Skartados faces challenge in 104th race
A marriage and family counselor is attempting to unseat a veteran lawmaker from an Assembly seat representing the 104th District.
Incumbent Assemblyman Frank Skartados, 60, D-Milton, is pitted against Newburgh resident William Banuchi Sr., 67.
The 104th District includes the town and city of Newburgh, the city of Beacon, the city of Poughkeepsie, and the Ulster County towns of Marlboro, and Lloyd.
William Banuchi Sr.
Banuchi, who is a political newcomer, has lived in Newburgh for 20 years. He will appear on the Conservative and Reform party lines on Nov. 8 ballot.
A pastor and marriage and family counselor. Banuchi was educated at Berean College of the Assemblies of God. He has been married for 47 years and has two adult children.
He is a members of the New York Faith & Freedom Coalition, National Christian Counselors Association, Elim Fellowship, National Rifle Association, and the Orange County Oathkeepers.
Banuchi, who is enrolled as a voter as a member of the Conservative Party, says he is particularly concerned about the lack of ethics reform within the state Legislature, which has been rocked by a series of scandals, including indictments and convictions of lawmakers.
“The chronic failure of current lawmakers to pass meaningful ethics reform is simply the natural outgrowth of an institutional culture that has displaced a God-centered standard of morality with a secular humanistic standard where each one does what is right in his own eyes to his own benefit,” Banuchi said in an email.
Banuchi said the original 13 colonies were established and grounded in faith.
Officials then stipulated “in their charters that in order to hold public office one had to attest to a belief in God, the Scriptures and in the system of eternal rewards and punishment.
“Our founders believed that man left to his own devices was not worthy of the public trust” Banuchi said.
“As we have systematically removed a God consciousness from our government we have made room for more and more institutional corruption so that now corruption is the cultural atmosphere in which government operates,” said Banuchi, who added that God-fearing men and women need to be elected to government.
If elected, Banuch said, he would bring back “constitutional government rooted in our Judeo-Christian world view, a reaffirmation of our national motto, and the principle that our rights are not granted “by the generosity of the state but by the hand of God.”
Banuchi said that he would work to reduce government bureaucracy and the role of government “in the lives of our citizens.”
He says priorities would be reducing taxes, making education something that betters the lives of children, and increasing economic opportunity by decreasing regulations.
Skartados has been elected to four two-year terms in the Assembly. His name will appear on the Democratic, Working Families, and Independence party lines.
Skartados, who has one child, earned a bachelor’s degree from SUNY New Paltz and a master’s degree in international studies from the State University of California at Sacramento. He is a member of the Hellenic organization and the NAACP.
Skartados said lawmakers have made some progress on ethics reform, but more needs to be done.
“I was glad to see we are moving forward on a law to disallow the pension of an elected official who is convicted of corruption, but that did not go far enough,” Skartados said. “The (limited liability corporation) loophole that allows corporations to donate large sums of money to candidates should have been closed up and capped to equal the standard corporate maximum of $5,000.”
Skartados said “there should be limits placed on earned income of legislators who work in environments that create a conflict of interest or a pay-for-play situation — such as law firms.”
“Most importantly, the state needs to establish campaign finance reform to take special interests out of the pockets of legislators,” Skartados added.
During his Assembly tenure, Skartados says in a statement, he initiated 40 bills “that improve the environment, criminal justice reforms, consumer protection, veterans benefits, business regulation reform, family court reform, and library election reform.”
Skartados says he secured millions of dollars for struggling schools in Marlboro, Highland and Poughkeepsie.
He also claims success in getting state funding for municipalities to: purchase fire trucks, plows, and police cars; pursue environmental projects, such as the Hudson Valley Rail Trail; and improve libraries, including the newly built Lloyd Library.
Skartados said he has secured money for non-profit grounds such as soup kitchens, Newburgh Habitat for Humanity, Newburgh Safe Harbor’s Park. He has also taken up causes, he says.
“I am leading the fight in the Hudson Valley against the Coast Guard plan to allow oil/barge anchorages in the Hudson River and the Pilgrim Pipeline along the Thruway, connecting to the Hudson River at Newburgh,” Skartados said.
Skartados said the “urban centers” of Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, and to some extent Beacon, need attention. He said they are “struggling with poverty and all of its ramifications, such as crime, educational challenges and abandoned houses. “Our three towns have issues that center on the vulnerabilities of farms, as well the condition of our roads and bridges, so critical for our town commuters,” Skartados said.
Skartados said something needs to be done about rising school taxes and that job creation is important.
“Toward that end, I voted in each state budget to increase economic development funds that have benefited our region. . ,” Skartados said.,
Skartados said he has fought to reform Common Core educational standards.
The assemblyman also says he has an open door policy. “On a day-to-day, personal level, my office door is always open to anyone who needs the kind of help that our constituent service specialists can provide,” Skartados said. “We assist people with human, life-coping problems of all types that extend beyond issues involving state government.”
William Banuchi Sr., left, and state Assemblyman Frank Skartados