A Putnam County lawyer announced he will run in a rematch against Assemblyman Steve Katz, a Republican who was charged with marijuana possession and speeding on the Thruway last March.
Andrew Falk, a Democrat, said Katz, R-Yorktown, Westchester County, has failed the 94th Assembly District in his two terms. Falk, 46, lost to Katz in 2012 in a district that stretches across northern Westchester and parts of Putnam. If he wins the Democratic nomination, Falk would face Katz in November.
“Steve Katz has gone up and picked fights with people and made himself politically impotent,” Falk said in an interview with Gannett’s Albany Bureau. “He has not been able to get anything done for the district.”
Katz was charged with marijuana possession and speeding, but he paid a speeding fine and completed community service for the marijuana ticket in July, so the pot charge was tossed.
Katz has apologized for the incident and changed his position on medical marijuana. He voted against the legalization of medical marijuana last year, but voted for it this year.
Katz indicated last month that he’s joining up with a California venture-capital firm to seek investments in marijuana-related businesses.
Falk said his rematch isn’t motivated by Katz’s high-profile traffic stop. He said the district needs to focus on helping the middle class, which he contended hasn’t been adequately addressed by Katz.
But he said Katz’s “hypocrisy” would be a campaign issue. He alleged that Katz changed his stance on marijuana only after the traffic stop.
“It’s only when his hypocrisy blew up in spectacular fashion on the Thruway that he now comes up with a different narrative,” Falk said.
Katz has been an outspoken opponent of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, who has been criticized for his handling of sexual harassment charges against Democratic colleagues.
In a statement, Katz knocked Falk.
“It is truly a shame that my opponent, not even waiting a minute within announcing his challenge to me, has already resorted to negative campaigning,” Katz said. “It is this type of candidate, one devoid of ideas and only interested in a paycheck, that makes me worry for the future of our great state.”
Katz, 60, a veterinarian, defended his record, saying he has helped pass legislation that has benefited his constituents.
“My opponent has consistently defended Sheldon Silver, Vito Lopez and the corruption that has covered up the abuse of women and the creation of a hostile work environment in our government,” Katz continued. “I am confident that when given the option, the voters in my district will see that I stand with them and represent their ideals.”
Falk said he would strike a more conciliatory tone if he joined the Democratic majority in Albany. The district has about 4,700 more enrolled Republicans than Democrats.
He said he would seek to address unfunded state mandates, push for a 15 percent state tax credit for every new employee and build cooperation between colleges and the private sector.
“It’s never been about Steve Katz in the sense that’s why I got into the race,” Falk said. “I really felt that the needs of the middle class of the 94th Assembly District weren’t being well represented.”