Friday, November 14, 2008

Assemblyman Lopez

I've been around long enough to be careful about first impressions. But I liked what I saw last night when I met Assemblyman Pete Lopez.

Lopez represents the 127th District, as large a territory as you're going to find in this jigsaw-puzzle gerrymandered state. He's a Republican, which makes him a member of an exclusive club in the Assembly. Moreover, when he ran for his second term earlier this month, he had no Democratic opposition. This at a time when Democrats are making strides nationally, as well as in the state, witness the shift in control of the Senate and the defeat of longterm legislator Tom Kirwan of Newburgh.

Lopez and I found ourselves at Wiltwyck Golf Club for the annual awards dinner conducted the Boy Scouts of America, Rip Van Winkle Council. He was there to present the prestigious Distinguished Citizen Award to Tom Struzzieri of Horse Shows in the Sun. I've been the master of ceremonies of this affair for several years.

Lopez wasn't there campaigning. (Although, when does a lawmaker really stop campaigning?) He's a member of the Scouts' executive council and an Eagle Scout himself and this is a cause dear to his heart.

Born in Miami, Lopez resides in Schoharie, Delaware County, with his wife and three of his four kids. (The fourth is away at college.) He was a legislative staffer for 20 years, a local official in Schoharie County, and now is returning to Albany for two more years in the Assembly.

It's doubtful we agree on many of the major issues of the day. But I found him to be soft-spoken, not full of himself as are many of his colleagues, self-deprecating, with a sense of humor. He's serious about what he's doing and he knows his minority party status puts him at a disadvantage as far as his agenda goes. But he says he picks his spots, seeks cross-party coalitions and hopes to make a difference.

Again, it's just a first impression based on one night at the same dinner table, but I found Pete Lopez to be a breath of fresh air.
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