Skidmore Grad Runs for Assembly Seat, Tackles Upstate Issues
Skidmore’s campus and the City of Saratoga Springs insulate students from the struggles of Upstate New York. Beyond Skidmore’s low stone walls, the capital region is grappling with a host of issues, including an opioid epidemic, brain drain, and expensive health services. Michael Godlewski, a member of the Skidmore Class of ‘05, hopes to be a part of the solution. Godlewski, an English/Government double major, and former Skidmore Baseball team member, is running to represent the Assembly’s 112th District. Godlewski’s platform is far from controversial; the now Deputy Sheriff of Schenectady County plans to increase penalties for child abusers, strengthen animal rights, make elder care more affordable, and tackle heroin addiction, if elected.
A self described “change candidate,” Godlewski’s youth and energy have become distinct features of his campaign. Godlewski has personally knocked on approximately 1,000 doors since announcing his candidacy in June. A lifelong capital district resident, he wants to bring his passion for the region to Albany. While many people of Godlewski’s generation left their hometowns for big cities, Godlewski chose to stay. His reasoning is simple: “I want to see my home do well,” he said.
Godlewski’s grandfather was the President of the Schenectady City Council at a time when local politics resonated more with the community. Growing up, Godlewski’s political heroes were FDR and JFK, whose views of government as an instrument for helping people has stuck with him.
New York’s 112th District includes the towns of Ballston, Charlton, Clifton Park, Galway, Glenville, Greenfield, Halfmoon, Milton, and Providence - mostly South and West of Saratoga Springs. The district dodges Skidmore’s main campus, but includes Skidmore’s riding facility and baseball fields - a gerrymander intended to keep liberal students from voting in District 112. Godlewski began his campaign with a 12,000-voter deficit, meaning 12,000 more voters are registered as Republicans than there are Democrats. Perhaps his greatest challenge, the gerrymander has not kept Godlewski from giving the race a strong effort.
Because this is a Presidential election year, he sees this election as a “unique opportunity,” since voter turnout is nearly double compared to midterm and special election years. Faced with a Trump candidacy, Godlewski is finding a lot of common ground with folks who have always voted Republican, and now find themselves voting Democrat on the ballot. He hopes to convert some of those who are not as affixed to the Republican Party - especially younger Republicans - to Democrat votes come November. Still, he says, he does not want people to vote for him solely based on party. Most of all, Godlewski wants people to get to know him as an individual. Many times, he said, people immediately asked him what party he was before getting to know him, which is frustrating. He would rather people “vote for the name, not just the party.” So what does a vote for Mike Godlewski represent?
As the Chief Prosecutor for Child Abuse and Neglect for Schenectady County, he wants to bring his perspective to the Assembly, to fight to make child abuse and neglect a criminal matter, not just something that can be resolved in family court. He also sees the growing opioid epidemic as contributing to the unraveling of families in the area. “The first thing we need to do as a society… is educate people about [the epidemic],” Godlewski said. His plan also includes working with doctors to limit the circulation of heavily addictive drugs by only prescribing seven days of drugs at a time. For those already struggling with addiction, Godlewski hopes to make treatment more accessible.
As a young person and a new homeowner, Godlewski wants to address the burdens of student loan debt that he is all too familiar with. "It's becoming cost ineffective for people to seek higher education, which is absurd," he said. Godlewski wants to introduce a program to make State University of New York (SUNY) schools free for New York high school graduates who pledge to complete community service in the area and to stay Upstate after graduating. “We want to be a desirable climate [for graduates]” Godlewski explained. He would also like to see Medicaid paid for by the State instead of by County Property Taxes. If the State were to shoulder this expense, he believes County Property Taxes could be cut in half. Furthermore, Godlewski would like to see more affordable home care for the elderly.
Running on a platform of fighting child abuse, alleviating student loan debt, caring for the elderly, and cutting property taxes, Godlewski hopes he can reach across party lines to get a broad coalition to overcome the gerrymander deficit. Godlewski’s youth, and the volatility in the presidential race might bring the Assembly seat within reach. Ultimately, he believes voters should understand the fundamental characteristics they want to see in their representatives. “[Does the candidate] get along with people? It’s beautifully simple.”