Meet the new New York State Assembly members

New York State Capitol.
New York State Capitol.
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New York State Capitol.
Power List

Meet the new New York State Assembly members

Speaking to each new lawmaker about their top priorities.
Joe DeStefano
Joe DeStefano
Joe DeStefano (R)
District 3 (Long Island)

Top priority: Trying for a better quality of life for my constituents.

How I will govern differently: Not much difference. I will be as active as (my predecessor) was.

Political hero: Ronald Reagan

If I were an animal: Dog – loyal and lovable

Birthday: June 7

Previous job/occupation: Public safety dispatcher supervisor for the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office

Twitter: @dacomish

Previous offices held: Medford Fire District commissioner, secretary/treasurer of Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York, president of Brookhaven Town Fire Districts Association, treasurer of Suffolk County Fire District Officers Association, president of Sheriffs/Probation Civilian Unit of the Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees

Replaces: Dean Murray (R)

Place of birth: Brooklyn

Current residence: Medford

Michael LiPetri
Michael LiPetri
Michael LiPetri (R)
District 9 (Long Island)

Top priority: Preserving and protecting our water quality on Long Island and throughout New York state.

How I will govern differently: I will be accessible to my constituents at all hours of the day or night, present in the community at events when I am down in the district and assertively handle my constituents’ issues.

Political hero: President Theodore Roosevelt. A Long Island native, he was a pioneer of conservationism and a champion of the free market, ensuring justice for all and favors to none.

If I were an animal: The wolf, known to be guardians and loyal. They teach us to trust our hearts and minds with our judgment.

Birthday: July 10

Previous job/occupation: Attorney in private practice

Twitter: @TheMikeLiPetri

Previous offices held: None

Replaces: Christine Pellegrino (D)

Place of birth: Long Island

Taylor Raynor
Taylor Raynor
Taylor Raynor (D)
District 18  (Long Island)

Top priority: Gaining a full financial understanding of operations across the district, communicating that understanding with the community and forming a solid plan to ensure that state funds are effectively addressing the dire needs of District 18.

How I will govern differently: I will govern with inclusivity, transparency and accessibility. We need all hands on deck to bring about the effective change necessary to start thriving within District 18.

Political hero: Harriet Tubman. She was relentless at her purpose of serving others despite the consequences. She was willing to die for the cause and that level of self-sacrifice is necessary to establish any sense of equity in our underserved communities.

If I were an animal: I would be a jellyfish because they are 95 percent water, some species are immortal and it is in their nature to stay in the moment and go with the flow.

Birthday: Nov. 21

Previous job/occupation: Industrial organizational psychologist

Twitter: @IamTaylorRaynor

Previous offices held: None

Replaces: Earlene Hooper (D)

Place of birth: Brooklyn

Current residence: Long Island

Judy Griffin
Judy Griffin
Judy Griffin (D)
District 21 (Long Island)

Top priority: Combating the opioid crisis and protecting our environment are two of my biggest priorities as these issues are plaguing Long Island.

How I will govern differently: I will work full time to remain engaged with the community by meeting with advocates and constituents to ensure I keep their needs and desires in mind when voting in Albany.

Political hero: Eleanor Roosevelt was an impressive, passionate and courageous woman and leader way ahead of her time. I am grateful for her lifelong dedication to amplifying the role of all women in politics and government.

If I were an animal: I would be the dolphin because they are great communicators, are nurturing, playful and have a flexible approach. They are very social and one of the few animals that help animals outside their species. These are characteristics that make an effective leader.  One of the most important things I can do as a leader is to be willing to listen to people who have opposing opinions to mine and understand that I have been elected to represent everyone.

Birthday: Sept. 1

Previous job/occupation: Director of community outreach for state Sen. Todd Kaminsky

Twitter: @judygriffinny

Previous offices held: None

Replaces: Brian Curran (R)

Place of birth: Bay Shore

Current residence: Rockville Centre

Catalina Cruz
Catalina Cruz
Catalina Cruz (D)
District 39 (New York City)

Top priority: Renewing and strengthening rent laws and tenant protections. Our community is in crisis. Too many people are being evicted and we need to ensure that their rights are protected and they can remain living in the community they call home.

How I will govern differently: Our community elected me to ensure everyone’s voice is heard, and to work tirelessly to bring about the progressive and transformative change we need. I want to focus on strengthening my relationship with our neighbors and on making them an integral part of our office’s effort to improve our collective quality of life.

Political hero: Former Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who first introduced the DREAM Act when I was a teenager. Growing up undocumented, I saw few electeds fight as hard as Luis did for our community, often putting his career on the line. This bill gave me hope, that in spite of my lack of status, there was a better tomorrow for people like me.

If I were an animal: Phoenix. Although I know it’s not a real animal, my late father always compared me to one because of my ability to rise from the ashes.

Birthday: Feb. 15

Previous job/occupation: Attorney, chief of staff to then-New York City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland

Twitter: @CatalinaCruzNY

Previous offices held: None

Replaces: Ari Espinal (D)

Place of birth: Medellín, Colombia

Current residence: Jackson Heights, Queens

Mathylde Frontus
Mathylde Frontus
Mathylde Frontus (D)
District 46 (New York City)

Top priority: I would say my top priority for 2019 is affordable housing. People are afraid not having someplace to call home, afraid of losing their apartments, afraid of rising rents and a lack of affordable housing options. We need to confront the housing crisis head-on by expanding affordable housing units, addressing rent stabilization and recognizing that housing is a basic right.

How I will govern differently: I have lived a life of community engagement, and I bring that style to my work as an Assembly member now. I also work to ensure the community knows what I’m doing, and bring them into the political process by being transparent and accessible through meetings, events and social media.

Political hero: Shirley Chisholm – she was bold, spoke her mind and was unbossed and unbought. That’s an enduring trait that all of us in government should aspire to.

If I were an animal: I would be an eagle. I would love to have an elevated perspective and the ability to see things clearly from afar.

Birthday: Dec. 1

Previous job/occupation: Adjunct professor at NYU, nonprofit consultant and ran a local nonprofit

Twitter: @FrontusforNY

Previous offices held: None

Replaces: Pamela Harris (D)

Place of birth: Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Current residence: Coney Island, Brooklyn

Simcha Eichenstein
Simcha Eichenstein
Simcha Eichenstein (D)
District 48 (New York City)

Top priority: I am going to focus on the people of my district and their needs. Every district throughout New York is unique in their own way as well as their own challenges. Improving the quality of life for my constituents is my top priority.

How I will govern differently: I respect and am thankful to my predecessor for his decades of public service. I am honored to have the opportunity that my constituents have given me. I will focus on being the best legislator and community advocate that I can be.

Political hero: I hold former U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman in very high regard. For me, he has brought an Orthodox perspective to public office while remaining true to his Jewish values.

If I were an animal: I’m not sure I want to be an animal!

Birthday: Aug. 6

Previous job/occupation: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s legislative affairs team

Twitter: @SEichenstein

Previous offices held: None

Replaces: Dov Hikind (D)

Place of birth: Brooklyn

Current residence: Brooklyn

Charles Fall
Charles Fall
Charles Fall (D)
District 61 (New York City)

Top priority: My priorities as a new state legislator in Albany will center on improving transportation in the 61st District. Effective, efficient and accessible transportation is essential for community and economic growth, (including) renovation of Clifton station (and) restoring and expanding S42 bus service in New Brighton. Adequate funding of our schools, especially high-need schools, is a major priority. It’s estimated that the state owes New York public schools $4.3 billion, including $1.9 billion to New York City.

How I will govern differently: It’s not about how I will govern differently. It’s about taking my previous experience working in/with the mayor’s office, parks department, district and community leaders that will set my agenda in the upcoming legislative session. Every new venture is a learning experience and I look forward to working with my Assembly colleagues, especially those in the Staten Island delegation.

Political hero: I have several, but it’s important to state that my father and mother who immigrated to this country from Africa, to attain the American dream are my true heroes. Witnessing their hard work and consistent guidance throughout my life is the reason I am where I am today.

If I were an animal: Cheetah. Government often tends to be reactive, not proactive and takes a slower approach to passing effective legislation. I plan to take a more proactive and expeditious approach for my district.

Birthday: March 12

Previous job/occupation: Chief of staff to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Staten Island commissioner

Twitter: @Charlesdfall

Previous offices held: None

Place of birth: Manhattan

Current residence: Staten Island

Michael Reilly
Michael Reilly
Michael Reilly (R)
District 62 (New York City)

Top priority: Finding a creative solution that’ll end the opioid and heroin epidemic is at the top of my list. However, not too far behind is reducing property taxes, supporting public education and improving both public transportation and infrastructure.

How I would govern differently: I look forward to continuing the efforts of my predecessor and working with colleagues from both sides of the aisle to make Staten Island and New York a better place for future generations.

Political hero: My political hero is Abraham Lincoln, because, as a leader, Lincoln valued the opinions of others. He lined his team with people who weren’t just yes men, and welcomed many different perspectives to the table.

If I were an animal: If I were an animal, it would be a dog because they are loyal and reliable.

Birthday: Jan. 30

Previous job/occupation: Member of New York City Community Education Council 31, police officer/lieutenant with the NYPD

Twitter: @MikeWReilly

Previous offices held: None

Replaces: Ron Castorina Jr. (R)

Place of birth: Borough Park, Brooklyn

Current residence: Eltingville, Staten Island

Karines Reyes
Karines Reyes
Karines Reyes (D)
District 87 (New York City)

Top priority: As a health care professional, one of my top priorities is the health and well-being of our communities. I am focused on making sure that all members of our communities have access to quality health care, that we address that health disparities that disproportionately affect women of color. I have advocated for these issues as a member and union leader with the New York State Nurses Association.

How I would govern differently: My predecessor and I have different sets of experiences that inform our priorities. My predecessor, current state Sen. Luis Sepulveda, is a lawyer and that has contributed greatly to his focus on criminal justice reform. As a registered nurse and rank-and-file union member, I believe that my experiences allow me to be more hands-on when it comes to health policy (and) workers’ rights.

Political hero: If I had to choose one, my political hero would be former Rep. Shirley Chisholm. She is a woman of color, who grew up in a traditional Caribbean household and rose to adopt a progressive set of politics when it wasn’t popular. There is something to be said about a person who goes against the grain and is ahead of their time.

If I were an animal: I would be a lioness. The lioness is the animal that truly does work for the herd, like hunting and raising the cubs. She does much of the work, while the male lion is known for laying around. The lioness is the true king (or should I say queen) of the jungle.

Birthday: Oct. 12

Previous job/occupation: Registered nurse in oncology

Twitter: @KarinesReyesNYC

Previous offices held: None

Replaces: Luis Sepúlveda (D)

Place of birth: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Current residence: Parkchester, Bronx

Nader Sayegh
Nader Sayegh
Nader Sayegh (D)
District 90 (Hudson Valley)

Top priority: My No. 1 legislative priority is education. My district encompasses Yonkers Public Schools, a large urban school district that is home to 27,000 students. I’d like to increase state funding to Yonkers Public Schools by changing the state funding formula, which shortchanges the Yonkers City School District and its students.

How I will govern differently: My predecessor served the people of my district well. I would continue to lobby for change and reform at the state level that would serve in my constituency’s best interest, more specifically, changing the education funding formula.

Political hero: John F. Kennedy

If I were an animal: If I could be any animal, I would choose to be a lion. I aim to be a leader and king of the jungle in all aspects of my life. I hope to bring that tenacity with me as assemblyman and be the champion that the people of my district need me to be.

Birthday: Aug. 30

Previous job/occupation: Attorney/educator

Twitter: @NaderJSayegh

Previous offices held: None

Replaces: Shelley Mayer (D)

Place of birth: Mafraq, Jordan

Current residence: Yonkers

Colin Schmitt
Colin Schmitt
Colin Schmitt (R)
District 99 (Hudson Valley)

Top priority: Tax relief

How I will govern differently: A strong focus of my office is going to be on hosting significant community events to celebrate our district and those in the area who make contributions that normally go underrecognized. I have a goal to take what is usually expected out of the “typical legislators” office and turn it on its head.

Political hero: John F. Kennedy

If I were an animal: A gray wolf because gray wolves develop close relationships and social bonds. They usually are very family oriented and would sacrifice oneself for the overall family unit. While most animal predators are loners, gray wolves rely on the pack to execute a successful hunt with the alpha male and female leading the way, together.

Birthday: June 20

Previous job/occupation: Chief of staff, New Windsor town government

Twitter: @colinschmitt

Previous offices held: None

Replaces: James Skoufis (D)

Place of birth: Staten Island

Current residence: New Windsor

Jonathan Jacobson
Jonathan Jacobson
Jonathan Jacobson (D)
District 104 (Hudson Valley)

Jacobson did not provide responses after multiple attempts to attain them. Information was taken from his Assembly and campaign websites.

Top priority: According to his campaign site, Jacobson’s priorities include ending local school taxes in favor of a statewide tax for equitable funding, expanding college tuition for part-time students, rebuilding infrastructure and expanding health care.

Previous job/occupation: Attorney, assistant counsel to the Assembly speaker, state assistant attorney general, Orange County Democratic Committee chairman

Twitter: None

Previous offices held: Newburgh City councilman, state Democratic Committee member

Replaces: Frank Skartados (D)

Mark Walczyk
Mark Walczyk
Mark Walczyk (R)
District 116 (North Country)

Top priority: I’ll be working to increase the attention given to the 116th Assembly District, otherwise known as the “Front Yard of America.”

How I will govern differently: While serving in the Assembly, I will be a check on the proposals that come from the executive. Making sure state agencies and departments remember who pays their salary is a big part of the job. I’ll be a voice for the North Country that reminds state bureaucrats that they work for the people.

Political hero: John Quincy Adams

If I were an animal: I would be a watchdog because as an assemblyman, it’s my job to be a check on Albany bureaucrats and look out for New York taxpayers.

Birthday: July 3

Previous job/occupation: District director for state Sen. Patty Ritchie, engineer officer in the Army Reserves

Twitter: @MarkWalczyk

Previous offices: Watertown City councilman

Replaces: Addie Jenne (D)

Place of birth: Syracuse

Current residence: Watertown

Robert Smullen
Robert Smullen
Robert Smullen (R)
District 118 (North Country)

Smullen did not provide responses after multiple attempts to attain them. Information was taken from his Assembly website.

Top priority: As an assemblyman, Robert will work to lower taxes, lessen regulations to strengthen the state’s economy and protect our liberty. He is committed to providing support for veterans and active service military personnel, drafting legislation aimed at protecting vulnerable New Yorkers and tirelessly working to improve the quality of life for his constituents and the residents of the state.

Previous job/occupation: Marine Corps colonel

Twitter: None

Previous offices held: None

Replaces: Marc Butler (R)

Current residence: Johnstown

Marianne Buttenschon
Marianne Buttenschon
Marianne Buttenschon (D)
District 119 (Mohawk Valley)

Top priority: Priorities include working with members of the community to ensure that the Mohawk Valley and the state of New York continues and grows in a positive and productive manner.

How I will govern differently: I hope to build on my predecessor’s role.

Political hero: Bill Goodman, my dad

If I were an animal: An eagle, so I can always soar high and see many perspectives.

Birthday: Aug. 10

Previous job/occupation: Dean of the Institute for Emergency Preparedness and Public Service at Mohawk Valley Community College

Twitter: None

Previous offices held: Served on many nonprofit community boards

Replaces: Anthony Brindisi (D)

Place of birth: Utica

Current residence: Marcy

John Salka
John Salka
John Salka (R)
District 121 (Central New York)

Top priority: Top priority is constituent services. We will be available to answer any concerns that the people of my district may have with respect to how we can serve them better.

How I will govern differently: I will have much more energy than my predecessor and will be holding town hall meetings throughout the district on a regular basis. As a matter of fact we had our first one on Jan. 17 in the town of Sullivan in Madison County.

Political hero: My political hero was Harry Truman, who had to make one of the most difficult decisions in American history, and that was to drop the atomic bomb on Japan.

If I were an animal: I guess I would be a giraffe. I have been short all my life and would like a bit of height for a while.

Birthday: Nov. 14

Previous job/occupation: Brookfield town supervisor

Twitter: None

Previous offices held: Brookfield town supervisor, member of the Brookfield school board

Replaces: William Magee (D)

Place of birth: Utica

Current residence: Brookfield

Brian Manktelow
Brian Manktelow
Brian Manktelow (R)
District 130 (Finger Lakes)

Top priority: The most important thing is to ease the financial burden on all New Yorkers by cutting government mandates and creating more economic opportunity. One of the best ways to do this is to build relationships with my fellow lawmakers and help them understand the effects of each bill on various regions.

How I would govern differently: I don’t know that I would do anything drastically different. Following in Assemblyman Bob Oaks’ footsteps with good strong ethics and moral guidance, to me, is critical. I also have a passion for veterans’ affairs, being a veteran myself. I was a town supervisor too, so I am bringing that background with me.

Political hero: President Ronald Reagan

If I were an animal: Eagle, because it symbolizes patriotism and strength.

Birthday: July 26

Previous job/occupation: U.S. Army sergeant, farmer, Lyons town supervisor, Wayne County legislator

Twitter: None

Previous offices held: Lyons town supervisor, Lyons town councilman, Wayne County Board of Supervisors

Replaces: Bob Oaks (R)

Place of birth: Newark, New York

Current residence: Lyons

Marjorie Byrnes
Marjorie Byrnes
Marjorie Byrnes (R)
District 133 (Finger Lakes)

Top priority: My very top priority is infrastructure improvements. This includes roads, bridges, culverts and broadband access. The current deficiencies of our roads, bridges and culverts have a direct negative impact on farmers and businesses being able to transport their products to market. Additionally, significant portions of the 133rd Assembly District do not have reliable internet access. Not only is this an inconvenience in our modern society, it makes conducting business difficult and poses safety issues in emergencies.

How I will govern differently: I will be out in the community on a daily basis just as I did during the campaign. I will be meeting with our fire departments, schools, businesses, farms and neighbors to understand their problems and concerns.

Political hero: Susan B. Anthony. I was born and raised in the city of Rochester only a few miles from where she lived for 40 years. Her home in Rochester is also where she was arrested in 1872 for attempting to vote.

If I were an animal: A chocolate Lab. I have had two chocolate Labs. Remington, who passed away 3 years ago, and Briley, who will soon turn 3. They are loyal, loving and caring. They have made my life complete.

Birthday: Sept. 22

Previous job/occupation: Monroe County assistant district attorney, Rochester City Court judge, court attorney to Livingston County Court Judge Dennis Cohen

Twitter: @Byrnes4Assembly

Previous offices held: Rochester City Court judge, Caledonia village trustee

Replaces: Joseph Errigo (R)

Place of birth: Rochester

Current Residence: Caledonia

Jamie Romeo
Jamie Romeo
Jamie Romeo (D)
District 136 (Finger Lakes)

Top priority: One of my top will be to make sure the voice of upstate New York remains strong in Albany. We have made some progress over the years in taking on the issues that working families face in my district, including high property taxes, a rising cost of living and slow-moving economy.

How I will govern differently: Rep. Joseph Morelle is a testament of what it is to be a “citizen legislator,” and I have been fortunate to learn much about public service from him. I will work to continue to carry on (Joseph Morelle’s) legacy of service to the greater Rochester area, but also be able to add the voice of a woman, a mother, a single parent to the halls of the state Legislature.

Political hero: Rep. Louise Slaughter. Not only did she have an amazing career, but I was privileged to work directly with her in my role as Monroe County Democratic Committee chairwoman.

If I were an animal: I asked my son and he suggested a T. rex, that seemed like a decent choice.

Birthday: May 25

Previous job/occupation: Chairwoman and executive director of the Monroe County Democratic Committee

Twitter: @RomeohRomeo

Previous offices held: None

Replaces: Joseph Morelle (D)

Place of birth: Irondequoit

Current residence: Irondequoit

Pat Burke
Pat Burke
Pat Burke (D)
District 142 (Western New York)

Top priority: Campaign finance and election law reform are my top priorities. As a grassroots candidate, my goal is to bring the power of the government back to the people.

How I will govern differently: The district I represent has long been served by “independent” Democrats, and while I’m also proud of my independence, I will strive to work closely with my colleagues in order to best serve my community.

Political hero: Oyster Bay Roosevelts – Theodore and Eleanor. It’s a great honor to serve in the Assembly, the place where Theodore Roosevelt began his career, and Eleanor Roosevelt’s passion for people and protecting the vulnerable speaks to me and my political philosophy.

If I were an animal: I would be an orca because they travel in pods, stay with their families for life and are more emotionally complex than humans.

Birthday: June 22

Previous job/occupation: Bartender, lecturer at Buffalo State College

Twitter: @PatBurke142

Replaces: Erik Bohen (R)

Previous offices held: Erie County legislator

Place of birth: South Buffalo

Current residence: South Buffalo

Karen McMahon
Karen McMahon
Karen McMahon (D)
District 146 (Western New York)

Top priority: My top priority is ensuring that schools receive their fair share of state funding to provide a quality education to all students while ensuring homeownership remains affordable.

How I will govern differently: I hope to bring people together, because when we all work together, our community is stronger. I will speak up for our common values and be an active partner with the local governments in Amherst, Williamsville and Pendleton to bring state support to local projects.

Political hero: Shirley Chisholm

If I were an animal: If I could be an animal I would be an eagle, not only because they can fly, but because eagles embody both strength and freedom.

Birthday: March 18

Previous job/occupation: Law clerk to judges of the New York State Appellate Division and the United States District Court for the Western District of New York, private practice attorney

Twitter: @McMahonforNYS

Previous offices held: None

Replaces: Raymond Walter (R)

Place of birth: Western New York

Current residence: Williamsville

Rebecca C. Lewis
is a staff reporter at City & State.
Zach Williams
is a staff reporter at City & State and its sister publication, New York Nonprofit Media.
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