BY MICHAEL CAHILL
With Election Day on November 6 fast approaching, one of the local races heating up this fall is the race for New York’s new 38th State Senate District. The Democratic incumbent and Rockland native, Senator David Carlucci, is being challenged by Republican and former Ossining village trustee and deputy mayor, Janis Castaldi.
The 38th District covers the towns of Ramapo, Clarkstown, Orangetown in Rockland County, as well as the Town of Ossining across the Hudson in Westchester.
So far this election season Castaldi’s campaign has focused heavily on the issues of taxes, regulation, and unfunded mandates in the region. Castaldi who runs two small businesses in Ossining, says her success and practical experience of starting a business in New York set her apart from Carlucci.
Castaldi, says she is at heart a lifelong Republican and fiscal conservative, despite several years spent as a registered Democrat during her time in office in Ossining. She said registering as a Democrat was necessary for her to get involved in Ossining politics at the time. She had switched parties to run against Carlucci, a move that did not sit well with some Republicans in Rockland County.
She says, however, that conservative values have a long history with her. Growing up, her father, a staunch Republican, worked as a lawyer with State Senator Collandra from the Bronx.
“I used to be in Albany quite a lot [with my father], seeing how it worked,” she said. “I was born into it, I feel like I belong here, and I’ve always wanted to be a public servant.”
This election season Carlucci may have the advantage of being the incumbent, and a Rockland native, but that’s not stopping Castaldi from connecting with the voters on both sides of the district.
“Their issue [voters] is not whether I’m from Westchester or Mars, the issue is can they put someone into the Senate that’s going to help them out of this fiscal crisis?” said Castaldi.
When it comes to Rockland’s financial situation, the major component of Castaldi’s solution is mandate relief, specifically the relief of unfunded state mandates. Currently large portions of local and county budgets come from spending mandated by Albany. Local officials have been irate that Albany mandates increases of over 2 percent, while asking municipalities to stay under the 2 percent tax cap.
Last month the citizen advocacy group for unfunded mandate relief, Best4NY endorsed Castaldi as their pick for State Senate. Best4NY advocates for the elimination of unfunded mandates that they say hurt municipalities and slow economic growth.
“I think mandate relief would be a great help to the school districts and municipalities so that they can handle their dollars themselves and not be forced into providing services that they may not need,” she said.
On economic issues Castaldi has also been very critical of Senator Carlucci, specifically his recent five-point economic plan. While the tax cuts for small businesses in his plan are laudable, she said, it is unsustainable to have tax cuts without also cutting spending.
This is a thought that Carlucci disagrees with. He views the tax cuts as an investment in the economy that will pay off in the long run as more businesses grow because of the tax cuts thus increases revenue. Carlucci said, “Working closely with Governor Cuomo, I voted to cut over $13 billion dollars from the state budget without raising taxes, pass a property tax cap, and cut taxes for middle class families to the lowest rate in 58 years. We also passed landmark ethics reform to clean up Albany, stripping taxpayer-funded pensions away public officials who break the law. I look forward to continuing my fight to ensure real mandate relief, create jobs, and grow the economy.”
Castaldi, however, attacked Carlucci’s record citing his inexperience, a common gripe among Rockland’s political class who say Carlucci is controlled by Albany powerbrokers. “I hate to say that with age comes wisdom, but with age, experience, and political experience comes wisdom,” she said.
She says part of what sets her apart from Carlucci, is her political background of fiscal conservatism in Ossining, and her professional experience as a local business owner.
Currently she runs two businesses, a home based consulting firm that places people with small businesses and a fitness studio on Main Street in Ossining, LizzFitness. The success of LizzFitness is a point of pride for Castaldi, who says the when it opened everyone told her it could not thrive on Main Street. But it has, and last year the gym, won a Best in Westchester Award.
“I know what it’s like to start a small business,” she said. “I know all the red tape that people have to go through in order to start a business and make it successful. And in New York that’s very difficult.”
For more information about Janis Castaldi visit her website at http://janiscastaldi.com/