Faso votes against amendments to ban gender reassignment in military; identifying radical Islamic “thought leaders”

Rep. John Faso voted Friday against controversial amendments to a defense spending bill that would have barred transgender military members from getting gender reassignment treatment and a measure that would have had the military find ways to study and identify Islamic “thought leaders” in the United States preaching extremism.

In each case, Faso joined a small number of House Republicans and all House Democrats.

Faso supported the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act for increasing defense spending by 10 percent, to $696 billion; for providing $2.5 billion more for missile defense than the administration asked for; and raising pay for service members. The bill passed by 344-81, according to his office.

But along the way, Faso, who represents Sullivan and Ulster counties as part of the 19th Congressional District, had to weigh in on what The Washington Post reported were 210 amendments to the must-pass defense bill.

Faso, R-Kinderhook, joined 26 fellow House Republicans to toss an amendment, sponsored by Republican Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, that would have required the Pentagon to study links between Islamic doctrine and terrorism and find ways to identify preachers promoting extreme ideology. The amendment was defeated by just nine votes, 208-217. No Democrats supported the amendment.

The amendment would have had military and private experts identify “major or significant identifiable Islamic religious doctrines, concepts, or schools of thought used by various extremist groups for specific purposes, such as recruitment, radicalization, financing, or propaganda.” It would have also had the military recommend way to identify “key thought leaders” or proponents of specific Islamic religious “doctrines, concepts, or schools of thought.”

Franks, speaking on the House floor, said he had no desire to single out “any group of innocent people or denigrate their faith in any way.”

“However, the reality remains that there is one spectrum of Islamic ideology whose variants are responsible for the 9/11 attacks, (feeding) the insurgency in Iraq, the countless attacks on civilians in Europe, and the boundless evil of the Islamic State,” Franks said.

But Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat, spoke out against the amendment.

“At a time when American forces are deployed across the Muslim world and depend on the support of Muslim governments, the Franks amendment will send exactly the wrong message to our friends and adversaries alike,” Gallego said. “By singling out a faith tradition for a strange and unprecedented study by our military, we are sending a dangerous message and signal that America is at war with Islam. America is not ever going to be at war with a single religion.”

Faso, in a statement, called the measure “redundant.”

“The US defense and intelligence communities are committed to keeping our country safe by undertaking threat assessments, including assessments involving radical Islamic terrorism. This amendment, therefore, would have been redundant to those continued efforts,” Faso said.

Faso also joined 23 fellow House Republicans and all 190 House Democrats to shoot down an amendment sponsored by Montana Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler that would have ended a policy began in October that had the military provide gender reassignment surgery or therapy for active-duty service members. A doctor would have had to have said the treatment was medically necessary.

Faso said he voted down the amendment to honor a request by the secretary of defense for a six-month delay to the policy and because it would have forced Democrats to not vote for the defense spending bill. Here’s his full statement:

“An Obama administration directive issued last year instructed the Secretary of Defense to develop guidelines for new transgender troops by July 1. The Defense Department, under Secretary Mattis, has requested a six-month delay for the Army and Marine Corps while they review deployability and readiness concerns. I believe the Congress should honor this request. Moreover, it is vitally important that the NDAA receives the bipartisan support of Congress. This serves as both a gesture of support for our brave military members and a signal to our allies that we remain committed to their collective security. Adoption of this amendment would have forced many Democrats to abandon their support for the NDAA, impacting troop morale and ultimately harming our national interest,” Faso said.

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Neuhaus campaign account dwarfs challenger’s

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus has around $260,000 in his campaign account after raising $134,000 in the last six months, giving him vastly greater resources at the outset of his reelection bid than the Democrat who entered the race to challenge him six weeks ago.

Democrat Pat Davis of Monroe filed his first campaign finance report on Tuesday, showing he had given $10,000 of his own money to his campaign and collected another roughly $5,000 in donations so far. That left him with just under $15,000 in his coffers after expenses as of last week.

Neuhaus, a Chester Republican who took office in 2014, had the second biggest fundraising period of his tenure between Jan. 13 and July 13. The donations included checks from county contractors such as Delaware Engineering, which pitched in $2,000; a $1,000 check from former Republican Rep. Nan Hayworth; donations from construction unions such as IBEW Loal 363, which gave $2,500; and three checks totaling $5,500 from Elias, Tawnya and Eric Muhlrad.

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Seward led Mid-Hudson state lawmakers in fundraising

Sen. James Seward

State Sen. James Seward raked in almost $163,000 in campaign donations in the last six months, the largest fundraising haul by far among the totals reported Monday by the 11 state lawmakers representing pieces of Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties.

Much of that money came from the usual deluge of checks from insurance companies and their trade groups, something the Otsego County Republican gets because he’s chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee. Seward, who’s been in the Senate for 30 years, represents a giant district that sprawls across nine counties, from four northern Ulster towns on its eastern end to just outside Ithaca in the west.

Orange County’s Sen. John Bonacic raised less money than Seward from Jan. 13 to July 13, but ended the fundraising period with easily the largest campaign war-chest of all: almost $700,000. His biggest single contribution was a $7,000 check on July 12 from Genting New York, part of a Malaysian casino behemoth that runs the Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens and extended its brand in May to the casino resort under construction in the Town of Thompson in Sullivan County, in Bonacic’s district. Formerly known as Montreign Resort Casino, the operation is set to open next year with the name Resorts World Catskills.

Bonacic, a Mount Hope Republican, is chairman of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, which controls legislation affecting casinos.

Here are the fundraising totals and expenses for the six-month period and the balances that the region’s senators and Assembly members reported:

Sen. James Seward, R-Milford


Spent: $65,800

On hand: $376,330

Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope

Raised: $120,182

Spent: $36,933

On hand: $698,262

Sen. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam

Raised: $92,881

Spent: $37,520

On hand: $92,298

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston

Raised: $58,432

Spent: $29,456

On hand: $69,153

Sen. William Larkin Jr., R-Cornwall-on-Hudson

Raised: $57,175

Spent: $62,931

On hand: $48,887

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Forestburgh

Raised: $12,100

Spent: $7,121

On hand: $140,641

Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, R-Deerpark

Raised: $10,780

Spent: $10,072

On hand: $6,187

Assemblyman Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie

Raised: $10,540

Spent: $12,940

On hand: $9,065

Assemblyman James Skoufis, D-Woodbury

Raised: $6,100

Spent: $10,159

On hand: $45,902

Brian Miller, R-New Hartford

Raised: $4,495

Spent: $4,379

On hand: $4,939

Assemblyman Frank Skartados, D-Milton

Raised: $4.66

Spent: 0

On hand: $18,804


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Faso, Maloney cheer House passage of defense bill

Both Republican Rep. John Faso and Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney on Friday celebrated the House of Representatives passage of a military spending authorization bill, though not for the same reasons.

Faso applauded the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act for increasing defense spending by 10 percent, to $696 billion; for providing $2.5 billion more for missile defense than the administration asked for; and raising pay for service members. The bill passed by 344-81, according to his office.

“Our military has been gutted for the last half-decade, reducing readiness and weakening American leadership in the world,” Faso said in a press release. “The 2018 defense authorization legislation which I supported today reverses this harmful trend and rebuilds our military while implementing major reforms such as fixing Pentagon-buying practices that have too often been fraught with waste.”

Maloney highlighted instead two provisions in the bill that he wrote: one to shorten the waiting time for veterans with disability claims, the other to protect service members from predatory debt collectors. Both proposals originated as standalone bills and were added to the larger defense bill. Maloney has been pushing since 2013 for legislation to speed approval of disability claims by allowing vets to be examined doctors from outside the Veterans Affairs system.

“As the son of a disabled veteran, I know our veterans deserve better than long wait times and bureaucratic red tape standing between them and the benefits they earned while serving our country,” Maloney said. “This legislation makes sure we keep in place a critical tool the VA needs to continue fighting the backlog of disability claims.”

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Neuhaus and Davis file petitions for county executive race

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus and Democratic challenger Pat Davis filed their candidate petitions on Thursday, setting the stage for a contest this fall between a Republican who’s finishing his first term in office and a 35-year-old political newcomer who built a career in finance after serving two tours of duty in the Iraq War.

Neuhaus, a former Chester town supervisor who succeeded Ed Diana as county executive in 2014, filed petitions for four ballot lines – Republican, Conservative, Independence and Reform Party. A day earlier, the Hudson Valley Building and Trades Council – an umbrella union group that is important for fundraising and has given generously to Neuhaus’ campaign account – endorsed Neuhaus and his Republican running mates, praising him as “the leader in job creation in the Hudson Valley.”

“He runs a pro-jobs operation, and fights to develop good paying jobs across Orange County,” council President Todd Diorio said in the announcement, applauding Neuhaus for his oversight of the county Government Center construction project, his emphasis on road and bridge repairs, and other things.

Davis, who lives in Monroe with his wife and two sons and works in Manhattan as a consultant with the global firm PwC, announced his candidacy on May 30, on the eve of the county Democrats’ endorsement convention – a late start for a countywide race. He graduated from West Point in 2004 – as did his wife, Alexis – and served with the Army in Iraq for 27 months. He has two engineering degrees and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvia’s Wharton School.

Davis also filed four candidate petitions – Democrat, Working Families Party, Women’s Equality Party and Reform Party.

Neuhaus is running in tandem with his “Team Orange” Republican slate from 2013 – District Attorney David Hoovler and County Clerk Annie Rabbitt – and with former county Republican Chairman Bill DeProspo, who’s running to become a county court judge.

Democrats Michael Isgur and Deborah Mulqueen are running for district attorney and county clerk, the same offices they sought unsuccessfully in 2013. No Democrat is running for judge.

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Nine Legislature candidates have no opponents

More than a third of Orange County’s 21-member Legislature will skate to reelection in November without opposition.

Eight incumbents and one newcomer who filed petitions to run for Legislature by Thursday’s deadline had no rivals for those seats and will run uncontested on Nov. 7. The incumbents included five Republicans (Barry Cheney, Tom Faggione, Leigh Benton, Mike Anagnostakis and Jim O’Donnell), two Democrats (Jim Kulisek and Mike Paduch) and one Independence Party member (Michael Amo). Joel Sierra, the Democrat running to succeed retiring Democrat Jeff Berkman, also has no opponent.

All 21 seats are up for election in November. The terms are four years.

Five legislators (Republican Melissa Bonacic and Democrats Curlie Dillard, Matt Turnbull, Chris Eachus and Berkman) aren’t seeking reelection. Five candidates – four Democrats and a Republican – filed petitions to run for Dillard’s seat in Newburgh, forming the largest field of candidates among the 12 contested races.

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New faces join perennial Democratic candidates for Newburgh City Council

Among the candidates filing Democratic Party petitions for Council are Radee Anglin, Nancy Colas, Anthony Grice and Ramona Monteverde.

Anglin, who is challenging Karen Mejia for her Ward 1 Council seat, is well-known among Newburgh’s urban farming community and recently started a business selling natural products.

Grice is a grants development assistant for the Newburgh school district. He is seeking the Ward 3 seat currently held by longtime Councilwoman Regina Angelo, who is not seeking reelection.

Jonathan Jacobson, former chairman for the Orange County Democratic Committee and a one-time mayoral candidate for Newburgh, is also seeking Angelo’s seat.

Grice also turned in Independence and Working Families petitions and Mejia submitted signatures for Working Families.

Colas is a businesswoman who owns Simple Gifts and Goodies on Liberty Street. She is challenging another first-time candidate, Ramona Monteverde, for the Ward 2 seat currently held by Genie Abrams, who is stepping down after one term.

Monteverde is a operations director at Safe Harbors of the Hudson and a longtime member of Newburgh’s planning board. She also submitted petitions for the Green, Independence and Working Families parties.

Previous candidate Patricia Sofokles also filed to run. She is challenging Ward 4 Councilwoman Cindy Holmes, who turned in petitions for the Democratic and Independence parties.

Two Republicans have filed petitions for Council seats: former Councilwoman Christine Bello for Ward 4 and John Giudice for Ward 3. Bello and Giudice also submitted petitions for the Conservative Party line and Bello for the Independence Party.

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Delgado team says it raised $350K in second quarter

Antonio Delgado, one of eight Democrats hoping to challenge Rep. John Faso in 2018, announced Monday that his campaign has raised more than $350,000 in the last 3 months.

Delgado’s second-quarter haul follows his raising about $300,000 in the first three months of 2017.

Delgado, a 40-year-old attorney for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, moved to Rhinebeck in January after spending two and a half years living in Montclair, N.J.

“As I travel throughout the Hudson Valley and Catskill region, its clear to me that people are responding to our message about renewing the American Dream,” Delgado said in a release.

Those running for Congress have to file three-month quarterly reports of their campaign finances with the Federal Election Commission. The July quarterly report period for 2017 ended on June 30 and is due to be filed with the FEC by July 15.

Delgado is one of eight Democrats who are challenging freshman Republican Rep. John Faso in the 19th Congressional District. The general election isn’t until Nov. 6, 2018. The district includes part or all of 11 counties, including all of Ulster and Sullivan.

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Environmentalists urge NY House members to oppose “Smoggy Skies Act”

A slew of environmental groups have urged New York’s 27 members of the House of Representatives to reject a bill they say would worsen air pollution by forcing the federal government to consider at the outset how much it would cost businesses to comply with new emission standards.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017 in a 29-24 vote on June 28, clearing the way for a potential vote by the full House once it returns from its July 4 recess on Monday. Environmental groups have dubbed it the “Smoggy Skies Act.”

“We believe this bill represents a sweeping attack on the public health underpinnings of the Clean Air Act, and we request you speak out against and vote ‘No’ on this bill,” read a June 14 letter to New York’s House members, signed by representatives of the Sierra Club and 32 other organizations.

The Energy and Commerce Committee has said the bill would delay implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2015 ozone emission standards until 2025 and let states “pursue cost-effective and practical implementation” of them. Manufacturers, who had sued over the new standards, have praised the bill.

New York has 18 Democrats – including Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of Cold Spring – and nine Republicans – including Rep. John Faso of Kinderhook – in its delegation. Maloney opposed the same legislation last year when the House approved it in a largely party-line vote. Faso was not in Congress then, and is not among its 22 current co-sponsors or on the committee that approved the bill last month. His predecessor, Chris Gibson, also a Republican, voted against the bill last year.

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Cook Political Report: Race for 19th district now a toss up

The Cook Political Report, an online political newsletter, is calling the race for New York’s 19th Congressional District against incumbent GOP Rep. John Faso a toss up, even with 16 months to go before the general election.

In a post on Friday, Cook said danger signs are everywhere for the GOP, citing President Donald Trump’s approval ratings in the high 30s, low support for the GOP’s healthcare legislation and Democrats over-performing, despite failing in special elections. They also said polling shows House Republicans tying or trailing real and hypothetical opponents.

But even as clouds seem to darken for some House Republicans races, the report warned that such early dissatisfaction means Republicans have plenty of time to prepare.

“Taken as a whole, the evidence would seem to point to a wave election that would justify moving a slew of races into the Toss Up column and threaten GOP control of the House,” the report says. “Except, the election isn’t this November; it’s still 16 months away. The fact these warning lights are flashing now means Republicans won’t be caught off guard like many incumbents were in 2006 and 2010—they will have time to raise millions, conduct opposition research and define their opponents early. And Democrats aren’t rushing to topple Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who has proven an effective foil for GOP House candidates.”

Faso’s district is one of 10 House districts nationwide Cook has changed to favor Democrats. The 19th district includes all or part of 11 counties, including all of Ulster and Sullivan. Cook changed the 19th district from “leans Republican” to “toss up.”

Faso, who is serving his first term in the House, hails from Kinderhook in Columbia County. He’s an attorney and a former state assemblyman. Eight Democrats have so far emerged to take on Faso.

Here’s Cook’s assessment of Faso’s chances:

Toss Up. Despite his long tenure in Upstate politics, Faso was one of just 15 Republicans to win by single digits in 2016 – and he did so against a very liberal, carpetbagging Democrat. Now he’s facing a deluge of opponents. Democrats are perhaps most high on West Point graduate and Iraq veteran Pat Ryan, but the dynamic could change if 2016 nominee Zephyr Teachout or Ulster County Executive Mike Hein get in.

Hein has said that he plans to make a decision on whether he’ll run or not by the end of this month. When he explored a run for the district in late 2015, his team had polls that put him 4-5 points ahead of Faso, Hein said. You can read my story on this hot race here.

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