Sarahana Shrestha and Patrick Sheehan are running for State Assembly in the 103rd District in New York, which includes Ulster and Dutchess counties in the Hudson Valley.
The election has been labeled as a “race to watch” by the Gotham Gazette. In the June Democratic primary, Shrestha defeated long-time incumbent Kevin Cahill, who had been serving as an assemblyman since 1992. Shrestha has the backing of several good-government groups and labor unions, as well as some high-profile endorsements, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Sheehan, a small business owner, says he was forced into the race so that residents of the district could “vote local, not social.”
The total population for the 103rd District in New York is 132,996 with a voting age population of 109,609.
Of the district’s voting-age residents, 80.7 percent are White non-Hispanic, 8 percent are Hispanic, 4.3 percent are Black, 2.4 percent are Asian, 0.2 percent are American Indian and 0.7 percent are “other” and multiple races.
As of November 1, there are 96,039 active voters in the 103rd Assembly District. Of those, there are 44,749 active Democrat voters, 18,257 active Republican voters, and 26,835 active independent voters.
Sarahana Shrestha, Democrat, is a 41-year-old first-generation Nepali-American climate organizer and advocate for the working class. She is from Kathmandu, Nepal, moved to New York in 2001 and currently lives in Esopus. She was able to come here with the help of a professor who co-signed her student loans. She studied graphic design and alongside that, founded a literary online journal that published political writings. The journal was banned in Nepal.
Shrestha became an American citizen in 2019 at the Ulster County Courthouse in Kingston alongside 50 other immigrants. She is the Ulster County co-chair for the Mid-Hudson Valley chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, which aims to organize efforts for universal health care, housing and the environment.
Shrestha says she will fight to fully fund pillars like SUNY, K-12 schools and hospitals to provide essential services and fulfilling jobs. The SUNY New Paltz campus in the 103rd Assembly District, for example, faces a $4 million budget deficit and Shrestha wants to fight for multi-year funding increases for campus aid.
Shrestha believes in fighting for immigrant communities’ right to live without fear, especially concerning violence, abuse and deportation. She wants to pass the Coverage for All which would expand state-funded healthcare to everyone, including those who were denied help due to their immigration status. This also goes along with her support for the New York for All Act, which would prohibit law enforcement from calling Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Customs and Border Patrol.
Shrestha has spoken out against the Hudson Champlain Power Express electric transmission line that would import hydropower from Canada. This line would potentially contaminate healthy drinking water and also violates indigenous land rights in Canada. Shrestha has also spoken out against the Danskammer fracked gas plant in Newburgh. Shrestha wants to build a renewable energy sector in the Hudson Valley and wants the communities to have more of a say than private developers.
Shrestha’s full platform can be found here.
Patrick Sheehan, Republican, is a 51-year-old realtor and former Democrat from Rhinebeck. Sheehan works for Staley Real Estate in Rhinebeck and Win Morrison Realty in Kingston.
Sheehan wants to raise money and go door-to-door to recruit volunteers and make his efforts known. He does not support the Green New Deal or the Build Public Renewable Act because of the financial burden he says it will place on taxpayers. Sheehan said state leaders should be focused on helping people afford fuel for their cars and heat for their homes instead. Sheehan’s priorities include securing funding for local food pantries, SNAP benefits, and youth drug rehabilitation programs.
On the issue of crime, Sheehan wants to “return sanity” to the state’s cashless the bail system and give judges the power to decide if criminal defendants are too dangerous or not by imposing bail to minimize any risks. Sheehan is adamant on finding a voice for the “innocent and otherwise voiceless victims,” as he puts it.
Like many parts of the U.S., the Hudson Valley is facing a fentanyl crisis. Sheehan wants to work with law enforcement to increase the punishments for people who manufacture and distribute fentanyl. To encourage this more, Sheehan would fight for added funding to police departments and social services.
The hot topic of gun control is on everyone’s minds, and Sheehan wants to reverse the state’s newest gun control laws passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor this past summer, because he believes it’s an abuse of power. Sheehan is set on helping to create bipartisan consensus on the new regulations Gov. Hochul and the Legislature put in place. Sheehan believes demonizing and criminalizing those who choose to carry firearms is wrong. Instead, he wants to prioritize mental health programs to help identify those who should or should not own guns.
Patrick Sheehan’s full platform can be found here.
Shrestha and Sheehan both support New York’s abortion protections.