by Barrett Seaman –
Nearly six months shy of the June 23rd primary elections, the field of candidates hoping to succeed Nita Lowey as the representative of New York’s 17th congressional district has grown to 15—13 of whom are Democrats—in a district that has not sent a Republican to Congress in decades. Lowey has represented the area since 1989, including two reconfigurations of district lines. She won 88% of the vote in 2018.
The Democrats in the race include two Westchester County legislators, a state assemblyman, a state senator and nine who have never held elective office. All four of the current seat holders and, so far, five others have agreed to participate in a forum for Democratic candidates, to be held on the campus of Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry on January 26th.
Of the elected officials, County Legislator Catherine Parker represents Rye. Catherine Borgia represents Ossining. State Assemblyman David Buchwald of White Plains has been endorsed by more than 40 current or former elected officials. State Senator David Carlucci, a former member of the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC) in Albany, is the one elected official in the race from Rockland.
Though she has never held elected office, Evelyn Farkas, Ph.D. of Chappaqua has been a staffer for both House and Senate Committees and was an Obama administration deputy assistant secretary of defense responsible for Russia and Ukraine—a specialty that landed her a role as a national security contributor on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program. Allison Fine of Sleepy Hollow has authored three books on how non-profits can best utilize social media; she only recently stepped down as national chairwoman of NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights League.
Mondaire Jones, at 32 the youngest contender, did a stint in the Obama Justice Department and most recently worked in the Westchester County Law Department. A native of South Nyack, he is a graduate of Stanford and Harvard Law School and is openly gay. Jones also announced his bid to succeed Lowey before she had announced her retirement.
Asha Castleberry-Hernandez of Elmsford is an Army combat veteran who served as a national security advisor to the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016. She is the only black female in the race. Adam Schleifer recently relocated back to Chappaqua after serving as a federal prosecutor in L.A. in the so-called Varsity Blues college admissions scandal case. His father is the founder and CEO of Tarrytown-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.
Of the candidates not participating in the Mercy College event as of January 5 are: Jo-anna Rodriguez-Wheeler, 49, of Chappaqua, a small business owner who says she has been volunteering in political campaigns going back to Geraldine Ferraro; Luz Awilda (Lucy) Moreno-Casanova, a non-profit project coordinator from Yonkers who lost in an earlier bid for a seat in the county legislature; Lola Osoria a high school English teacher in the Bronx; David Katz, a debt recovery attorney operating out of Orangeburg in Rockland County, and John “Johnny” Jabbour, an Arab-American songwriter/producer and strong Bernie Sanders supporter.
So far, only two Republicans have entered the race: Jarred Buchanan, 35, is a New York City policeman who last ran unsuccessfully against Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney in the adjacent 18th district but has registered with the Federal Election Commission to run in 2020 in the 17th. The other GOP candidate is Josh Eisen, Ph.D., of Harrison, a business owner and self-described “progressive Republican.”
The January 26th forum at Mercy College is sponsored by the local Democratic committees of Dobbs Ferry, Elmsford, Greenburgh, Irvington and Tarrytown along with the activist group, Indivisible Rivertowns. It will be held in the Rotunda of Mercy Hall from 4 to 6 p.m. For more information, please contact Verity VanTassel Richards (Tarrytown Democratic Committee Co-chair): firstname.lastname@example.org. Or Call 212-719-7707.