There have been for some time now a number of “Gashi for Assembly” signs around Yorktown. In case you were wondering who exactly is Vedat Gashi, I thought it would be appropriate to find out more about him. It turns out that he is the Democrat who is running this November for the 94th Assembly District seat occupied by Kevin Byrne. Mr. Gashi was nice enough to grant me this interview.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up? Which schools did you attend?
I was born in Kosovo, but moved to the United States when I was 4 years old. We first lived in the Bronx then, 29 years ago, my family moved to Yorktown.
I attended Lakeland schools: Lakeland Copper Beech Middle School, and then Lakeland High School (class of ’96). I earned a B.A. from Connecticut College and a J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law.
Tell us about your family.
I am one of five kids and all of us are graduates of Lakeland High School. Four of us still live in Yorktown and are raising our own families here, sending our kids to Yorktown schools.
My father passed away a few years ago, but my mother still lives in town. My wife, Vjosa, and I are the proud parents of two wonderful children: Leka, 7, and Hana, 5.
What is your occupation?
I am an attorney. I previously worked for the United States Agency for International Development at the United Nations. These days I have a small private legal practice specializing in real estate.
Why did you decide to run for the Assembly?
I have always been interested and engaged in politics. I volunteered on several campaigns (my first campaign was for Bill Bradley’s presidential campaign in 2000). My family has been extremely fortunate, arriving here as poor immigrants and finding opportunities for success. I love this country and feel strongly that we all have a duty to give back through public service.
I’ve worked and lived abroad, but when I decided to settle down, have a family, and raise my kids, I returned to my home in Yorktown. Upon my return, I was disappointed to find that our local representatives didn’t represent the interests and views of my community—my friends and family. I’m worried about the serious problems we have before us—and even more so about this nasty hyper-partisan national approach which has even infected our local government.
We have huge challenges before us on all levels of government. However, my focus is on trying to solve our local issues rather than worrying about what happens in Washington. Eventually, I came to the realization that if I truly cared, I should be part of the solution rather than just complain. I don’t presume to have all the answers, certainly not about Washington, but I do know my community and appreciate the fact that we’re capable of achieving great things through hard work and commitment. I’ve worked hard all my life and have been blessed with success. I want to focus that exact same work ethic, drive and determination to better my community.
How do your views differ from the incumbent?
I take an independent non-partisan approach to solving problems. Yes, I am a proud Democrat, but I think my independent approach was part of the reason why I was successful in my bid to get the Independence Party line and endorsement.
My opponent, on the other hand, is a self-described “diehard conservative”—and his votes reflect that, too. The Conservative Party of New York ranked him as the most conservative member of the New York State Assembly (tied with five others). His voting record does not reflect the true feelings of the people in my district. We are practical people who want real results, not strident ideology.
Are there specific areas of disagreement that you can point to?
Yes, there are a great number of areas of strong disagreement, but let me cite two. First, I disagree strongly on his position and lack of leadership on taxes. We need an assemblyman who will stand up for the district when proposed policies hurt our district. When the federal government decided to overhaul the tax plan and limit the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, which will devastate my constituents (wait until tax season), he was silent. Instead of standing up for the people of the district and objecting, my opponent said, “We should let congress do that debate.” It’s clear that the residents of New York State have been targeted under this federal tax plan. We need to fight back.
Second, we have a strong disagreement regarding common sense gun laws. I am a licensed gun owner. I firmly believe in the rights of law abiding citizens to own guns, but I also believe in common sense. If we talk about the national scene, my friends and family will disagree strongly. However, locally there is agreement. When a bill was introduced in the Assembly to deny guns to convicted domestic abusers, my opponent voted against it. Again, I believe in responsible gun ownership, but for law abiding citizens. My opponent was dead wrong.
Will there be debates?
I hope so. I’ve already agreed to any and all debates organized by the League of Women Voters. I welcome the opportunity to debate the issues at these events, or any others.
The district has never had a Democrat in my memory. What makes you think you can win?
It is my understanding that the district has had a Republican incumbent since 1920. It’s time for a change. There has been a narrowing of the gap between the major parties as the demographics of this district have shifted with Democratic registrations steadily increasing. But, there are almost an equal number of voters in this district who do not have any party affiliation. More importantly, I feel a strong sentiment of discontent when I meet with voters of all political stripes. People are tired of Washington politics. They are concerned with the state of our local economy and things that actually matter in their daily lives. Voters are fed up with hyper-partisan and sometimes even corrupt politicians and are ready for a change.
I have been blessed to receive broad support—receiving the endorsement of the Democratic Party, the Independence Party, the Working Families Party and the Women’s Equality Party. I’m deeply moved and inspired by the excitement around my campaign. The community has really stepped up—in terms of donations and volunteering. We can win because we have a serious and determined effort. We will be well-funded, and we will not be outworked. You can sense the mood for change.
How is the campaign going? What has been the response?
I am grateful for the fantastic community support that I have received. What really surprised me was how proud people are of my candidacy. My mother cried when I earned my first town Democratic Party endorsement. For her it was the embodiment of the American dream and all the hard work and sacrifice that she endured to put me in this position. I am humbled and grateful but recognize the tremendous responsibility on my shoulders. We’re getting this support because people know that I will work to make this community better. I am committed to putting in the hard work and dedication to make this a success.
Why should anyone reading this consider voting for you?
It’s time for a change. This seat has been Republican for almost 100 years, but this district has changed over the years. Unfortunately, our current elected officials do not reflect that change. As I said earlier, I am a proud Democrat, but I don’t think that party affiliation is the most important thing about me. More importantly, I am a father, a homeowner, and a small business owner. I am committed to finding practical non-partisan solutions to the problems faced by the people of District 94. The members of this community deserve a leader who will put them first and from the bottom of my heart I want to be that leader.
Thank you for your time.
Link to the original article: https://www.tapinto.net/towns/yorktown/articles/who-is-vedat-gashi