Rockland: Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee faces challenge from Orangetown’s Michael Lawler

February 26, 2020

The Journal News

By Robert Brum

Veteran lawmaker Ellen Jaffee faces her most aggressive reelection challenge in years as she seeks to capture an eighth term representing parts of Ramapo and Orangetown in the state Assembly.

Jaffee, a Democrat from Suffern who has served in Albany for 14 years, announced her intention to seek another two-year term just days after Republican Michael Lawler jumped into the race. 

Lawler, a campaign consultant and strategist who was formerly the state GOP’s executive director, currently serves as Orangetown’s deputy town supervisor.

In a news release announcing her decision to seek reelection, Jaffee touted her efforts to “ensure that every child regardless of zip code has access to what our state guarantees — the right to a quality and equitable education.”

Jaffee pointed out her sponsorship of the so-called “boss bill,” which empowers women and families to make reproductive health decisions without interference from their employers.

As chair of the Assembly Committee on Children and Families, Jaffee said she expanded access to quality, affordable childcare by creating a childcare task force.

“No family, whether low or middle income, should have to pay childcare costs that nearly equal housing costs,” she said. “Quality affordable childcare predicts success for all children. I consider it a right.”

She also serves on the Environmental Conservation, Health, Mental Health and Education committees.

Jaffee, 75, easily won reelection over her last two opponents, Chestnut Ridge Mayor Rosario Presti in 2018 and Joseph Chabot in 2016. The 2020 election is Nov. 3.

Before serving in the Assembly, she was elected as Suffern village trustee and a Rockland County legislator.

The Assembly district, which covers parts of Ramapo and all of Orangetown, has nearly 80,000 registered voters, with registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans by a more than two-to-one ratio.

‘Affordability crisis’

In a news release announcing his candidacy, Lawler, 33, positioned himself as an advocate for lowering taxes, streamlining government and tackling Albany corruption.

“We live in the second highest taxed county in America and our elected representatives in Albany have failed to address the critical issues impacting our communities,” he said. “I’m running because we have an affordability crisis that’s making it near-impossible for average families to live here. This did not happen on its own: Rockland has been short-changed on school aid for decades — leading to crippling local tax hikes and underperforming schools — and our incumbent officials have allowed it to go on. That’s wrong and it must end.”

The Pearl River resident and Suffern High School graduate previously worked in the Westchester County Executive’s office.

Lawler supports statewide term limits. He said that among the issues his campaign will address are: Criminal justice reforms “that are returning dangerous criminals to our communities;” a state education formula that he says shortchanges Rockland schools; rising Medicaid costs; and MTA cost overruns and reduced service to Rockland County.