Dems choose Eachus as caucus leader

Orange County Legislator Chris Eachus of New Windsor will become the new leader of the Legislature’s nine-member Democratic caucus in January, replacing Middletown’s Jeff Berkman, who decided to step aside after five years as minority leader but will remain on the Legislature.

Eachus, who teaches physics at the Newburgh Free Academy, joined the Legislature in 2006 and represents District 15, which encompasses the eastern half of New Windsor. Berkman revealed at the end of Thursday’s Legislature meeting — the last session of 2014 — that Democrats had chosen Eachus to succeed him.

The current Legislature has 11 Republicans, nine Democrats and one Independence Party member. Melissa Bonacic of Greenville leads the Republican majority. Republicans have controlled the 21-member board every year except one since it came into existence in 1970, replacing the Board of Supervisors as the county’s lawmaking body. Party leaders earn around $36,000 a year, instead of the $30,000 pay for rank-and-file members.

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Lawmakers confirm Diana’s appointment to IDA

Orange County lawmakers approved the appointment of former County Executive Ed Diana to the county’s Industrial Development Agency board on Thursday, but not without some jabs at the retired politician who once spurned their subpoenas to testify before two investigative committees they created to extract information.

Kevin Hines, a Republican legislator from Cornwall, reminded his colleagues that they had been forced during Diana’s final term to take the unusual step of forming special panels to examine the finances of the Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation and the condition of the county Government Center, and that the three-term county executive had refused to testify under oath before those committees. He also said Diana had “handcuffed this county” to the former Camp LaGuardia property through a 2009 sale contract that required the county to provide the buyer with sewer service — a condition that helped put the sale and redevelopment plans in limbo.

“I think it’s a terrible choice,” he said.

Legislature Chairman Steve Brescia, a fellow Republican who serves on the IDA board and had asked Diana to replace a departing board member, cited Diana’s long tenure as county executive and a county legislator before then, and said he would be an asset to the IDA, which makes decisions about awarding tax benefits to induce businesses to locate or expand in Orange County. The Legislature voted 17-3 in support, with Hines, Republican Mike Anagnostakis and Democrat Roseanne Sullivan casting the dissenting votes.

Legislators also approved the reappointments of IDA board members John Steinberg Jr. and Henry VanLeeuwen at Thursday’s meeting.

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Gibson attending holiday bash with fellow GOP members

Rep. Chris Gibson will be a special guest at an $85-a-person holiday cocktail party and fundraiser hosted by the Dutchess County GOP next Thursday.

Gibson, R-Kinderhook, is listed as a special guest at the party, that will be held at Christo’s catering hall at 155 Wilbur Boulevard in Poughkeepsie. Gibson will be joined by state Assemblyman Kiernan Lalor, and state senator-elect Sue Serino and Terrence Murphy.

The cost is $85 a person, $160 a couple and you can also “sponsor” the dinner for up to $1,500 for four tickets. The cash is going to the Dutchess County GOP.

Gibson represents the 19th Congressional District, that includes Ulster, Sullivan and Dutchess counties.

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Brabenec wins Assembly race by 38

Republican candidate Karl Brabenec has won the protracted Assembly District 98 race by 38 votes after attorneys ended a six-day court battle over disputed absentee and affidavit ballots by dropping their remaining objections and counting the votes.

Lawyers for Brabenec and Democratic candidate Elisa Tutini are due to return to state Supreme Court Justice Elaine Slobod’s court to confirm their ballot agreements at 3 p.m., but there are no ballot challenges left for the judge to decide. All of ballot haggling on Thursday took place in private in a court jury room, as the two sides whittled down 178 votes that Brabenec’s attorneys had challenged in the Village of Kiryas Joel until Brabenec had reached an insurmountable lead. As expected, most of the Kiryas Joel votes went to Tutini, who had the support of the Hasidic community’s main voting bloc.

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Gibson loses legislative director/deputy chief of staff to Rep.-elect John Katko

An incoming GOP Congressman has snatched away Rep. Chris Gibson’s deputy chief of staff.

Rep.-elect John Katko, R-Camillus, has hired Brad Gentile as his chief of staff in Washington D.C., according to reporter Mark Weiner from the Post-Standard. Katko represents the 24th Congressional District.

In March, Gentile was appointed as Gibson’s deputy chief of staff, in addition to retaining his duties as his Legislative Director. Gentile has worked for Gibson since 2011 and previously worked for Speaker of the House John Boehner. He’s is a native of Chappaqua in Westchester County and attended the University of Dayton in Ohio.

Gibson, R-Kinderhook, represents all of Sullivan and Ulster counties as part of the 19th Congressional District. In November he won his third term in Congress and his second since he was redistricted into the 19th.

From Jan. 1 this year until Sept. 30, Gentile made $58,588.92, according to quarterly Congressional disclosure reports.

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Tkaczyk: Vote for Hein in 2015

Outgoing Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk might be the first elected official to endorse Ulster County Executive Mike Hein for re-election in 2015.

In a letter sent out by Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, on Monday, she thanks those who supported her in her bid for re-election in the 46th Senate District despite her loss to senator-elected George Amedore, R-Rotterdam. She then gives a plug to Hein and asks people to support Democratic candidates in 2015.

Next year’s local elections include races for the County Executive and County Legislature in addition to judicial races. It is my hope that we will stand as one with County Executive Mike Hein and our other Democratic candidates to ensure that there are sweeping Democratic victories in 2015 on the local level.

Tkaczyk also hints that her days in the Hudson Valley aren’t numbered.

 I look forward to working with you in the future on important issues that make a difference in the lives of all citizens in the Hudson Valley.

Here’s the full letter:

From the Desk of State Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk

December 8, 2014

Dear Friends and Supporters:

Thank you all so much for the help and support you provided to me before, during and after my campaign for re-election to the NYS Senate.  Unfortunately, despite our efforts, I was unsuccessful in retaining my seat and there is now a clear Republican Majority in the NYS Senate.

This was a difficult year for Democrats across the nation as well as here in New York.  It is imperative that we begin now to prepare for future elections, both on the local and state level, to ensure that the voices of everyday residents in Ulster County are heard and represented.

Ulster County and the Hudson Valley are bastions of Democratic strength and support and crucial in pursing Democratic victories in the future. But our numbers will not be felt at the ballot box if we are not working collectively to support our local and State candidates.

Next year’s local elections include races for the County Executive and County Legislature in addition to judicial races.  It is my hope that we will stand as one with County Executive Mike Hein and our other Democratic candidates to ensure that there are sweeping Democratic victories in 2015 on the local level.

Thank you again for your constant support.  Your encouragement and assistance helped me to get through the very long, very tiring days on the campaign train.  I look forward to working with you in the future on important issues that make a difference in the lives of all citizens in the Hudson Valley.

Please accept my best wishes and enjoy a happy and health holiday season and New Year.

Sincerely,

Cecilia Tkaczyk

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Tkaczyk spent $520K to try to keep senate seat. 75% came from just two donors

Democratic Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk’s campaign plunked down more than half a million dollars for her failed attempt to keep her seat in the state’s 46th Senate District, according to post-election records.

The filing was a week late, but was finally posted Monday. It shows her campaign raised $465,210.49 and spent $520,229.84 despite her loss against GOP senator-elect George Amedore on election day.

Amedore,R-Rotterdan, outspent Tkaczyk,D-Dunaesburg, but by only about $15,000. Amedore spent a whopping $535,136.20 according to his latest in his latest filing.

As I reported before, both Democrats and Republicans poured oodles of money into this race, hoping to get the edge and gain control of the state Senate. Amedore’s win helped the GOP take over the Senate.

All in all, Tkaczyk’s last campaign filing shows she was funded heavily, in a roundabout sorta way, by unions.

By far, Tkaczyk’s cash in the last days before the election came from two sources. On October 21st and 22nd the Ulster County Democratic Committee dropped two checks into her account, one for $100,000 and another for $170,000. And on October 22nd, 27th and 31st, the state Democratic Senate Campaign Committee cut her campaign three checks: The first for $90,000, then $32,000 and lastly for $10,000.

Altogether, just two sources gave Tkaczyk’s campaign $402,000. That’s about 86 percent of all the money she raised in that period and about 75 percent of what she spent in the latest filing period.

So where did the Ulster County Democratic Committee come upon all this cash to splash on Tkaczyk? The short answer is it’s hard to tell.

According to report filed 11 days before the election, 75-81 Lewis Avenue LLC of 266 Broadway in Brooklyn threw a whopping $100,000 at the Ulster County Democratic Committee, who subsequently funneled some of the money to Tkaczyk’s campaign. Crain’s New York wrote about this last month, but state records don’t really enlighten us to who the donor is.

A search of the Lexis database shows that the nominee for a similar-sounding entity, 75-81 Lewis Avenue Holding LLC, is Fink & Zelmanovitz PC, a Brooklyn legal group based at 3839 Flatlands Ave. STE 206. I’ve left a message to see if they would like to comment.

On the same day, the committee collected another $264,600 from three different New York City-based unions.

Curiously, the Ulster County Democratic Committee’s campaign filings from before the election don’t match up with Tkaczyk’s filings. Committee records show that they transferred $160,000 between two checks on October 17 and 20th. Tkaczyk’s records record and extra $10,000.

There’s also no sign that the Ulster County Democratic Committee has turned in their post-election disclosure reports, so I can’t tell how much money it has left. But I doubt it’s much. The fine for a late filing, if enforced, is $1,000.

Tkaczyk’s campaign also collected $11,482.69 from individual donors.

Tkaczyk spent much of her cash on television advertisements: $360,000 worth. $260,000 of that went to AKPD Message & Media LLC in Chicago, Illinois and the rest to The Parkside Group LLC in Manhattan. Tkaczyk’s campaign also threw another $22,556.30 at The Parkside Group for lawn signs and literature and another $60,000 to AKPD for “print.”

The campaign spent $43,263 on wages. Much of that went in $200 increments to 32 people.

And in the “other” category, Tkaczyk’s campaign received its biggest from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in Washington D.C., an outfit that “works to win state legislative seats and chambers for Democrats.”

Some other notable donations include:

  • $1,000  from the New York Administrative Employees CWA Local 1180, a union that represents bosses at  New York City public workers but also the ASPCA, Planned Parenthood and human rights organizations.
  • $5,000 from a Teamsters-associated PAC in Washington D.C.
  • $5,000 from the New York State Nurses Association PAC in Albany.
  • $1,500 from the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades in Hanover, Maryland.
  • $3,117.07 from 32BJ SEIU United ADF, a northeast union that represents cleaners, property maintenance workers, doormen, security officers, window cleaners, building engineers, and school and food service workers. It also includes railroad and factory workers
  • $6,000 from Manhattan Sen. Liz Krueger, plus $3,800 from Krueger’s No Bad Apples PAC.

Tkaczyk has $9,836.39 left in her campaign account.

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Bucking party, Gibson says he’ll introduce bill that says humans help cause climate change

GOP Congressman Chris Gibson wants to introduce two bills that will acknowledge climate change, human’s role in it, and help phase in government subsidies away from fossil fuel and into renewable energy, he said Saturday.

I caught Gibson at the Old Dutch Church’s indoor farmer’s market in Kingston on Saturday and asked him about the resolutions, which were first reported by National Journal reporter Ben Geman.

Gibson said he plans to introduce a two-part resolution that will first acknowledge changing weather patterns throughout the country, laying out the science and facts that back it up.

Gibson pointed to severe weather events that have hit our region in the last few years, including Hurricanes Sandy and Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, as examples.

That second part of the resolution will acknowledge man’s role in climate change and say human’s should be involved in changing it, he said.

That position is one that goes against the grain of many in the GOP in Congress, who have expressed doubt that humans burning fossil fuels is a driver of climate change. Some have even been suspicious that it’s happening at all, despite a scientific consensus on the subject.

The GOP is in the majority in the House and will take over the Senate next year.

Gibson says he’ll also introduce a second bill that hopes to shift some of the $4 billion in fossil fuel subsidies to the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy account for renewable energies. Gibson said how much he wants the appropriation to change is still being worked out, but because it would be budget-neutral and he thinks it would gain traction with more-skeptical GOP members.

Gibson also says he has a strategy to help build support and co-sponsors.

He and his staff have studied the biographies of incoming congressional members in beltway publications like CQ Roll Call, looking for common interests that may intersect or be benefited by his bills.

Whether they’ve expressed interest with environmental or conservation issues or even tangential issues like open space, Gibson says he’s found openings for discussion. He says there’s hope for co-sponsorship with existing GOP members as well.

“Among existing members there’s more support that what’s visible,” Gibson said. “It’s really just yeoman’s work.”

Once he can build support and co-sponsors for his bills, the strategy is to move the language and co-sponsors onto a larger, omnibus energy and water appropriations bill as an amendment, Gibson said.

Gibson spoke more generally on this subject earlier this week at an event hosted by Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions and several other organizations, according to the National Journal, who wrote about Gibson’s climate change bills earlier this week. (They’re article tipped me off to write this blog post and it’s well done, so check it out.)

In video of Gibson’s remarks provided by event organizers, while he says he supports expanded exploration for drilling and the Keystone XL Pipeline in order to drive down the costs of energy, he also voiced support for driving down the costs of manufacturing and installing solar panels.

Gibson represents all of Sullivan and Ulster counties as part of the 19th Congressional District. He won his third term in Congress in November.

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UPDATED: Larkin’s post-election filing AWOL from BOE website

UPDATE TWO:  Tkaczyk’s campaign spokesman, Jim Plastiras, confirmed to me that the filing hasn’t been submitted but will be up today. Here’s his statement:

Yes, the person preparing it was taken ill while out of town over the holidays. She thought she’d be able to put it together and submit it remotely, but didn;t have all the info she needed. She is finalizing and expects to have it in today.

UPDATE: Sen. Bill Larkin’s campaign filing arrived today, sometime after I called the office this morning asking about the issue. I also confirmed with the state Board of Elections that Tkaczyk’s campaign filing has not been filed. The potential fine is up to $1,000. Larkin called me personally today and said his campaign had some issues with banks that delayed getting the complete report finished and up.

Here’s my original post:

Another post-election filing that’s nowhere to be seen on the state Board of Election’s website is GOP Sen. Bill Larkin.

Larkin, who lives in Cornwall-on-Hudson and represents much of Orange County as well as Marlborough and Plattekill in Ulster County, coasted to an easy win on Nov. 4.

But there’s no sign of his required 27-post-general campaign filing, according to the BOE website.

I’ll be reaching out to Larkin to see what the deal is. But his post-election filing isn’t the only one that’s AWOL from the BOE’s website. Democratic Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk’s filing also is missing from the website.

Here’s a snippet from the state BOE Campaign Finance Handbook to help us understand things better:

Violations; Penalties

1. Any person who fails to file a statement required to be filed by this article shall be subject to a civil penalty, not in excess of one thousand dollars, to be recoverable in a special proceeding or civil action to be brought by NYSBOE or other board of elections


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Seward raised $10K before election

You may not see him too often in our neck of the woods, but GOP state Sen. James Seward represents a corner of our region.

Seward, who won the uncontested 51st Senate seat in November, represents in Ulster County Hardenburgh, Olive, Rochester and Shandaken.

But no opposition doesn’t mean no fundraising.

Post-election day filings show in the final stretch of campaign season Seward was given $1,000 from the National Continental Insurance Company, all the way out in Mayfield Village, Ohio. Exxon Mobil Corporation from Houston, Texas handed over $750.

Seward also received $3,500 from the New York Truck PAC, $1,500 from LawPAC of New York and $500 from Next Era Energy Transmissions allthe way out in Juno Beach Florida.

Seward chairs the Senate Insurance committee and is a member of nine other committees in the GOP-controlled Senate.

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