Challenger Claire Cousin focuses campaign on issues

Claire Cousin

Provided

Challenger Claire Cousin focuses campaign on issues

HUDSON — Claire Cousin, a 31-year old Hudson Valley native focused on community advocacy and social justice, has mounted a primary challenge to six-term Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D- 106).

Cousin, who is co-founder of the Hudson/Catskill Housing Coalition and a member of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, launched her campaign last year at the urging of the Working Families Party, which endorses her along with more than a dozen other organizations in the primary to be held on June 25.

Cousin said the top issues she wants to address in the Assembly include affordability, climate, housing and education.

“What I’m bringing to the Assembly is the strong quality of an organizer. I’m bringing the tact that it takes to work across party lines to get things done on behalf of constituents,” Cousin said during an interview with The Millerton News.

“I think my experience as a biracial child growing up in this area...in order for people to hear what my experience truly was it took a certain amount of tact to have that conversation.

“It took a level of listening and it took a level of articulation to get people to meet me in the middle and hear that my experience was real,” she said, “and that has carried over with me into politics.”

Cousin said that one of her first priorities if elected would be to sign on for the NY Heat Act, which won Senate approval this spring but was left out of the final state budget. Among its provisions is a goal to protect low-to-moderate income customers from energy costs that exceed 6% of their income.

Cousin also said that she wants to support the New York climate Change Superfund Act, which would require emitters to help pay for the impact of climate change and which, like the NY Heat Act, didn’t make it into the final budget.

“I don’t want people to think that my goal is to go in and reinvent the wheel,” Cousin said.

Calling climate, housing and affordability her three top priorities, Cousin said, “I think that climate and housing fall under the umbrella of affordability.”

“Anywhere from subsidized housing to home ownership, there is a conversation to be had around what affordable housing looks like in these communities,” she said, noting that gentrification is happening throughout the entire state, and that rural communities are struggling with affordability.

On the impact of climate change on farmers in Dutchess and Columbia counties, Cousin said it’s important to realize the goals of the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

“I’ve spoken to farmers,” she said, “who say, you know, it’s possible but it’s expensive.”

Or, she said, they comment the transition is going to take time, and “I am sympathetic to that.”

Cousin considers that upfront subsidies to farmers make sense to help them with the transition.

“But also I’m not a farmer,” she said. “So having open dialogue with what is the broad need across the district. What other supports they might be looking for.”

Cousin said she would look forward to working with Sen. Michelle Hinchey (D-41), who is chair of the Agriculture Committee.

“I’m also thinking of having a partner in Michelle...she’s done a lot on agriculture.”

Cousin said she’s “not ashamed to have conversations with people with more knowledge than me, and you know, put it all together and come up with viable solutions for the District.”

She also said she would be interested in supporting legislation promoted by Assemblymember Sarahana Shrestha (D-103) and Sen. Hinchey that would create a publicly owned utility to replace Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corp.

On running for the legislature as mother of three, Cousin said, “I’m young enough that this is the right time to establish a precedent in my household of what a stable career looks like and feels like, and also provide an example for my kids, about, you know, if it’s important enough for you, you find a way to make it happen.”

Early voting starts June 15 and runs through June 23.

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