TARRYTOWN, N.Y. State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) is running unopposed for her seat in the 35th District in the Nov. 6 election.
Stewart-Cousins was first elected to the New York State Senate in 2006 and was a Westchester County legislator for more than a decade. Her newly redrawn district includes Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Elmsford, Greenburgh, Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington, Tarrytown and parts of Yonkers, White Plains, New Rochelle and Scarsdale.
The Daily Voice asked Stewart-Cousins to fill out a questionnaire with some basic information. Answers were limited to 150 words. Below are her answers.
Name: Andrea Stewart-Cousins
Family: Three children. Husband (deceased).
Occupation: New York State senator
How long have you lived in your district? I have lived in Westchester since 1979.
Party Affiliation and Ballot Lines Held: Democrat running on Democratic, Independence and Working Families lines.
Years in Office: 6
Other Elected Positions Held: Westchester County legislator from 1996-2006.
What are the three biggest issues facing your district? The three biggest issues facing my district are improving the education system, keeping Westchester affordable and creating jobs.
How would you address those issues? For education, I will continue to fight for increased state aid for our schools and work to pass meaningful mandate relief legislation that will lower costs for school districts. Mandate relief will also help keep Westchester affordable by producing cost-saving opportunities for local governments and giving them flexibility in financing and contracting. These savings can lead to tax reductions or be redirected to other local programs or services. I will also continue to cut burdensome taxes like the MTA payroll tax and lower rates for the middle class. To create jobs, I will continue to support economic development initiatives, like the Regional Economic Development Councils, as well as smart investments in infrastructure projects, job training programs and education.
As an incumbent, what are your biggest achievements? One of my biggest achievements was my role in saving the Dobbs Ferry Community Hospital from closure. Prior to my taking office in 2007, a group called the Berger Commission was created by Governor Pataki to find ways to stabilize and strengthen New York's health care system by, among other things, selecting hospitals around the state for closure. In their report, the commission recommended the closure of the Dobbs Ferry Community Hospital, which would have deprived thousands of Greenburgh residents fast access to quality health services such as emergency care and closed a nationally renowned breast cancer treatment center. In addition, the move threatened to weaken a strong health care network while eliminating more than 150 local jobs. To fight the closure, I joined with hospital officials and community, led site visits for my colleagues to the hospital and relentlessly pushed and convened discussions and solutions for the hospital between the administration, the new governors office and the Department of Health. While almost every other hospital slated to close has done so, the fate of the Dobbs Ferry's Hospital was changed and our facility was saved!
Another significant achievement was introducing legislation to make Con Edison more accountable to communities with regard to tree cutting. The public forums, community involvement and legislation caused a re-examination by the utility company of its policies with regard to vegetation management. We must, of course, remain vigilant.
I've also sponsored and passed landmark voter reforms, including a bill to protect the democratic process in New York. Previously, absentee ballots could be thrown out if the voter did not sign it exactly the same way they signed their voter registration form. In many cases, years had passed between registrations and casting an absentee ballot. For women, in particular, use of a married name instead of the maiden named signed at 18 when she registered guaranteed the tossing of the absentee ballot. My new law stops that and allows for broader acceptance, including the use of titles and initials.
Westchester is among the highest-taxed counties in the nation. What would you do to lower the tax burden? Be specific. As I said above, I am committed to enacting meaningful mandate relief to lower the cost of government and ease the burden on taxpayers. As the ranking member on the Senates Committee on Local Governments, I have passed a number of mandate relief bills that will increase government efficiency, cut costs and save taxpayer dollars. In addition, I will continue to take action to lower the tax burden for Westchester families and small businesses. I was a strong supporter of a bill that repealed the MTA payroll tax for small businesses and schools. I also voted in favor a bill that cut taxes for the middle class to the lowest rates in 58 years. Moving forward, I will continue to fight for and support issues like these, which will keep Westchester affordable for families.
Why should people vote for you? People should vote for me because I am an effective, hard-working public servant who puts people before politics. I have a 100 percent attendance record in the New York State Senate, and this year I was able to pass 7 bills, the second most of any senator in the Democratic Conference. My primary focus is to serve the people of the 35th District to the best of my ability. As a senator, I have helped hundreds of my constituents cut through red tape with state agencies and advocated on their behalf about issues ranging from insurance coverage to education for their kids.