Ulster Dems, GOP endorse county exec candidates next week

Ulster County’s Democratic and Republican committees are set to meet next week to endorse candidates for county executive with uncertainty about whether their contenders will run in both a special election to serve this year and in the November election to claim a four-year term.

The vacancy arose this month with Mike Hein leaving the office he held for 10 years to take a position as commissioner of the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. The county charter says a special election must be held within 90 days of his resignation but doesn’t say who would call it, creating an ambiguity that the county’s attorneys are trying to resolve with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

The purpose of the special election would be to fill the office until Hein’s term expires at the end of the year. Adele Reiter, a deputy county executive and Hein’s former chief of staff, is serving as acting county executive until a successor is elected – either in a special election or the general election in November.

Both party chairmen hope to skip the special election, which could cost the county $350,000 and create as many as three elections for county executive in one year.

Three Democrats are seeking the party’s endorsement on Wednesday: Pat Ryan, runner-up in last year’s seven-way Democratic primary for the 19th Congressional District; Kingston businesswoman Pat Strong, a 2018 state Senate candidate; and former Woodstock Supervisor Jeff Moran. The winner will be the party’s nominee for the special election if that occurs, and its preferred candidate for a June 25 primary.

Republicans will hold their convention on Feb. 23 and have not revealed any prospective candidates.

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Seward laments Amazon pull-out

Republican lawmakers representing the mid-Hudson chimed in with a variety of responses on Thursday to Amazon’s announcement that it would abandon its plans to open a giant operation in Queens because of stiff resistance from some community groups and elected officials.

“This is a lost opportunity for New York State,” Sen. James Seward, a Republican whose district includes part of Ulster County, said in a statement. “It is extremely unfortunate that a hostile political environment has resulted in the loss of 25,000 good paying jobs.  While I have been critical of the lack of transparency involved in the Amazon deal, I was ultimately supportive of the economic opportunities that were on our horizon.”

Like other elected officials in upstate New York and neighboring states, Assemblyman Karl Brabenec laid out a welcome mat for Amazon – and a dinner invitation for CEO Jeff Bezos.

“In light of New York City’s sad rejection of Amazon, I would like to formally invite the company to locate its headquarters in the 98th Assembly District,” the Deerpark Republican said in a press release. “We have plenty of hardworking job-seekers, academic institutions and land that could accommodate Amazon’s construction and labor needs, and I’m confident the company would continue its retail growth here in the Hudson Valley. I personally invite Mr. Bezos to dinner at the Chateau Hathorn in beautiful Warwick, New York to discuss the transition.”

Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, a New Windsor Republican, renewed his criticism of the $3 billion in incentives that the state and New York City had offered Amazon, echoing Democrats who opposed the deal and cheered its collapse. Earlier in the week, he had challenged New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio during a budget hearing in Albany about the size of that incentive package.

“The proposed incentive package would have been the largest economic development incentive package in the history of New York for one of the richest companies in the world,” Schmitt said.

He argues the state could better use its resources to “improve the state’s onerous tax system and business climate” and bring jobs upstate. “Now that Amazon has withdrawn from the HQ2 deal, I believe the state should seize this opportunity to prioritize the needs of the Hudson Valley and local taxpayers,” he said.

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Slight majority of NYers support legal pot in Siena poll

A Siena College poll released this week found 52 percent of New York supporting pot legalization and 42 percent against it, a 10-point spread in favor as lawmakers weigh Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal for legalizing and regulating the production and sale of adult-use cannabis.

The poll found more supporters than opponents among Democrats and independent voters and in all regions of the state – New York City, suburbs and upstate. A majority of Republicans opposed legal weed, but with significant dissent: the breakdown was 34 percent in favor, 56 percent against and 10 percent undecided. Not surprisingly, the strongest support among different age groups came from the 18-34 set: 68 percent wanted legalization and 23 percent didn’t.

The leader of a group opposing legalization said in response that support for legalization in New York had dropped from previous polls as law enforcement officials and others have voiced concerns. “Siena’s poll again oversimplifies a complex issue by giving respondents an all-or-nothing choice,” Kevin, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana New York, said in a statement. “As the public learns more about the difference between decriminalization and commercialization the numbers will slip even further.”

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Former Woodstock supervisor seeks to succeed Hein (updated)

Jeff Moran, who served two terms as Woodstock town supervisor from 2008 to 2012, has joined the field of Democrats seeking the party’s nomination to run for Ulster County executive to succeed Mike Hein, who left the post after 10 years to take a leadership job in state government.

Moran said in an email on Wednesday that he owns Electric Prism, a software development company that specializes in online learning applications and graphical user interfaces. He said he also has a background in architectural sculpture, commercial film production and mechanical contracting.

Also seeking the nomination are Pat Ryan, the runner-up in last year’s Democratic primary for New York’s 19th Congressional District seat; and Pat Strong, who ran unsuccessfully for state Senate last year.

Ulster Democratic committee members are set to meet on Feb. 20 in Kingston to nominate a candidate to run in a special election to serve until Hein’s term expires at the end of the year. But the county’s Democratic and Republican chairmen reportedly have both asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo to forego calling a special election, which they say is costly and unnecessary because another election must be held this year for a full, four-term term as county executive.

Skipping the special election would mean that Ulster voters would have to cast ballots only once or twice (in the event of a June 25 primary) for county executive this year, rather than three times.

Moran said he does plan to compete in a Democratic primary if the party nominates another candidate on Feb. 20.

Adele Reiter, a deputy county executive and Hein’s former chief of staff, is serving as acting county executive until a successor is elected. Hein resigned from his post on Sunday to start work as acting commissioner of the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, pending confirmation of his appointment by the state Senate.

(Update: Cardinale said Friday that Ulster County Attorney Mark Longtoe is discussing with Cuomo’s office whether the governor or the county would schedule a special election. The answer is ambiguous because the county charter says only that a special election must be called without 90 days of the county executive’s resignation, not who would make that call.

Cardinale said he hopes to oppose a special election because it could cost the county around $350,000 and result in Ulster having as many as four different county executives in the span of a year.)

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Ryan touts endorsements in Ulster county exec race (updated)

Gardiner resident and recent congressional candidate Pat Ryan has announced the endorsements of two town Democratic committees and two town supervisors in Ulster County is his competition with the two other Democrats hoping to succeed Mike Hein as county executive.

Ryan, who came in second in a seven-way primary for New York’s 19th Congressional District seat last year, said in campaign press releases that he was endorsed by the Shawangunk and Plattekill committees and by Woodstock Supervisor Bill McKenna and New Paltz Supervisor Neil Bettez. Ryan is a Kingston native who attended West Point, served two combat tours in Iraq and later started two tech businesses.

Ryan and fellow Democrats Pat Strong and Mark Rider are seeking the nomination of the Ulster Democratic Committee later this month to run in a special election to fill Hein’s office for the remainder of the year. Hein has resigned after 10 years as county executive after being picked by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to run the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the agency that oversees aid programs for the poor and disabled.

In addition to the upcoming special election, Hein’s would-be successors can start collecting petition signatures this month to run in November for a full, four-year term as county executive.

(Update: Ryan’s campaign announced Tuesday morning that Rider, who is an Ulster deputy county executive, had withdrawn from the race and was supporting Ryan.

“I entered this race with the idea that I would continue the good work begun by County Executive Mike Hein, while also sharing my own vision for making Ulster County a more equitable place for all residents,” Rider said in the press release. “However, I will be doing so while staying in my current role as Deputy County Executive – and joining Team Ryan. I believe Pat Ryan is the best choice to continue the great work that has taken place over the last decade.”

Ryan also released a list of 24 more Democratic committee members who support him.

Strong, a Kingston businesswoman who ran unsuccessfully for state Senate last year, has announced a string of her own endorsements on Facebook in what is now a two-way Democratic competition for county executive. They include Kingston Mayor Steve Noble; New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers and Deputy Mayor KT Tobin; Ulster County legislator and longtime environmental activist Manna Jo Greene; county legislator Lynn Eckert; and Kingston Common Council members Rennie Scott Childress Ward III, Rita Worthington and Andrea Shaut.)

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Maloney supports “Green New Deal” to fight climate change

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Cold Spring, was one of 67 House Democrats to co-sponsor Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal,” a non-binding resolution introduced on Thursday that lays out goals for arresting global warming and creating jobs that has thrilled progressives and invited scorn from Republicans.

“Climate change is a clear and present danger,” Maloney said in a statement of support. “We can’t sit on our hands or wait around anymore – it’s time to find bold solutions. The Green New Deal will help us find a strategy to take action in time for it to do us some good. Time is not our friend in this fight. The sooner we find real solutions, the easier it will be to stop the problem.”

The resolution is more of an environmental call to arms and litany of ideals than a policy prescription. It calls for a 10-year, national “mobilization” to pursue such goals as: a complete shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources; the renovation of all buildings to make them energy- and water-efficient; and eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from factories and vehicles, “as much as is technologically feasible.” There is also language about creating “high-quality union jobs,” ensuring paid family and medical leave and protecting workers’ rights to organize unions.

Twelve of New York’s 21 House Democrats, including Ocasio-Cortez, co-sponsored the green manifesto. Activists gathered at Rep. Antonio Delgado’s district office in Kingston on Friday to urge him to add his name to the resolution, which they described as “a broad environmental, social justice and economic equality vision.”

Republicans attacked the document as a recipe for “a government takeover of the nation’s economy,” and condemned what they said would be the huge cost of retrofitting buildings. “The only thing the ‘Green New Deal’ will guarantee is higher taxes and bigger government,” Michael McAdams, an NRCC spokesman, said in a press release.

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Monroe judge enters state Supreme Court race (updated)

Monroe Town Justice Steven Milligram, a trial lawyer who has presided over municipal court cases in Monroe for the last seven years, opened a campaign fundraising committee on Wednesday to run for the state Supreme Court seat that Justice Sandra Sciortino must vacate after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 this year.

Milligram, a Democrat, is a partner in the City of Newburgh firm of Catania, Mahon, Milligram & Rider, and specializes in health-care lawsuits. His second, four-year term as a Monroe town justice expires at the end of this year.

Sciortino, who is also a Democrat, won a 14-year term on the bench in 2012 and is one of three elected Supreme Court justices in Orange County, which also has four acting justices handling Supreme Court cases. Orange is part of the state’s five-county 9th Judicial District.

Democratic and Republican committees will nominate Supreme Court candidates in conventions held between Aug. 8 and Aug. 14.

(Update: Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration, said Sciortino can ask to extend her tenure by as long as six years after “aging out,” which would be granted in two-year increments. He also said that two other Supreme Court justices in the 9th District are aging out this year and another has reached the last year of his term, which means as many as four justice seats will be on the ballot in the 9th District this year.)

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Ulster district attorney won’t seek re-election

Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright announced Wednesday that he won’t seek re-election this year, closing his career with a department he has led for the last 11 years.

“I have known for many years a day would come when, if I am lucky, I’ll reach a point where I am offered a choice to select a different path,” Carnright said in a press release, which didn’t identify his new path. “I have reached that point and look forward to new challenges that await me after the conclusion of my term.”

Carnright said he hoped that Michael Kavanagh, his chief assistant for the last four years, will run for district attorney.

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Sped-up petition period approaches for local, county candidates

Candidates for local office in all 24 towns and cities in Orange County will begin collecting petition signatures later this month to get on the ballot as New York jumps into a new political calendar that has started campaign season more than three months earlier than it used to begin.

Among the Orange County town supervisors whose seats are up for election are the Republicans who lead the county’s four largest towns: Michael Sweeton of Warwick; Ed Diana of Wallkill; George Green of New Windsor; and Gil Piaquadio of Newburgh. City of Newburgh Mayor Torrance Harvey, who was appointed to succeed the late Judy Kennedy last year and then won an election to serve the last year of her term, must run again this year to claim a full, four-year term.

Political candidates used to have until June to start gathering signatures to run that November (and in September primaries if there was intra-party competition). But the merging of New York’s state and federal primaries in June – one of several election reforms Democrats enacted last month after winning Senate control – has backed up the familiar schedule. Petitions must be filed this year by April 4, instead of mid-July.

There are no congressional races or elections for statewide offices or state Legislature this year. But Ulster County will have elections for county executive and all 23 county Legislature seats, and Sullivan County will have elections for all nine of its Legislature seats. Orange County doesn’t have elections for county offices this year.

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Maloney: funding shift for border wall could endanger West Point projects

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney warned Monday that funding for four capital projects at the U.S. Military Academy could be at risk if President Trump declares an emergency and orders the military to build the Mexican border wall that he’s been trying to get Congress to fund.

Maloney, a Cold Spring Democrat who represents West Point and serves on its board of visitors, said an emergency declaration would allow the president to tap the military construction budget, which includes funding Congress has appropriated for specific projects. West Point has four plans on that list that would be vulnerable because no building contracts have been issued yet: a $95 million engineering center; a $22 million cemetery expansion; a $70 million sewage treatment plant; and a $65 million parking garage.

“Congress has the power of the purse, and we make the calls on where money is going,” Maloney said in a statement. “It would be incredibly irresponsible of the president to exceed his authority and raid other funding which was set aside by Congress because of a contrived national emergency.”

A funding diversion wouldn’t affect the ongoing barracks construction at West Point because four barracks already are done and Congress hasn’t appropriated funding for the other five, Maloney said.

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    Chris McKenna

    Chris McKenna covers Orange County government and politics for the Times Herald-Record. He has been a reporter at the newspaper since 1999. Read Full
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