Interviews & Profiles

Josh Riley won’t ever let you forget Marc Molinaro voted for Jim Jordan

The Hudson Valley Democrat is hammering on the Republican rep for what he calls extremism.

Josh Riley is running against Rep. Marc Molinaro for the second time, emphasizing reproductive rights and Molinaro’s support of Rep. Jim Jordan for House speaker.

Josh Riley is running against Rep. Marc Molinaro for the second time, emphasizing reproductive rights and Molinaro’s support of Rep. Jim Jordan for House speaker. Josh Riley campaign

Democrat Josh Riley, a former U.S. Senate attorney, will try his hand at winning in New York’s 19th Congressional District again in 2024. After announcing in April, Riley has out-fundraised his opponent, GOP Rep. Marc Molinaro, and believes the Catskills Republican’s association with the far-right wing of Congress will ultimately sink him. 

Riley lost to Molinaro in the 2022 midterm elections. The race drew national attention as Republicans successfully attempted to retake the House of Representatives and flipped several seats in New York, including the district of then-Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Sean Patrick Maloney, a few counties down the river from Riley. 

His current strategy is reminding voters who Molinaro aligns with. Molinaro voted for U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan to be the next speaker of the house. Jordan was a vocal election denier following the 2020 presidential election and supports a nationwide abortion ban.  

According to the most recent campaign finance filings, Riley raised $572,891 in the most recent filing period compared to Molinaro’s $503,275. Riley joined City & State for a short interview this week and shared why he thinks 2024 is the year that voters will put him in office and say no to Molinaro. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

How would you judge the job Molinaro has been doing in that district so far?

One of the big differences from the last campaign to this campaign is that Molinaro now has a voting record in Congress that we can look at, to the extent that he's ever actually voting in Congress. They've been in recess for (much) of the time since the summer, but when they are voting, he's voting against upstate New Yorkers, and he's voting in favor of his party bosses and corporate donors. One of the first votes he took was to reward oil companies that are engaged in price gouging against consumers in upstate New York who are still paying too much for gas. He voted for a cut to consumer protection agencies that are supposed to look out for upstate New Yorkers. An 8% cut for border security, all of those votes are against the interests of upstate New Yorkers and the only people they help are Marc Molinaro and his donors and party bosses.

What are the biggest needs for the 19th Congressional District?

I don't believe we can have a strong and functioning democracy if we don’t have a strong and fair economy that lifts everybody up and brings everybody along. And so one of the biggest things is economic opportunity and that means bringing good manufacturing jobs home. It means making sure that folks can afford their utilities and can afford their groceries and can afford to fill up the tank. And it also means defending our democracy and making sure for example, that constitutional rights are strengthened and women can make their own health care decisions. It's a real contrast with my opponent who just voted to make Jim Jordan the speaker of the house. I mean, this is an extremist who supports a national abortion ban, denied the results of the 2020 election and was involved in planning the January 6 insurrection. That is not reflected at all where most upstate New Yorkers are. 

What do you make of the speaker race?

Marc Molinaro voted for Jim Jordan, who is a right-wing extremist, who supports a national abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or the life of the mother, who was one of Donald Trump's biggest allies in trying to overturn the 2020 election, who has never passed a single piece of legislation, and it makes you wonder why would anybody in their right mind do that? I don't think it's a coincidence that Elise Stefanik was here raising money for Marc Molinaro and promised to raise thousands of dollars for these races, and then Elise Stefanik went to the floor and told everybody to vote for Jim Jordan, and Marc Molinaro got in line. We need representation here that’s independent, that's willing to break with their own party, and is willing to stand up for what's best for upstate New Yorkers not just what's best for themselves.

Elsewhere in the Hudson Valley, you've seen Republican messaging break through. Do you think that is going to be an issue not just in your race, but just throughout the area?

One of the things I learned from our race … this was one of the closest races in the whole country. And I think that's really a testament to our message, which is not really a Democratic or Republican message. It's an upstate New York message, which is that we need an economy and we need a politics that works for working people and the way politics as usual have been going it's resulted in a lot of families across upstate New York being sold out and overlooked. And Marc Molinaro is part of the problem.

On the other hand, not just your district but a lot of these places where Biden won but not in Congress, I have to think those seats are pretty vulnerable right?

I think what most voters across our district are looking for is practical, common sense leadership that is going to focus on what's best for them and not what's best for the special interests and the party bosses. And that's what I'm focused on. I have never taken a single penny of corporate PAC money. And that's a real contrast with what my opponent is doing. He's bankrolled by the utility monopolies and by the big oil companies and by Elise Stefanik. And so it's no surprise he goes to Congress and he does what they want him to do.