Record-Review: Harckham Touts Experience ‘as a distinct advantage’

With the Democratic primary for State Senator in the 40th district coming up on Thursday, Sept. 13th, the Record-Review is profiling each of the two candidates. This week the focus is on Pete Harckham.


The winner of the Democratic primary will face incumbent Republican Terrance Murphy in the November general election.

"Harckham touts experience 'as a distinct advantage'"

Pete Harckham is currently a Lewisboro resident. He grew up in Rockland County, where he attended Clarkstown High School North. Later a student at Dickinson College, he graduated in 1982 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.


“My first job out of college was working for a law firm assisting in an anti-trust litigation between oil companies and the makers of off-shore oil rigs,” Mr. Harckham said. “From there I moved to the advertising business, working on Madison Avenue.”
 Asked to name the most important job he had held, he pointed to his years serving as a Westchester County Legislator. Mr. Harckham represented the 2nd legislative district, which includes Bedford, Lewisboro, and Pound Ridge as well as Mount Kisco, North Salem and Somers, from 2008 to 2015. He was the majority leader for two terms, from 2010 to 2013. During his first year on the board, Andy Spano a Democrat, was county executive. Mr. Spano was defeated when he ran for re-election in 2009, and Republican Rob Astorino became county executive for the rest of Mr. Harckham’s time on the board.


“The board is small enough that you can accomplish things,” Mr. Harckham said, “but represents a large enough population – nearly one million people – that what you do is impactful.” 
        Among the accomplishments Mr. Harckham cited for his tenure on the board are both legislative achievements when Democrats controlled the board, and battles fought once Mr. Astorino entered office and, subsequently, Republicans gained control.


“We passed important legislation to expand the scope of the Human Rights Compassion to enforce the Federal Fair Housing law,’ he said, “and we created a program to help people stave off foreclosure and eviction during the height of the housing crisis.”


Mr. Harckham said he fought “unwise cuts to childcare subsidies” in order to empower lower income families to keep working and contributing to the economy in Westchester, and to keep them off expensive mandated services. On the environmental front, he said, “we passed key legislation to facilitate growth of the solar industry in Westchester, along with expanding plastics recycling from only 1-2, to 3-7.” In addition, he said, “I negotiated a multi-part septic management plan that saved watershed municipalities money while meeting rigorous phosphorous reduction mandates.”


An economic efficiency for which Mr. Harckham takes at least partial credit was helping to facilitate the merger of the Mount Kisco police with the county police. “That saved money by sharing services and personnel,” he said, “as well as providing better protection to the village.” He said he also worked with the County Office of Emergency Management, as well as local municipal OEMs during hurricanes Sandy and Irene and the Halloween Nor’easter. “And all of the while,” he added, “we battled budget challenges due to the recession; we had held the line on taxes and saved jobs in the process.” 
         Mr. Harckham explained what made him first decide to run for elective office. “I had been actively fighting for progressive Democratic values in what was then a largely Republican area of the Hudson Valley, since 2000,” he said. “I also became a board member of A-HOME, an organization that builds and manages affordable housing in northern Westchester. I saw how effective county government could be in facilitating the creation of housing and realized that as the regional government, county government was well suited to tackle a number of issues in northern Westchester.”
 Mr. Harckham ran successfully for county legislator in 2007 and was re-elected in 2009. In 2010, Mr. Harckham ran for the New York State Assembly seat in the 89th district, which comprised most of his county legislative district as well as New Castle, North Castle, Harrison and sections of White Plains. The seat was vacated by Adam Bradley, who had become mayor of White Plains, and a special election was held in February. Mr. Harckham was defeated by Robert Castelli, a former Lewisboro councilman, but continued to serve in the county legislature. He was re-elected for a second time in 2011 and a third time in 2013.


In February of 2015, Mr. Harckham announced he would not seek re-election, saying, “I have loved this job like no other I’ve had but it is time to move in a new direction for my family and my career.”


In June of that year he left the legislature when he was named to a position in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration as assistant director of the office of Community Renewal. At the time he was quoted as saying, “I’m honored. It’s a wonderful opportunity to return to my roots in housing. It’s a new chapter in my public service and an exciting opportunity.”


Mr. Harckham maintained that his experience in elected office makes him well-qualified to become an effective state senator. “While it is great to call for sweeping legislative change, having the knowledge and experience to actually draft and pass legislation is something else. As someone who served as a legislator for four terms, I thoroughly understand the legislative process and have successfully built coalitions to pass numerous pieces of important legislation,” he stated.


Mr. Harckham also cited his three years serving in the governor’s administration. “In the Office of Community Renewal, my primary task was the allotment of $4.3 million in Community Development Block Grant funding,” he said. He also served as the liaison to the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council, worked for the Thruway Authority as the director of intergovernmental affairs of the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project, and served on the DOT task force developing the new bus system that will connect Rockland and Westchester Counties. 
    Mr. Harckham said that through his time serving in state government, he had learned how New York State works and how to get things done. “Ultimately, to be an effective legislator you have to care about serving people and understand that the majority of the job is serving your constituents and constituent municipalities,” he said.


Mr. Harckham said that Democrats “are focused on the mission of defeating Sen. Murphy and gaining a Democratic majority in the State Senate.” Their focus now is on a “process to determine who will be the right candidate to take on Murphy. To that end, experience and qualifications matter,” he said.


Asked to distinguish himself from his primary opponent, he said, “I am the only Democratic candidate who has run in and won elections. I turned a red seat blue and held it during the height of the Tea Party. I know how to message to independent voters and disaffected Republicans, both of whom are necessary to win this race.”


He continued, “I am also the only candidate who has been a legislator, balanced budgets, and forged coalitions of legislators on both sides of the aisle, along with community groups, to pass important legislation. My experience, both politically, administratively and legislatively, is a distinct advantage.”

This article appeared in the Record-Review in August, 2018.

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In primary, Peter Harckham takes aim at Trump, Sen. Terrence Murphy

To read the full article, and watch video of my interview with the reporter, click here.

District 40 is one of the few battleground districts in the state that could determine which party controls the Senate. Every legislator is up for election in November and a gain of even one seat for Democrats can topple a slim Republican majority.

Harckham said his experience in government and as a lawmaker gives him the edge, but that he and Kesten’s message is the same: Republicans are the wrong choice to lead the Senate.

“I think progressives and centrists will see that they failed to lead and they’ve abdicated that right,” he said.

Harckham, who said he’s participated in rifle sport shooting, favors “red flag” legislation that could remove guns from residents identified as a violence risk.

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Interview with Jim Martorano

To read the full interview with Jim Martorano, click here.

Q: You came into this race a little late, while fellow Democrat, Robert Kesten, was already months into his campaign. Can you enlighten us as to why you are running?

Jumping into this race was not a foreign concept to me. The party had asked me to get into this race twice before (years ago) but it just wasn’t a good time in my life. This time, it felt like the right time. I looked at the race very closely and I believe I could make a difference. Like you, I looked around and was sick to death at what was going on in Washington and Albany.

The Republican majority in the Senate, in my estimation, has abdicated their right to lead. They couldn’t even pass administerial things like local tax warrants, or renew red light cameras in school districts, let alone pass important things like the Reproductive Health Act, the Child Victims Act, or the Red Flag bill.

Q: Are there any specific objections you have to the performance of Senator Murphy?

None of this is personal, of course, but yes, our policy differences are very stark. For example:

1) We want the Red Flag bill. It will allow a teacher, a counselor, a parent, to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from someone who is deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. It would be a great complement to the Safe Act, which was passed after Sandy Hook. Sen. Murphy wants to overturn the Safe Act.

2) We want to expand access to voting: early registration, same day registration, voting by mail, etc. Sen. Murphy has introduced a voter I.D. bill, which is something out of the Jim Crow South. Its only purpose is to intimidate minorities and discourage people from voting. To our mind, that’s not a Hudson Valley value, that’s a Trump value.

3) I support the Reproductive Health Act. Sen. Murphy opposes it. That’s not a Hudson Valley value, that’s a Trump value.

The Senate is extremely conservative and unyielding in their views. They wouldn’t even bring any of these issues to a vote. So, that’s why I am running, to support the values we believe in, not Trump values.

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Examiner: Harckham Gears Up Campaign During the Heat of Summer

Summer is roughly at its midpoint and Peter Harckham is comfortable with his standing in the 40th state Senate District race.

That doesn’t mean he’s resting on his laurels. To the contrary, the former Westchester County legislator has been out and about in the district meeting with what he hopes are his future constituents, including visiting Metro-North stations before 6 a.m.

“What I’m hearing most is that they want a Senate that works,” Harckham said. “It’s really clear that the Senate has abdicated its right to lead because they really couldn’t even pass the ministerial stuff, the red-light cameras, the home rule tax warrants, all these local little things that should be as of right, that should be done, they got none of it done.”

But Harckham first has to win two contests if he hopes to get elected – the Democratic primary on Sept. 13 against Robert Kesten, who got an early jump in the race late last summer, followed by what would surely be a bruising general election battle against two-term Republican incumbent Terrence Murphy.

Harckham has been racking up endorsements from key Democratic officeholders this summer with Assembly members Sandy Galef (D-Ossining) and Thomas Abinanti (D-Pleasantville) and many of his former colleagues on the Board of Legislators. He is also expected to soon receive the support of County Executive George Latimer.

He said the support he has received from Democrats at the county and state level has bolstered his campaign. Harckham is optimistic that the general public will evaluate him based on his accomplishments.

“I happen to have a record,” Harckham said. “A lot of people know my record, they know of me and they’ll make a choice, good or bad, but I’ve got a resume and so that’s what people will judge what kind of senator that they think I’ll be.”

To read the full article click here.

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Harlem Valley News: Harckham Endorsed by Former Hudson Valley Congressman John Hall


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Harckham Endorsed by NYS Assembly Members & County Legislators

Two key members of the NY State Assembly and four members of Westchester County’s Board of Legislators have endorsed Pete Harckham’s campaign for NY State Senator in District 40, stressing that Harckham’s experience and record of legislative accomplishment make him the most qualified candidate for the seat.

The endorsing Assembly members are Thomas Abinanti (AD 92) and Sandy Galef (AD 95). Westchester County legislators include Catherine Borgia (LD 9), Majority Leader Catherine Parker (LD7), Majority Whip MaryJane Shimsky (LD12) and Vice-Chair Alfreda Williams (LD8). All endorsed Pete over the last ten days.

“I am proud to receive the support of Assembly members Sandy Galef and Tom Abinanti, who recognize that experience matters,” said Harckham. “I look forward to serving as the partner in the State Senate that they currently lack, and to pass important bills like the Reproductive Health Act, The Child Victims Act and Red Flag legislation to remove firearms temporarily from people deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. Together, we will fight for Hudson Valley values.”

“I am pleased to stand with Pete Harckham as the Democratic Candidate for the New York State Senate and to be my state senator. Endorsing Pete may be one of the few things Governor Cuomo and I agree on this year!,” Abinanti said, adding, “I have known Pete for more than ten years, and I saw how effective he could be when he and I served together on the Westchester County Board of Legislators. An environmentalist, Pete demonstrated his concern for clean drinking water and his ability to move government in the effort to build necessary infrastructure to deal with the sewage leaks into Peach Lake”. Abinanti also noted that “Harckham is a leader who can bring people together. He showed it as the Westchester County Legislator’s Majority Leader. He won and was re-elected in a district that had a Republican legislator before him and after he left”.

“I am happy to stand with Pete Harckham in his run for State Senate and I admired his work during his time as legislator and majority leader on the Westchester County Board of Legislators,” said Galef. “His willingness to fight for people who may not have a voice and his commitment to stand up for what is just, regardless of political consequence, makes Pete a fearless progressive champion. He successfully fought housing discrimination in Westchester at a time when some would have preferred to turn a blind eye, and then he helped to fund affordable housing for seniors, our local workforce and the working poor. Having that background of experience and meaningful accomplishment is so important to being an effective legislator. I am looking forward to seeing what he achieves as our next state senator.”

“I am grateful to my former colleagues on the Board of Legislators for their support,” said Harckham. “I look forward to working with them in the Senate to continue to advocate for progressive policies that will benefit all of our constituents.”

“I’m delighted to stand with Pete Harckham, a dedicated, effective, progressive public servant who I’m proud to call a friend and colleague,” said Borgia. “Together we fought to oppose both the Spectra and AIM pipelines, and worked to move Westchester County to embrace renewable energy. Let’s restore Democratic values to New York by electing Pete to the State Senate”.

“In the last year, we’ve won major victories in the Hudson Valley,” said Parker. “We elected George Latimer Westchester County Executive, defended his seat in blow out fashion with Shelley Mayer, flipped four seats in the Westchester County Legislature, and elected Robert Langley Putnam County Sheriff.” She added. “We can build on that momentum this November by flipping the 40th State Senate District and electing a great progressive, Pete Harckham who will give us the decisive vote we need to elect Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins as the Majority Leader of the State Senate next year, and flip the Republican Party’s current one vote advantage”.

“I had the honor of serving with Pete on the Westchester Board of Legislators and know he is progressive yet pragmatic,” said Shimsky. “He co-sponsored many pieces of legislation that helped the environment and helped create jobs. He stood up for progressive values on tough fights like providing affordable child care while protecting the bottom line for taxpayers. Pete has proven he has what it takes to deliver positive change. That’s the kind of experience and leadership we need in Albany, which is why I’m proud to stand with Pete.

“I stand with Pete because Pete has fought for a clean environment, affordable child care and fixing our infrastructure,” said Shimsky, adding “but progressive beliefs are not enough — we need elected officials who know how to get things done”. “Pete has worked cooperatively with government officials to build affordable housing. He quickly rose to leadership on the Westchester County Board of Legislators, where he became known for his integrity and his effectiveness. And his time working for New York State has given him the skill set to make that level of government work for our communities. I stand with Pete because Pete is the kind of leader we need to stand with us.

“I am delighted to stand with Peter Harckham in his race for New York State Senate in Legislative District #40,” said Williams. “Peter is an outstanding candidate and during his time as a Westchester County Legislator was totally committed to improving the Environment and supporting Child Care Initiatives. The citizens in District #40 would be very fortunate to have him as New York State Senator”.

New York State Senate District 40 includes parts of Northern Westchester (Briarcliff Manor, Buchanan, Cortlandt, Croton-on-Hudson, Lewisboro, Mount Kisco, Mount Pleasant, New Castle, North Salem, Peekskill, Pleasantville, Pound Ridge, Sleepy Hollow, Somers, Yorktown) Putnam (Brewster, Carmel, Patterson, Southeast) and Dutchess (Beekman, Pawling).

This story can be read at Patch’s website here.

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Bedford Record-Review: Two Candidates Qualify for Primary Ballot

Nominating petitions filed in Albany last week guaranteed there will be a September primary between Democratic candidates for state senator in the 40th District. The winner will go against incumbent Republican Terrence Murphy in November. The campaigns of Peter Harckham and Robert Kesten – both Lewisboro residents – each filed more than the number of signatures required to qualify for the ballot.

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Patch Letter To The Editor: Support Harckham For State Senate

Click here to read the full article.

During his four terms on the Westchester County Legislature, Peter Harckham achieved a progressive legislative record of accomplishment through impactful bills on the environment, housing, labor, first responders, taxes and human rights. .

Contrary to the misleading intimations of some of his Democratic opponent’s supporters, Harckham has never been associated with the IDC (Independent Democratic Conference), which had nothing whatsoever to do with the Westchester County Legislature, where Pete served as the Democratic majority leader. He has repeatedly and publicly said that if elected to the NY State Senate he will support fellow Westchester Democrat Andrea Stewart-Cousins as majority leader and work diligently to help implement the legislative agenda of the mainstream Democratic Conference.

Harckham’s NY State government experience, where he obtained funding for Westchester municipalities for housing, energy efficiency and transportation, and helped fight for the State’s paid family leave and $15 minimum wage policies, also make him well-qualified to advocate throughout the state capital for Senate District 40’s constituents.

During the course of his career as a public servant, Harckham has consistently put people over politics. He has worked effectively with fellow legislators, county and municipal officials, members of the state legislature and New York’s congressional delegation to get things done. He’s worked with Governor Cuomo on successful initiatives such as the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project, and has also differed with him on such issues as legalized cannabis, charter schools and the AIM pipeline. Harckham, unlike the Governor, has been endorsed by the labor-backed Working Families Party.

Next year the State Senate needs to pass vital bills on reproductive health, common sense gun safety legislation, the Child Victim Act and more. It will be a complicated and challenging process that requires someone with deep legislative experience and a record of government accomplishment who can immediately hit the ground running.

I’ve supported progressive Democrats for many years and I wholeheartedly support Pete now. His track record, values, integrity and expertise make him uniquely qualified to be our next state senator. Peter is the best choice to unseat Terrence Murphy and help enable a true Democratic State Senate majority. He is worthy of all Democratic voters’ support on Primary Day, Thursday September 13th.

Michael Weinberg
Political Director, Harckham campaign

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Pete’s Renewable Energy Op-ed in The Examiner: Time for Wholesale Switch to Renewable Energy

This op-ed by Pete on renewable energy appeared in The Examiner’s July 3, 2018 edition.  

Many local residents are concerned about the safety of living in proximity to the influx of gas pipeline infrastructure. I first became aware of this issue several years ago while Chair of the Board of Legislators Committee on Parks, Labor and Housing and the Spectra pipeline was expanding through Blue Mountain reservation. We held several hearings where experts detailed the health and safety impacts of living near gas infrastructure. Whether expanding a gas pipeline near a school or running a high-pressure gas line near a sensitive site like Indian Point made no sense then and makes no sense now.

Residents are also concerned about the proliferation of gas pipeline compressor stations, like the one in Southeast in Putnam County, and new micro power plants fueled by natural gas. Not only do they both emit methane, with 80% more heat trapping potential than carbon, they also emit volatile organic compounds like benzene, a known carcinogen. These facilities emit over 5.7M pounds of toxins annually.

Currently, the DEC does not require state of the art emissions controls for all gas facilities. The DEC is currently reviewing new standards for such facilities. To protect the health of New Yorkers, DEC should require gas facilities to utilize Lowest Achievable Emissions Rate technology. This is readily available technology and will reduce adverse health impacts to New Yorkers living in proximity to such infrastructure. With 80,000 people per decade more expected to die due to the Trump cuts to clean air & water regulations, according to a recently released Harvard study, New Yorkers deserve nothing less.

Fortunately there is good news. Natural gas was once considered a transition fuel to a cleaner energy system because it contributes fewer green house gases than coal or oil. However, not only have we learned more about the health impacts of gas infrastructure in the intervening years, renewable energy technology is now abundant and financially more attractive.

Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that in 2016, global investment in wind and solar power more than doubled that of nuclear, coal, oil and gas generated power by $297B to $143B. Private markets are now realizing that renewable energy is less expensive to produce than carbon based energy, and the technology is abundant and competitive. While New York is a national leader in solar proliferation, we need to double down and expand opportunities, not just for personal renewables, but large-scale commercial renewable energy as well.

My mother lives in a retirement community where every outdoor parking space is shielded from the elements by solar panels above. Further, the facility uses vacant land to host a ‘solar farm’, further reducing their dependence on the grid. As a County Legislator I passed a Solar Inventory Act. Require Westchester to analyze every county owned roof, parking lot and spare land for the suitability of large-scale solar installation. We should do the same at the state level, including SUNY and our state highway right of ways. By employing net metering, the excess energy created flows back into the grid and the owner’s utility bill is reduced.

When the private sector invests twice in renewables what it has in carbon-based energy, we are no longer living with renewables as a “down the road” vision unique to environmentalists. Renewables are now the more cost effective and safer form of energy generation. Wall Street has embraced this. Will we?

Pete Harckham

Peter Harckham served on the Westchester County Board of Legislators representing northeast Westchester from 2008-2015, and in the Governor’s Administration from 2015-2018. He is currently a candidate for New York State Senate in the 40th District.

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