On Sept. 24, at a community barbecue held at the Erie Way Park in Middletown, New York, Vision Times had a chance to speak with James Skoufis, who is running for re-election to the newly created NY Senate District 42 as a Democrat and member of New York’s Working Families Party.
Skoufis hosted the free community event in conjunction with TD Bank.
Born in Flushing, Queens in 1987, Skoufis is the son of a Greek immigrant. He moved to the town of Woodbury in the Hudson Valley in 1995.
After graduating from Monroe-Woodbury High School in 2005 he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from George Washington University and a masters from Columbia University.
Skoufis began his political career as the representative for District 99 in the New York State Assembly, a role he took in January 2013 after defeating Republican Kyle Roddey with 56 percent of the vote. At the time, he was only 24-years-old making him the youngest member of the Assembly. He served in the role until Dec. 31, 2018.
In 2018, Skoufis set his sights on the New York State Senate after longtime incumbent William J. Larkin Jr. decided to retire at the age of 88 after serving in the role since 1991. Skoufis won his seat in the New York State Senate with 54 percent of the vote, beating Republican Tom Basile.
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Skoufis has a history of success. According to his campaign website, he cracked down on corporate welfare and secured universal pre-K for his community, while bringing in record school funding, and led the fight against over development.
He told Vision Times that prior to his efforts Orange County lacked pre-K services however now he has “added three thousand new slots in Orange County for 4-year-olds” and promised that “that’s going to grow.”
He said, “there’s a lot still to work on” arguing that Orange County needs to diversify its industries thereby creating a more diverse pool of employment opportunities.
“One of our problems in Orange County is that we do not diversify our employment. We have a lot of warehouses, we have a lot of healthcare providers, we have a lot of retail, but we need some other industries too. We need more manufacturing, we need more tech, we need more finance, we need more research, and so, bringing different kinds of jobs to Orange County is very important,” he told Vision Times.
On the topic of taxes and inflation, Skoufis said that although New Yorkers earning under $300,000 a year recently received a “modest” income tax cut, there is still more work to do to make life more affordable. He told Vision Times, “the best thing that we can be doing is getting money back into people’s pockets in order to be able to afford the higher prices,” adding that inflation “is very much, not just in New York, but it’s a United States problem, an international problem.”
According to his campaign website, he voted on 251 different occasions against middle-class tax hikes while fighting to make the local property tax cap permanent, and bringing taxes “to their lowest level in 70 years.”
On infrastructure, Skoufis believes things like properly maintained roads and bridges “are a quality of life issue,” telling Vision Times, “We have aging infrastructure, too many of our roads still have way too many potholes, too many of our bridges are falling apart, we need investments to make sure we rebuild our infrastructure.”
He said that Middletown, where he held his community event, received a $10-million grant that allowed them to revitalize their downtown core which he says inspired him to seek more state funds to invest in smaller communities.
“One of my missions is to … bring back as much money from Albany, your tax dollars, back to our home, back to our community and that’s one of the reasons why Middletown has been able to become revitalized. It’s because they have gotten a lot of state assistance … we need more of that,” he said.
Ultimately Skoufis wants to build community, telling Vision Times that “it’s one thing to be a place, it’s another thing to be a community” adding that, “To have a community means you have a city, like the city of Middletown, that has done so much over the past 10-years to fill the store fronts, to bring investments into town, to revitalize the downtown area. And that all takes a lot of work and I am working with the mayor here, I am working with all our mayors and supervisors to try and put together a vision and then bring money down from Albany to implement that vision.”
The 2022 New York State Senate election will be held on Nov. 8. Elections will be held to elect representatives from all 63 districts across the State for the New York State Senate.