is “wary” of state subsidies of energy projects, given the state’s already high taxes.
“New York state is losing businesses at an alarming rate,” Hayes said. “Taxable property is coming off the rolls and being operated by tax-exempt organizations.” He said all government jurisdictions should divest of real estate, and make lands that are agriculturally sound be made available to “young farmers” at little to no cost, to incubate local farm activity and produce local food sources.
He supports more funding for the Ulster County Public Defender’s Office and a review of state education funding, calling property taxes an inappropriate source of funding. “I believe every taxpayer should contribute to education with a universal tax. I believe control of schools should return to communities and that education professionals should make education policy with the consent of the governed.”
State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, left, and election challenger Jack Hayes