Republican Colin Schmitt is campaigning this season to keep the title of Assemblyman for the 99th District, which covers parts of Orange and Rockland county, that he has held since November of 2018.
The Town of New Windsor, Town of Cornwall, Town of Highlands, Town of Hamptonburgh, Town of Blooming Grove, Village of Woodbury, Town of Stony Point, Town of Wawayanda, Town of Goshen and Town of Chester are all included in the 99th District.
Before becoming the Assembly member for the 99th District, Schmitt worked as New Windsor’s Chief of Staff for former supervisor George Green where he helped oversee operations.
During this time, he was able to push forward New Windsor’s economic development with several town projects. Some of which include the restoration of New Windsor Woodlawn Cemetery, the construction of a playground at Kristi Babcock Memorial Park and an Arbor Day celebration honoring first responders and veterans.
However, Green lost his election last year to George Meyers. Ultimately, Meyers removed the Chief of Staff position and Schmitt ran for Assemblyman.
Schmitt passed 43 sponsored and cosponsored bills in his first legislative session, one of the highest for a freshman in the Assembly. He has a “bipartisan legislative focus on tax relief, ethics reform, preservation of our community and natural resources, and delivers our fair share of funding from Albany.”
During the 2019-2020 legislative session, he was named as the Ranking Minority Member of the Assembly committee on Local Government. He also serves on the Banks, Housing, Labor and Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development committees.
“I am very proud of my first legislative session,” said Schmitt. “I’ve worked in a bipartisan fashion because at the end of the day that’s how we get things done. Whether it’s at the local level or in Albany, I always look to build dynamic relationships. It’s does this help my district and how do I make it happen?”
Additionally, he created the Small Business of the Month Appreciation Program, 99th Assembly District Art Showcase and other community events.
Schmitt graduated from Valley Central High School and then attended the Catholic University of America where he earned a degree in politics with a minor in theology and religious studies. He also serves in the Army National Guard.
During his second legislative session he’d like to “continue his track record of proven results.” He hopes to continue to pass legislation for the district that will restore funding, focus on community preservation and help with property tax relief, and is especially pushing for a senior property tax freeze.
He is endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, IBT Local 831 Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association, the New York State Police Investigators Association, Stony Point Supervisor Monaghan, the Civil Service Employees Association, Laborers’ Local 17, the New York State Court Officers Association, the New York State Fraternal Order of Police, North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters and pro jobs and tax relief group Unshackle Upstate.
When he’s not in the office, Schmitt spends his time hanging out with his wife and dog, outdoors hiking on the local trails, kayaking and boating. He is looking forward to the nearby hunting season as well.
His opponent is lifelong Orange County resident Sarita Bhandarkar, who was born in Port Jervis. She is an attorney and a teacher who has “worked on the frontlines and witnessed the inequalities that erode the everyday quality of life for young and old across our region.”
Her former experience includes being a board member and past president of Leadership Orange, the co-chair of Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan Counties’ Professional Advisors Council, and a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and the Dispute Resolution Center.
Bhandarkar is also a small business owner of Bhandarkar Law, P.C. in Cornwall since 2018, where she has worked with trusts and estates, elder law, Medicaid planning and in other areas.
“You are dealing with families who are facing an illness but also who are worried about losing their life savings or home,” said Bhandarkar. “I start to see patterns and recurring themes. Problems are based on if somebody gets sick, property taxes, school taxes. I’ve been doing everything on a one to one level with families for so long and I want to get to the next level to be able to help people and implement change in legislation in Albany.”
She graduated from Tufts University with a bachelors in English and Education. She then went to the College of William and Mary School of Law to receive her Juris Doctor degree.
In 2010, she earned her Master of Laws from New York Law School.
She is a first-generation American, with her parents first coming to the United States in the 1970s.
A part of the Democratic and Working Families parties she hopes to keep the Hudson Valley affordable, help ensure affordable healthcare access for all, to protect seniors and support and improve public schools.
One of her biggest beliefs is that schools should not be funded through property taxes, and that there are other ways to fund schools that are better. She is also concerned about the amount of development in the area and if it helps long term goals.
“What you build is not going to create a living wage job for people in our community,” said Bhandarkar. “They’re either moving further out or they’re here but not building wealth or security for their families.”
Overall, Bhandarkar wants to be an effective advocate for Assembly District 99 in Albany.
“By working with the Majority in the State Assembly, across party lines, as well with our partners in the State Senate, we will be able to enact legislative victories for all constituents in the 99th District and to make our district a better place for everyone,” said Bhandarkar.
Regarding the topic of defunding the police, she said, “I have never, ever, ever said I would defund the police. I think the police have a lot of value in our society and the job they do is very difficult.”
She is endorsed by the Working Families party, New York State United Teachers, Public Employees Federation, Planned Parenthood, Moms Demand Action, Eleanor’s Legacy, College Democrats of New York, Orange County Democratic Women, Latino Democratic Committee, Hudson Valley Stonewall Democrats, NR Young Democrats, Orange County Democratic Committee, State Senator Jen Metzger and State Senator James Skoufis, who served as the 99th District Assemblyman from 2013 to 2018. New Windsor Supervisor Meyers also endorsed Bhandarkar.
“I think Colin Schmitt’s voting record speaks for itself,” said Bhandarkar on her opponent. “I think when you’re elected to office, your responsibility is to represent the best interests and viewpoints of your constituents. His voting record does not reflect the majority of us.”