CONGRESSIONAL HOPEFUL VISITS HURLEYVILLE
Democrat Mike Parietti Looking to Force Primary
by John Conway
HURLEYVILLE, April 2022—Mike Parietti says he knows he faces overwhelming odds in his race for the U.S. Congress, but he is accustomed to uphill battles and is determined to give it his all.
In an interview at The Hurleyville Sentinel office late last month, the Rockland County Democrat, a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger, was upbeat, and just as the biblical David had his sling in his seemingly hopeless battle with the giant Goliath, he is wielding a weapon that he thinks could make a difference in his contest.
Mr. Parietti—who has run for public office six times before, losing each time– is hoping to force a primary against sitting congressman Mondaire Jones to become the Democratic candidate to represent the newly redrawn 17th District. Congressman Jones is currently serving his first term in the House, representing a district that is made up mostly of parts of Rockland and Westchester Counties. The new district, approved earlier this year by New York Democrats over the objections of many Republicans in the Legislature, bears only a slight resemblance. Most of Westchester has been lopped off, and a slice of western Orange County and all of Sullivan County added.
Mr. Parietti says the new district is quite different demographically from the one that elected Mr. Jones, whom he regards as a “political ideologue,” two years ago.
“I question whether he is the best Democrat for this new district, which is much more of a moderate district,” he said.
Mr. Parietti views himself as “a moderate, common sense Democrat” who will “seek practical, workable solutions” and talk about “the issues no one else wants to talk about.”
And therein lies the weapon that is analogous to David’s sling.
One of the original founders of the groups “Preserve Ramapo” and “Preserve Rockland,” Mr. Parietti’s top priority is putting an end to local zoning abuses that use— or threaten to use— a federal statue to override local zoning laws. Toward that end, he speaks passionately about the need to overhaul the “Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act,” or RLUIPA.
“RLUIPA is a federal law that was passed in 2000, with little or no public debate,” he maintains. “It has been misinterpreted by the courts, and abused by developers and religious groups throughout the Hudson Valley to advance high-density housing and other forms of land use that controvert legally enacted zoning statutes.”
Mr. Parietti says this is often done “by bludgeoning municipalities, small and large into submission with the threat of lawsuits that entail massive legal costs. The bottom line here is that RLIUPA is being used in ways that were never originally intended.”
He lists among his other priorities, tax relief for home owners and senior citizens, and “protecting and improving our public schools.”
Most importantly, he pledges to accept campaign contributions only from private residents of his district. By contrast, he says, Mr. Jones has collected huge sums of money, mostly from out of the district.
“The root of nearly every single problem we face as a nation is a byproduct of big dollar contributions from powerful special interests that are fed to congressional candidates from outside their districts,” Mr. Parietti says. “These big donors have their own agenda that does not include our local concerns, and thus we are robbed of real-time, responsive, representation in the halls of Congress.”
Mr. Parietti believes in his message, and he thinks the issues he raises are important to the residents of the district. Yet, he realizes the improbability of his even getting a chance to run for the office. He needs to collect 1,250 valid signatures from registered Democrats in the district before the April 7 deadline, an arduous task made even more difficult by the fact that most party leaders have refused to carry his petitions. Faced with that additional obstacle, he has resorted to directing those interested in signing his petition to his website, mikesinthehouse.com where there are directions for signing and witnessing properly.
When asked if he viewed his candidacy as strictly a didactic effort aimed at educating the voters of the district about the issues— particularly the abuses of the RLUIPA statute– Mr. Parietti was emphatic.
“I’ve always been very analytical,” he says. “I have studied this new district and its demographics, and I truly believe I can win this race if I can get on the ballot.”
If a Democratic primary is necessary, it will be held on June 28.