In keeping with our Top Ten theme, here are ten key takeaways gleaned from my interview with David Buchwald, shortly after our 41 year-old legislator (Assembly District 93) announced his candidacy in October for the 17th Congressional district held by Nita Lowey for the last 31 years. After he was among the first to enter the race*: the interview took place over a 45-minute session seated at his dining room table in White Plains.
1. He is very enthusiastic about his candidacy and enjoys multiple corners of support. “I’m feeling excited because a lot of people approached me and said I’d be the right person to succeed Nita Lowey! Moving forward, it will be a pleasure to be able to fight for Westchester and Rockland Counties. We need a government in Washington that’s much more effective than it has been the last few years. That’s an important task that I’m up for.”
Upon deciding, David made his first call to his wife Lara, an attorney/litigator on the board for the Legal Aid Society. “She was very supportive. I couldn’t be in this line of work without a good support network.”
Outside his family, there’s no shortage of support or perception that Buchwald has earned this candidacy. Prior to his stint in the State Assembly, Buchwald served in local government, as a member of the White Plains Common Council, where he represented the entire city population of 57,000. He has also worked in support of municipalities throughout the State as a member of the Local Governments Committee of the New York State Assembly.
Since announcing, grassroots activists have already begun rallying on his behalf, and numerous and enthusiastic endorsements have been forthcoming including those from White Plains Mayor Tom Roach, North Castle Town Mayor Michael Michael Schiliro, Mount Kisco Mayor Gina Picinich, Rye Town Supervisor Gary Zuckerman, and New Castle Town Supervisor-Elect Ivy Pool.
Said Schiliro: “Throughout his career, Assemblyman Buchwald has been a responsive and trusted ally, as we’ve worked together to save taxpayers money, improve our libraries, and serve the people of North Castle I know he will be ready to undo the damage done at the federal level. David will be a leader we can count on in Congress.”
Pool expressed her pride in endorsing Buchwald commenting to me that “David is a tireless advocate on local issues, while also championing our shared values. He is smart, creative, and industrious, and I know he will continue to work hard on behalf of his constituents as our Congressman. David is a worthy successor to Congresswoman Nita Lowey who has been a friend to New Castle, and an inspiration to so many.”
2. His two adorable preschoolers, together with Lara, too, are the lights of his life; plus, they make him cognizant of enhancing quality of life for all of his constituents. At the time of the interview, Anna, 4, and Amelia, 2 were outside playing with the family nanny. Post our conversation, I fell hard for their infectious smiles and unsolicited hugs.
“I love seeing life through their eyes… Also, If you are trying to create a brighter future for them, it means a brighter future for everyone. There may be things Lara and I can do individually for them, but there are things–like climate change–that we need to do together for everyone…
“Hopefully every child who grows up here in the Hudson Valley has access to all the amazing things in this area. One of the big challenges for any representative in this area is maintaining affordability for families. He hopes to see their children “stick around and come back after college.
Robust employers are looking to relocate where young professionals live, he noted, adding that he would promote the county’s transit system to attract those employers. “I used to live two blocks from White Plains train station. There’s not many places outside New York City that you can live without a car!”
He called Lara his “Number 1 advisor. She makes sure I stay level-headed. I like to think I don’t get too full of myself; she’s someone I draw inspiration from–an accomplished professional in her own right, and a passionate advocate for legal representation.”
3. He plans to hit the ground running and keep his door open. As he nears a 10-year anniversary of public service, Buchwald encourages residents to look closely at his record. “No issue is too small. My door is always open–if a constituent wants to connect with me, we always try to make that happen quickly.”
He said that he believes his constituents have viewed him as “always present, always paying attention…. I think that’s crucial to establish for this congressional race. Traffic willing, part of my goal in the campaign is to be everywhere my schedule allows.”
4. He expressed a commitment to building on the work and skills he has already brought to the table. “We will continue to fight for the environment, for a woman’s right to choose, and will make sure we bring resources to help those who are struggling to make ends meet…. I will put forward my vantage point as a tax attorney by trade to try to significantly improve and do right by those undermined by a Republican Congress and Trump’s SALT reduction. He said adjustments need to be made in recognition that the cost of living here is higher.
5. He will continue to wage battle against the gun violence epidemic. “It’s one of my main issues and what I ran on. I will try to bring my record of success in New York State to bear at the Federal level. The first vote I cast as a State Assemblyman was for the New York SAFE Act* which I co-sponsored. I have no doubt it has saved lives in New York.
He said he backed it up by a series of measures including expanding background checks and preventing “ghost guns…” “Common sense safety measures have been stymied despite that most Americans support them. We’re getting to the point where New York State can only control so much because so much is tied to out of state…”
6. He aims to make it harder for any top government official in New York, including Trump, to hide their tax returns. Buchwald noted that he gained particular notoriety for a successful push, he explained, to adopt a law allowing the sharing of the New York State tax returns of top government officials, a law which Donald Trump is now suing to block.
He elaborated: “The law says New York State has a copy of tax returns of every filer in the state and that Trump as a New York state resident files his income tax returns. We already share those returns with the IRS, with tax departments in dozens of other states, so we said: “Let’s have that same sort of cooperation with our federal counterparts in Congress. So we passed my bill, and it’s now law, and Trump is suing to overturn that law. A New York motion to dismiss the case is pending…. I’ve always believed that open transparent government can make for better decision making.”
7. He will fight to protect a woman’s right to choose. “No matter what happens at the Supreme Court level, women in our region can have confidence that their rights will be protected. But, at the Federal level: there is an ongoing battle over basic principles that we’ve assumed for decades won’t have government interference–that we won’t make access to healthcare dependent on financial wherewithal. It’s very disheartening to think that means equates with health care; it’s antithetical to the right of a woman to consult with a doctor and make up her own mind.”
8. He will speak out against racism, hate and anti-Semitism. “I think Trump has tried to govern by division and the great thing about the United States is that we are a country that at our best brings people together from so many different backgrounds, and that creates a society that is stronger than any one group of individuals can create on their own. We have a lot of work to do to bring the country together.” He said he’d like to see a government “that does not use the Justice Department to undermine freedoms, or the Department of Homeland Security to tear homes apart. We need to ensure we have leaders who lead by example.”
“My role as an elected official now, and hopefully in the future, is to bring people together. We have great towns and cities with shared experiences that can be built on. If you try to pit one part of a community against another, that turns very dangerous very quickly. We’re seeing that with racism, with anti-Semitism… So, that’s part of why I’ve spoken up at any opportunity to denounce hatred and say that a threat to any one individual or community is a threat to all.”
9. As has been Nita Lowey’s long established commitment, he too will support Israel. “I’m a strong supporter of Israel and a progressive. To me, those things go hand in hand. We have to support our friends around the world who stand for those values we support as Americans. That includes democracy and basic notions of tolerance. Israel is a country that welcomes refugees. It used to be that America was also known for that. My wife and I serve on a refugee committee at our synagogue to help sponsor a family where the father/husband served as an interpreter for our troops overseas. A legal immigrant is what a refugee is: admitted under the law. To see Trump cutting back on legal immigration strikes me as going against the core of what our country should be about.
“It’s important for the United States to push for peace and stability in the Middle East and support the ability of Israel and Palestinians and other Arab neighbors to work through long established issues. Those who would seek to have the United States abandon their best ally in the region undermine the best aspects of Progressivism which recognizes the innate worth of people being able to make self-determining decisions.”
10. His Judaism shapes his general outlook and encourages him to fight against corruption. “I am cognizant that my religion teaches me to be humble in light of the fact that there are things in this world we can’t control. And that’s certainly true of campaigns. But if you put your best foot forward and determine you’re in it for the right reasons, there are people who will back you up. I find that very gratifying. I couldn’t have gone to Albany and affected change there without having people who have my back. I had to fight people who wanted to maintain the status quo and was lucky to have constituents who sent me there precisely to shake things up, namely, to strip corrupt officials of their pensions.* They said it couldn’t be done, and now it’s the law of the land. You can only engage when you have a sense that there’s a purpose. I like to think my religion supports that. My grandfather was a rabbi. I like to think he’d be proud of that.”
*Editor’s Note: This article conveys highlights of a conversation with our hometown legislator. Buchwald is a single candidate in the race with a number of new candidates vying for the spot too since the time of this writing. For additional information about any of Buchwald’s legislation mentioned here, or about his new campaign, from his perspective too, please visit DavidBuchwaldforCongress.com.