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Orange County Launches Democratic HQ, Marking New Chapter in Upstate NY’s Political Landscape

Alina Wang
A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights, politics, tech, and society.
Published: June 25, 2024
On June 22, 2024, the Orange County Democratic Committee celebrated the grand opening of its campaign headquarters in upstate New York. Pictured left from right: District 100 Assemblywoman candidate Paula Kay, current county-party leader Zak Constantine, staff member Jacob Hunter, Congressman Pat Ryan, and Middletown Mayor Joseph M. DeStefano. (Image: Vision Times Staff)

MIDDLETOWN, New York — In efforts to bolster democratic engagement and local governance, the Orange County Democratic Committee celebrated the grand opening of its campaign headquarters in the scenic valleys of upstate New York. 

The event, which was held on June 22, saw the attendance of several VIPs and dignitaries, including Middletown Mayor Joseph M. DeStefano, Assemblywoman candidate Paula Kay, New York State Senator James Skoufis, and Congressman Pat Ryan. The new office aims to strengthen the Democratic presence and foster active community participation across the region’s 21 towns and three cities.

The opening ceremony, led by Zak Constantine, the youngest county-party leader in New York State, was not just a routine ribbon-cutting. It doubled as a gathering of local leaders, activists, and community members — all united in their commitment to democratic ideals and local issues. Constantine, elected as the Chairman in 2022, has been a vital force in revitalizing the county’s Democratic operations, emphasizing the importance of grassroots involvement and the empowerment of young leaders.

“One of the biggest goals I had was to build and maintain a physical presence — especially in the city of Middletown — to give voters the ability to build a closer relation with our democratic party and to learn about our wonderful candidates,” said Constantine during the event. 

Bringing the community together

Educated in Public Policy and Management at SUNY Albany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs, Constantine’s journey in politics began in his hometown of Goshen. His involvement grew from local campaigns to significant roles within the county party, culminating in his leadership of the re-chartered Young Democrats of Orange County. Under his guidance, the chapter has become one of the largest and most active in the state, reflecting his vision for a dynamic and inclusive political community.

The new campaign office serves as a hub for the Democratic Party’s day-to-day operations and a center for local campaigning and advocacy. It is here that the Executive Committee, comprising party officers, town chairs, state committee members, and appointees, will meet monthly to strategize and execute plans that align with the party’s mission and the community’s needs.

“Being a democrat in Orange County is not an easy thing to do,” said New York State Senator James Skoufis. “We are a swing area in the region and in the state, and we are home to battlegrounds like Congressman Ryan’s, who’s the only democrat who managed to win a battleground district in the region.”

On June 22, 2024, the Orange County Democratic Committee celebrated the grand opening of its campaign headquarters in the scenic valleys of upstate New York. Pictured: New York State Senator James Skoufis. (Image: Vision Times Staff)

He added, “Now we have an open seat for assembly, and we have an excellent candidate (Paula Kay) to make sure that we don’t miss a beat in the district and in this partnership.” 

The structure of the state’s assembly, which consists of 42 democratic seats, is robust — and each of the county’s election districts can host up to two representatives. These positions are critical in shaping the party’s direction and effectiveness at the local level, noted Skoufis as he added that he “needs more partners in order to continue making a difference.” 

“I’m running for the 100th district and we’ve had an incredible campaign so far,” said Kay, adding, “We’ve met tons of voters and I’m really happy to be here. We’re going to win this and we’re going to win this big.” 

A coordinated effort

The launch of the campaign office also serves to address the vacancies in various town committees — and to invigorate the party’s engagement across the county. By establishing a permanent base, the party aims to enhance its organizational capabilities and improve its outreach efforts, ensuring that every Democratic voice in the county is heard and empowered.

The current leadership team, including First Vice Chair Christine Stage and Vice Chairs Willa Freiband, Alison Miller, Michele Lindsay, Anthony Grice, Matt Retig, and Jeremy Zweig, brings a diverse set of skills and experiences to the table. Together with Secretary Louise Vandemark, Assistant Secretary Seth Goldman, Treasurer Deb Mulqueen, Assistant Treasurer Lauren Vitkovsky, and Sergeant at Arms Susan Bahren, they form a formidable group that is dedicated to advancing the party’s objectives and supporting Democratic candidates at all levels.

“We have to grind it out because this might come down to a few phone calls, or a few door knocks, said Congressman Ryan, adding, “It means so much to see you all come out here to support our democratic cause and to band together so that we can do everything we can to stand up for our freedom and our democracy.” 

New York State’s general election will take place on Nov. 5, 2024. A Republican primary is slated for June 25, 2024. 

With reporting by Judy Tao and Jane Gao.