This is another installment in the Meet your next Congressional representative series. Previous candidate profiles can be found on The Ithaca Voice’s 2022 Election landing page.
ITHACA, N.Y.—Marc Molinaro, a prominent Republican in New York State from the Hudson Valley, is aiming to bring “Upstate common sense” to Congress.
Molinaro is running unopposed in the Republican primary, and has his eyes locked on winning one of the most competitive congressional districts in New York State. As he makes his case to the people of New York’s 19th Congressional District (NY19) that he should be sent to Washington to represent them, Molinaro is leaning on a deep career in public service.
“I admire the work of local government officials more than I admire the work of members of Congress,” said Molinaro.
A lifelong politician and public servant, Molinaro entered politics at the age of 18 when he was elected to serve on the Board of Trustees for the Village of Tivoli in the Hudson Valley. He then rose to the position of mayor of his hometown at the age of 19, making him the youngest mayor in the U.S. at the time.
From there, he was elected to the Dutchess County Legislature, then to the New York State Assembly. In 2012, he left the state legislature, winning a bid for Dutchess County executive, where he is currently serving a third term. In total, Molinaro has accumulated almost three decades of experience in office.
But Molinaro’s name truly went statewide when he made a run against former New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2018. He lost that election, but the publicity has become capital for his congressional bid.
His time and accomplishments serving Dutchess County and the Hudson Valley have strongly shaped the policies Molinaro’s has built his platform on, frequently pointing to the accomplishments made there when explaining what he would like to do if elected to congress.
Molinaro said he wants to improve America’s approach to mental health, calling it a “crisis across the country.” He said he wants to see the federal government require public and private insurance to cover “meaningful mental health services,” and for reimbursement rates to be increased for those seeking treatment.
“If we can commit trillions of dollars to military expenses, we can commit billions of dollars necessary to build up a public mental health infrastructure that’s community based,” said Molinaro.
Asked if he thought that the U.S. is overspending on the military, Molinaro responded, “I think everything is a matter of priority. I believe in national defense, I believe in spending on our military, but at the same time […] I’m saying that of equal concern ought to be what is an epidemic. It is a crisis across this country, because there are individuals that don’t have access to mental health services.”
Also at the top of Molinaro’s issues is stronger federal action on addressing the opioid epidemic in the U.S.
Molinaro is a proponent of expanding community based services that intervene and prevent individuals struggling with addiction from entering the criminal justice system, and broadly accessible medication-based treatment to wean individuals away from opioids, with drugs like methadone and suboxone. Peer to peer mediation, recovery coaches, and a general build-up of community based care networks that can facilitate a “soft handoff” for people struggling with addiction and are transitioning back into communities from prison, jails, or hospitals, Molinaro says need more federal funds.
“As a nation, we don’t lack the funding, we lack the coordination, and we lack the integration of the services,” said Molinaro.
Molinaro, though, is skeptical of safe injection sites. It’s an approach to addressing addiction, which he said he sees as “giving up on what truly works in helping people get to sobriety and jumping to what we think will work simply because we don’t have the other tools in place. I don’t believe that we should jump over those other tools.”
Cryptocurrency and digital assets, Molinaro believes, are a new extension of the economy that he wants to see embraced.
A bill that would impose a two-year moratorium on energy-intensive forms of cryptocurrency mining passed the New York State legislature and is now before Governor Kathy Hochul, who has avoided taking a clear position on the issue. Molinaro said he thinks the Governor should veto the bill.
He believes there are “ways to address the environmental concerns” around energy-intensive forms of cryptocurrency mining, which environmental advocates have stressed will impact the state’s ability to meet its climate goals. But Molinaro thinks New York State needs to act now on cryptocurrency or it will lose the opportunity.
“We can either embrace it, and use it as the next tool of innovation and finance or we can pretend it doesn’t exist and not be a leader,” Molinaro said.
On the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Molinaro is trying to walk a fine line while maintaining a pro-life stance. In a statement to The Poughkeepsie Journal, Molinaro said that he is opposed to “late-term abortion” but that the overturning of Roe v. Wade does not change New York State’s “settled law.”
On addressing mass shootings, Molinaro pointed towards investments in mental health resources, and youth services as opposed to tightening restrictions on access to guns — an approach that New York State has embraced at large.
In 2018, during his run for New York State Governor, Molinaro defined himself to a larger audience of voters as a moderate Republican, not willing to exactly embrace or scorn then-President Donald Trump, trying to keep the new center of gravity in the Republican party at an arm’s distance.
Molinaro has said that he did not vote for Trump in 2016 over “significant differences” he held with him, mainly for how Trump mocked a disabled journalist in 2015. Molinaro has a child with developmental disabilities, a group of people he has pledged to advocate for.
Molinaro has been embraced by strong supporters of the former president, like Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY21), though his views on Trump remain evasive.
Asked if he thinks the national Republican party needs to move on from Trump and coalesce around a new figure, Molinaro said that if Trump wants to run for president in 2024, “the [Republican] party will navigate that and my position remains very, very simple. The voters of the 19th congressional district need somebody to represent them. And I’ll work with anybody who’s earnest and honest, in their focus on trying to provide resources to the people of upstate New York.”
This commitment to his constituency is something Molinaro says he’s not afraid of losing if he were elected to serve in the capital.
“I’m not enamored with the title, I didn’t work in Washington, D.C., I have no desire to relocate there.”