Skoufis begins his transition to state senator
The Democrat says he will seek ‘common ground’ to do what’s bests for constituents

"I’m someone who wants to govern with partners regardless of party and to collaborate with people of all parties," said Assemblyman and N.Y.S. Senator-elect James Skoufis. "I enjoy collaborating with Republicans and working across the aisle. I intend to find common ground when I can. Our task is to what’s best for our constituents.”

By Nancy Kriz
ALBANY — It’s been a little over a week since Assemblyman James Skoufis won election as the first Democrat to hold office in the 39th senatorial district in 40 years.
His win, which takes over incumbent Bill Larkin’s seat, is also significant in that the three branches of New York State government are now under Democratic control, something that hasn’t in about 10 years.
“There is a quite a lot to do and I’m excited to be moving ahead,” Skoufis said. “It’s important to note I’m still an assemblyman for 99th District and if people need assistance from that end, my team and I are still here until Dec. 31. We will be transitioning over the next six to seven weeks. I’m going to be identifying a new staff to bring on board and reaching out to local leaders to discuss what their communities’ priorities and funding needs are.”
Skoufis already reached out to Colin Schmitt, the Republican who won his seat in the 99th Assembly District, though Larkin has yet to contact him to offer transition help as of this past Monday.
“Colin and I have spoken and we’re going to make sure that there are no issues whatever,” said Skoufis. “People can be rest assured there will be a smooth transition and Senator Larkin and I will be in touch within the next month and a half. I value Senator Larkin’s insight. He’s been doing this job admirably for quite some time. I look forward to sitting down with him and learning from him about his successes.”
Finding common groundAs far as the relationship he’ll have with Schmitt, Skoufis said: “I think there are some issues we agree on and I look forward to working with him on those issues. I’m someone who wants to govern with partners regardless of party and to collaborate with people of all parties. I enjoy collaborating with Republicans and working across the aisle. I intend to find common ground when I can. Our task is to what’s best for our constituents.”
As part of this, Skoufis stressed he’ll never align himself solely with Democrats.
“There will be some issues I disagree with my party on and agree with my party on,” said Skoufis. “I will stand up to anybody, whether Democrat or Republican or the governor, to make sure our district is fairly treated and protected from any harm. I mean this in any sense of the word: I will be a state senator for everybody. Many Republicans voted for me, many did not. I take this to heart. I’m going to fight for all of them.”
Skoufis has always been very visible in the community, beginning when he entered public and political life as a Woodbury Town councilman. That won’t change.
“I like to think I’m very approachable and responsive,” he said. “I know some people have differences with me but I’d like to think no one can question that I work very hard in this field. I’m honest. If I disagree with someone I’ll tell them, I won’t ‘yes’ people to death and I don’t want them to do that to me.”
Legislative agendaAs part of prepping to his new role, Skoufis said he’ll be putting together legislation he wants to introduce in January. He also said he believed there are legislative priorities that have been neglected and he plans to address those.
Among them is the Child Victims Act, a long-standing proposal that would extend statutes of limitations for criminal and civil cases involving child sex abuse and that would give past victims a one-year window to bring lawsuits.
Another is the Reproductive Health Act, which would codify the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision as New York State law. While the Assembly has passed the act in previous years, he said, it’s always been stalled in the Senate.
“There’s a sense of an increased likelihood it will be addressed (by the Supreme Court),” he said. “If it were ever overturned by the Supreme Court, it would be protected in New York State.”
Kiryas Joel/Palm TreeSkoufis also pledged to his soon-to-be senatorial constituents that he will represent all fairly and everyone gets equal treatment.
“The only people I’m happily indebted to are the people in this district,” he said. “KJ did not endorse me and the governor is one of the few who did not give a campaign contribution. My only allegiance is to the people, both Democrat and Republican and people who fall in-between.”
He added: “But KJ residents are also my constituents. They will not be treated or represented any less than any other communities; but they will not be treated or represented any more than any other communities. The Village of KJ/ Town of Palm Tree will not get special preferential treatment from my office.”
While the creation of the Town of Palm Tree removes the bloc vote from Monroe elections, Skoufis acknowledged other issues still remain.
“Palm Tree was never meant to solve all of Orange County’s problems,” he said. “We still have challenges with natural resources, infrastructure, land use. Those challenges will continue. I’ll be very involved and we have to ensure that character and quality of life in the surrounding communities remains intact.”
The governorSkoufis also knows his relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo is tense one.
“It’s no secret that the governor and I have not seen eye-to eye on some things, including taxes, economic development and education,” he said. “Where we can agree, I will support those issues. If I feel the governor is doing wrong to the communities I represent, I will continue to be vocally opposed and fight back.
“But that’s not aimed at the governor; it’s also for any elected officials,” he added. “If there are areas we can work together, they will find no greater ally in me.”
‘Leveling the playing field’Skoufis equally noted one of his missions is to “level the playing field” in the area.
“Let’s be real, Democratic representation is concentrated in New York City; Republican on Long Island and upstate,” he said. “The lower and mid-Hudson Valley, they’ve been long been neglected by the state senate, in my opinion. My mission is also for us to not be treated like a piggy bank for the MTA, that we get a fair share of education and infrastructure aid from the senate.
“There are projects should have been done years ago,” the state senator-elect added. “ I am going to make sure our senate district is treated with the decency and respect that it has not gotten in a long.”
Skoufis reiterated he represents those who voted for him and those who didn’t.
“I’d like them to know I’m going to work extremely hard over these two years to get their support,” he said. “I’ve consistently said over this campaign that whether people voted for me or note, I represent all of them. Even if they have no intention to support me the next time around, I will always look to do right by them. I intend to demonstrate to everyone that I’m going to work very hard for the district.”
Skoufis also thanked those voted for him, adding: “I also intend to demonstrate I’m in this for the right reasons. I’m not in this for politics; I’m in this for public service. I’m genuinely honored to be given this opportunity and I will work as hard as I can to make everyone proud.”