Democrat Kevindaryán Luján, who has served one term as Orange County Legislature for Newburgh, District Four since 2017, announced he is running for re-election. Luján plans to continue to be a progressive voice in the legislature, despite it’s super Republican majority.
Luján is a lifelong advocate in anti-racist, pro-environment, pro-union and pro-Newburgh work. Since he was elected, his key issues have been focused on the county’s transportation system, affordable housing, expanding health and mental health services, increasing community college funds and bringing more jobs and business to Newburgh.
“Nowhere in my wildest dreams did I think we would be in a super minority,” said Luján. “It comes with its challenges. On one hand, there are my things we come in wanting to do and then you also have to govern. I think we’ve governed very well despite being in the super minority.”
Luján said COVID-19 highlighted inadequacies that were already here in Orange County and Newburgh.
“I’ve been on the frontline of these issues for a longtime,” said Luján. “I knew there were problems before becoming a legislator.”
His bottom up approach to politics allows for a front line look at what is going on in his district and the county, even before the pandemic. The policies he pushed for were always for “those who might not be at the table because they don’t know about it or no one made them feel they can be a part of the process.”
Some of Luján’s highlights during his time in the legislature include expanding the budget for SUNY Orange by millions of dollars, prioritizing workforce development, making it easier for residents to obtain services, housing and connect them to health resources in real time, and his more recent work with the planning department to expand a pilot program to connect people to jobs across the county.
“I know the biggest challenge for my constituents is the inability for community members to get access to jobs,” said Luján. “All of the jobs at big warehouses, whether we like the warehouses or not, they are far away. Our community members can’t get to them. This economic loop will give them access to those jobs.”
He plans to continue his advocacy with better transportation. While ideally he believes that transportation should be free, he is starting by calling for an increase in bus stops, expanding where people can take the bus to and longer hours of operation.
“The challenges ahead are numerous, but I have been in the front lines and am committed to overcome them,” said Luján in a press release.
When it comes to housing, Luján said he has pushed back on money spent on hotels and motels when it can go to transitional and affordable housing instead. He believes in giving nonprofits who want to create housing seed money so they can begin their initiative.
“Newburgh Ministry is a perfect example of working with individuals who are homeless and help them get into housing,” said Luján. “I am fully supportive of that.”
With social justice, Luján believes the systemic racism in Orange County isn’t talked about enough. A couple of weeks ago he co-sponsored a Black Lives Matter resolution, which was ultimately “watered down” by the Republicans. With Executive Order 203, a police reform initiative from the state, he said he will “never back down.”
“When it comes to systemic racism, I will never give an inch,” said Luján about discussions with the rest of the legislature.
“The time for silence is long gone, the time for social and racial injustice has long passed,” said Luján. “We need leaders who are unapologetic about that. That’s in my record.”
Looking ahead, he plans to address healthcare issues like the rise of STDs in Orange County among the youth, help get the community vaccinated and continue to tackle the spread of COVID-19, work towards food security, and continue to collaborate with local community organizations.
“I humbly ask the residents of Newburgh to once again look at my work in the community, my commitment to our neighbors, and my focus on making tomorrow’s Newburgh better than today’s,” said Luján in a press release. “I ask you to again choose me to represent you.”