Rep. Pat Ryan: Congress has to be able to tackle multiple priorities at once

Legislative Gazette file by Christian Evanko

What is motivating you to run for Congress?

At the end of the day, I’m a parent, and I have to think about what kind of community and country I want my two kids to grow up in. I’ve served my country in combat, and I’ve served my community here as Ulster County executive. Earlier this year, I ran for Congress in the special election to continue that fight. In Washington, I’m working to protect the fundamental American freedoms that I fought for overseas and to deliver needed economic relief for hardworking families.

You found yourself in a strange position this summer and fall, running for one district and then immediately running for a brand new district, because of the special election situation. What has that been like? What are the similarities and differences between CD-18 and CD-19? 

Redistricting caused a lot of confusion for voters in New York. The district where we won the special election this summer was considered a Republican seat – the so-called experts said a Democrat couldn’t win here and that our campaign should avoid talking about abortion at all costs. We didn’t listen. In the wake of the disastrous Dobbs decision, we made protecting women’s reproductive freedom a central issue in our campaign, and clearly that resonated with voters.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge currently facing New Yorkers?

We’re continuing to talk about reproductive freedoms, but we’re also still talking about bringing economic relief. In our conversations with voters, they are continually telling us they care about both. When you offer a vision for how you are going to protect families’ rights and deliver relief, that’s a more convincing message for voters than the Republican talking points. Republicans, like my opponent, are laser-focused on stripping away fundamental freedoms like abortion rights and giving corporations massive tax breaks.

Considering all of the issues currently facing New Yorkers such as crime, gun control, and abortion rights, what would be your first priority if elected to Congress?

Congress has got to be able to tackle multiple priorities at once. As Ulster County executive, I cut our gas tax in half to deliver immediate economic relief to Hudson Valley families, and I support a similar policy at the federal level. Congress also needs to act to defend reproductive rights. That’s why one of my first acts in Congress was to introduce the Protecting Reproductive Freedoms Act (H.R.8976).

What is your position on the current state of gun control in New York state?

As a parent, every day I worry that the weapons I carried in combat could show up at my kids’ daycare or at the grocery store, or at a Fourth of July parade. 

I support a federal ban on assault weapons, universal background checks and red flag laws to prevent weapons from getting into the hands of individuals who pose a danger. I’ve also been an active supporter of law enforcement, both as county executive and in Congress. 

In recent weeks, I helped pass the bipartisan Invest to Protect Act (H.R.6448), which increases funding for small and midsize police departments in New York. Our police departments protect our communities but often lack the resources necessary to carry out the huge responsibility entrusted to them. This funding is a major step forward toward righting that wrong.

What is your stance on the cost of living in New York?

I cut Ulster County’s gas tax in half, implemented programs to increase affordable housing and launched a program to train young people to enter the clean energy industry which promises high-paying union jobs. I also took on the utility companies for predatory billing practices. 

In Congress, I’ll continue to work across the aisle to address the rising cost of living and put people over profits.

What is your current position on abortion rights?

For 50 years Roe v. Wade was the law of the land until the Supreme Court overturned binding precedent. I support codifying the provisions of Roe to protect women’s reproductive rights. In fact, one of my first acts in Congress was to introduce the Protecting Reproductive Freedoms Act, to ensure that a woman’s decision to have an abortion remains between her and her doctor.

Photo via facebook @PatRyan UC
Congressman Pat Ryan casting his ballot on November 6.

What is your view on New York’s current transportation system?

New York’s infrastructure needs a major overhaul – from bridges, roads, and waterways, to broadband internet and quality cell service. We also need to work on modernizing our railways, including Metro North, which plays such a crucial role in this region. With funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we’re getting started on those fixes already, with over one million New York families already enrolled in a program to expand broadband internet access. This will increase productivity and help New York workers and businesses compete, especially in our rural communities.

In Congress, I’ll continue to fight for additional funding to help us revamp our transportation systems while creating jobs in our district.

Where do you stand on climate change?

Climate change is an existential threat to our nation. Fighting change requires us to invest in green technologies and new industries that will create good union jobs for American workers and jumpstart the clean energy transition. That’s why I opposed a new fossil fuel power plant in Ulster County, transitioned county operations to run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 and invested in training the next generation of workers who will build the green infrastructure we need to tackle climate change head-on.

Why should the voters of CD-18 consider voting for you?

My roots are in this district. I was born here, graduated high school and West Point here, and am raising a family here.

As ulster county executive, I’ve taken on big corporations, put people over profits and proven that I can deliver for working families of the Hudson Valley. I’ve already passed my first bill in the House, which expands access to home loans for service members, and I look forward to continuing to fight for economic relief.