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  • Rich Klein

Congressional District 19 Candidate Profile: Josh Riley

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

Josh Riley in photo from his campaign website

Josh Riley, one of the Democratic candidates running in the general election in November for the 19th Congressional District, said that he expects to make an appearance in Sullivan County over the Memorial Day weekend.

He was in Sullivan on Sunday night, when he met with Anne Hart, chair of the Sullivan County Democratic Committee (SCDC) at the Roscoe Diner.

Hart withheld commenting on that meeting or another meeting she held Monday at the New Munson Diner in Liberty with the other Democrat in the race, Jamie Cheney.

But Hart told The SullivanTimes on Tuesday that the next step in the process is for the full SCDC to meet the candidates.

Because the redistricting maps were just finalized and made public early Saturday morning, there's been little time for local political organizations and voters to fully assess new candidates, who themselves were thrust into the unenviable position of having to quickly decide what redrawn districts offered them the best shot at winning primaries and a general election.

Riley and Cheney will be on the ballot for the August 23 Democratic primary ahead of the November general election.

Like his opponent, Riley got into the 19th race last weekend - when he pivoted from running in Congressional District 22 .

That's because when State Supreme Court Justice Paul McAllister (Steuben County) issued an order last weekend finalizing the new redistricting maps created by Special Master Jonathan Cervas, it shifted boundaries of many districts around the state.

Aside from Sullivan voters now facing two very new candidates who don't have roots in the county, there's additional confusion being created by a special election for the 19th District seat that will be officially vacated by Congressman Antonio Delgado today (Wednesday).

As of 9 am this morning, Governor Kathy Hochul still had not announced the date of that election, but that could change later today after Delgado is sworn in. (Delgado then faces his own Democratic primary for Lt. Governor on June 28).

In the special election to replace Delgado, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, a Democrat, is facing off against Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro, a Republican. (Ryan finished a close second to Delgado during the June 2018 Democratic primary).

Regardless of the outcome of the special election, Molinaro will then face a GOP primary challenge from Brandon Buccola on August 23 for the general election, while Ryan has already said he will be running for the revamped 18th District, which includes much more of his hometown Ulster than the 19th.

As for Riley, who grew up in Endicott just outside Binghamton, he has already racked up some experience in Washington, serving as general counsel to former Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, and, later, as an attorney at two law firms. He's on leave from his latest firm, Jenner & Block, that he joined in January 2021 while campaigning for Congress. Before going on leave, he worked in the D.C. office of Jenner & Block representing clients that are investigated by Congress.

Riley said he comes from a family that has worked and lived in the Southern Tier for a century, including ancestors who worked in factories that were for so long the heart and pride of the region.

The four generations that came before him worked in the local factories, making shoes and boots at the Endicott-Johnson Shoe Company and circuit boards in the IBM factories, he states on his website.

But that was before so many of those 20th century factories shuttered as those manufacturing jobs shifted to cheaper labor overseas.

"We had really good blue collar jobs making some of the most important things in the world," Riley said of the factories in the Southern Tier and across upstate New York. "You could earn a place in the middle class even if you didn't have a college degree."

He blames "corrupt and career politicians" and an "economy rigged against working people" for the departure of those companies and the middle class jobs that accompanied them.

However, Riley is optimistic that upstate New York as a whole can get those jobs back.

"We can do advanced manufacturing, good union jobs. That's what we've always done in upstate New York," he said. One example he cited is a plan by an energy group and SUNY-Binghamton for the production of lithium batteries.

Riley noted that when jobs and opportunities left, "drugs came in" to communities in upstate New York. "The opioid crisis has ripped apart communities across upstate New York," he said.

"First, it is unnecessarily costly and ineffective to burden our police, courts and jails with the challenges of addressing addiction and mental illness in our communities, " Riley wrote in the December 2017 piece with Jay Nelson, who worked for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "Studies show that a dollar wisely spent on treatment can save at least $4 in other social costs, like incarceration and emergency room visits. "

The Broome County Legislature later passed the bill for the funding.

On the the American economy and international trade, Riley also believes that there have been bad policies by leaders of both major political parties when it comes to China. He says that upstate New Yorkers and all American workers have been victims of "disastrous trade deals."

"We need to go back to trade policies that put Americans on a level playing field," he said, adding that letting China back into the World Trade Association has been "costly" while environmental and labor standards were overlooked in that process.

Turning to the war in Ukraine, Riley expressed the pain felt by many, describing (Vladimir) "Putin's unprovoked and completely unjustified invasion of Ukraine" and the tragic humanitarian crisis that continues.

He said one lesson from the invasion is that America need to become less dependent on fossil fuels and that there's an opportunity to create jobs in a new economy.

On his campaign website, he described climate change as "an existential threat that requires bold action" and that the nation needs to get to zero net greenhouse emissions "and we must do it quickly."

He also believes that the nation needs "more environmental cops on the beat to stop polluters."


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