NEW YORK’S 42ND SENATE DISTRICT — When Sen. Jen Metzger won the election in 2018, it was notable that she had turned such a reliably Republican district blue. Her Republican predecessor, …
NEW YORK’S 42ND SENATE DISTRICT — When Sen. Jen Metzger won the election in 2018, it was notable that she had turned such a reliably Republican district blue. Her Republican predecessor, Sen. John Bonacic, had held the office since 1998 until choosing not to run for reelection. But Metzger has never wanted to be categorized and boxed in by her party affiliation alone.
“I always eschewed labels; people would ask me, ‘Do you call yourself a progressive? Do you call yourself a this or a that?’” she said. “I feel like the issues I’m prioritizing are people issues—they’re important to all of us. And I think that when issues get reduced to these labels, it does a real disservice.”
The senator did not secure a second term in this year’s general election. Republican school bus company founder Mike Martucci, who centered his campaign on opposition to criminal justice reform, will take office in the next session. Asking Metzger to reflect on the past two years, it’s clear that there were quite a few of those “people issues” that she prioritized.
Legislation like the Child Victims Act, campaign finance and voting reform, addressing climate change and environmental issues, and banning fracking in New York were all ranked as important achievements in her book. Looking more specifically at her own district, Metzger said she was focused on broadband expansion in Sullivan County—there’s a broadband bill she’s hoping Gov. Andrew Cuomo will sign in the coming weeks—strengthening the region’s agriculture and the food supply chain, and supporting veteran’s mental health.
“I have to say in just two years, 31 of my bills were signed into law, so that’s pretty significant,” she said. “And all of those were passed with broad bipartisan support… We all feel we live in a world that is so polarized and divisive, and that’s certainly the sense you get from reading the paper or watching the news. But there is a lot of work done that has broad bipartisan support.”
As for any challenges she dealt with throughout her term—aside from the normal headaches of trying to get bills passed—Metzger said that as a representative from such a rural district, she spent a lot of time educating her urban and suburban colleagues.
“Just raising awareness about the challenges that rural communities face and really making sure that the needs of our community are being taken into account,” Metzger said.
For the remainder of her term, Metzger said she’s continuing “doing the work that I’ve been doing.” That includes hands-on work throughout the district, she said, like distributing NARCAN, getting hand sanitizer to food pantries and providing free cancer screenings. And of course, she’s still pushing to gain the governor’s signature on her broadband bill.
In terms of what will come once her term is concluded, Metzger couldn’t give specifics. But she did say that she certainly has “not discounted running for office in the future,” and she implied that returning to the local government and nonprofit work she did before becoming a senator was not out of the question either. But by in large, her future steps remain to be seen.
“I never really know how to answer that question because it’s still so early; I’m still a senator,” Metzger said. “To me, public service is the most gratifying work—to help my communities, to help make positive changes—there’s just nothing more rewarding than that.”