Ballot snafu in Columbia County leaves Republican Bob Bishop on the ticket

Congressional primary ballots throughout Columbia County were distributed, incorrectly, Tuesday with former Republican candidate Bob Bishop’s name on them, according to the county’s GOP Board of Election commissioner.

Four candidates are competing Tuesday in the race for the 19th Congressional District: Democrats Zephyr Teachout, from Dutchess County, and Will Yandik, from Columbia County, and Republicans Andrew Heaney, from Dutchess County and John Faso, from Columbia County.

Bob Bishop, a Delaware County hay and alfalfa farmer, withdrew from the race in May after his designating petitions were challenged by Heaney’s campaign.

Jason Nastke, Columbia County Board of Elections Republican commissioner, said Tuesday that although voting machines were tested and programmed correctly the incorrect ballot was distributed to all polling places in Columbia County.

Polls opened in the 19th district at noon. Nastke said they are currently distributing new ballots at every polling site and should be complete by 3:30 p.m. Votes for Bishop will be considered void, Nastke said.

A little more than 4,700 ballots were cast from Columbia County for Republican candidates in the presidential primary in April. That’s out of about 52,000 ballots cast throughout the 19th district in the GOP primary race.

The 11-county district includes all of Columbia, Ulster and Sullivan counties.

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Siena poll: Faso and Teachout expand leads before primary

Republican John Faso and Democrat Zephyr Teachout have expanded their leads against their congressional primary opponents in the 19th Congressional District, according to a new poll by Siena Research Institute and Time Warner Cable News.

But Republican candidate Andrew Heaney says releasing poll results so close to the primary day a “grave disservice” to the voters of the district and criticized Siena’s conclusions in past polls.

The poll, conducted from June 19-22, shows Teachout leading Democrat Will Yandik by 39 points, 62-23 percent, and Faso beating Heaney by 30 points, 58-28 percent. The poll has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points for the Republican poll and 4 percentage points for the Democratic side.

All four candidates are looking to fill the open seat Republican Rep. Chris Gibson, who’s not running four a fourth term in Congress. Gibson has made no endorsement in the race.

The 11-county 19th district includes all of Ulster and Sullivan counties. The new poll shows Teachout has expanded her lead nine percentage points and Faso eight percentage points since Siena and TWC did their last poll three weeks ago.

Siena spokesman Steven Greenberg said Teachout’s lead against Yandik is especially high in our region.

“Teachout leads by 50 points in Dutchess and Ulster counties, where nearly half of expected Democratic primary voters are expected to come from, and by more than 20 points in the remainder of the district. She leads by 48 points among self-described liberals – two-thirds of expected voters – and 17 points among moderates,” Greenberg said. “Yandik has not made up ground with any demographic group in the last three weeks.”

Meanwhile Faso’s lead in Ulster and Dutchess counties, which were within four percentage points three weeks ago, has also expanded, Greenberg says.

“Faso leads by more than 40 points in the counties closest to the capital region, which are expected to produce more Republican votes than any other region, and more than 30 points in the southern portion of the district. Heaney had been within four points of Faso in Dutchess and Ulster Counties, although now Faso leads there by 17 points,” Greenberg said. “Among moderate Republicans, Faso leads by 22 points, however, he leads by 35 points with conservatives, who account for nearly two-thirds of the electorate.”

Greenberg said the polls seem to show Teachout and Faso going head to head in November, though with an asterisk.

“While Faso and Teachout appear to be headed to a November showdown, low turnout elections – like late June congressional primaries – are generally won by the campaigns that do a better job of identifying their supporters and ensuring that their supporters actually cast votes,” Greenberg said. “That said, Heaney and Yandik have huge hurdles to overcome if they are to pull off come from behind upset victories.”

Heaney, in a response to the poll in a press release, said the “only poll that matters is on Election Day.” But he also slammed Siena and Time Warner Cable News, saying their polls have been “wildly inaccurate” before.

“Releasing the Time Warner sponsored Siena poll, literally a day before an election, is in a word irresponsible and a grave disservice to the voters of the 19th Congressional District,” Heaney said.

He went on to point out races where Siena has missed the mark in the past.

“There is no precedent, zero history for a poll in this new 19th Congressional district especially at this time of year. Moreover, Siena polls have a notable and recent poor track record predicting outcomes in low turnout elections. Siena polling was wildly inaccurate in races such as in the the recent Senate race in Long Island and the Rochester mayor’s race. In Rochester, just 48 hours before the election Siena gave Tom Richards a huge 36-point lead, 63-27, over Lovely Warren, instead, Warren beat Richards handily, 58-41 percent. In the Long Island special election to replace Senator Dean Skelos, a Siena poll found Republican Jack McGrath leading democrat Todd Kaminsky 51 percent to 43 percent. Kaminsky would win the race just a few days later.

Greenberg defended Siena’s methodology.

“Sometimes, campaigns behind in polls focus on attacking the pollster rather than trying to win votes,” Greenberg said. “That’s their right, even if they’re wrong. We stand by our record, which has earned us one of the top ratings among all pollsters from”




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Sunday telephone poll dives deep on race for State Sen. Bill Larkin’s senate seat

Voters in the region were hit with a new poll on Sunday that asked a series of probing questions about GOP Sen. Bill Larkin, his Democratic opponent Chris Eachus and several issues in the race for the 39th Senate District.

But Larkin supporters say the poll is no indication that Larkin will be switched out for another candidate in his 14th bid for the Senate seat this November.

The poll, which lasted about a half hour and comes in the midst of petitioning season, first asked voters if they felt if New York was going in in the right or wrong direction. The pollster then got into specifics, asking whether voters had a positive or negative outlook on 11 different locals politicians or those with known political interest. They were:

  • Republican Todd Diorio, president of Laborers Local 17 and the Hudson Valley Building and Construction Trades Council
  • Republican Assembly candidate Colin Schmitt, who’s looking to represent the 99th Assembly District
  • Orange County Legislator Mike Anagnostakis, a Town of Newburgh Republican with known Senate interest
  • Democratic Assemblyman James Skoufis of the 99th Assembly District
  • Republican Sen. Bill Larkin of the 39th Senate District, the 88-year-old state senator who’s seeking his 14th two-year state Senate term
  • Chris Eachus, an Orange County Democratic legislator who’s running his second bid against Larkin this year
  • New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio
  • Hillary Clinton, Democratic presidential presumptive nominee
  • Donald Trump, Republican presidential presumptive nominee
  • Town of Stony Point Republican Supervisor Jim Monaghan, whose town is within the 39th Senate District
  • Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus

The pollster then turned to asking what is the most important issue  to voters. Options included everything from public integrity, pocketbook issues, and economic issues.

There were then several open-ended questions asking voters about how they felt about Larkin, then specifically on his votes on paid family leave, raising the minimum wage, a Kiryas Joel annexation bill and extending the state property tax levy cap.

The pollster then asked how voters felt about Larkin, including his military record and assignment guarding Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965, missing multiple campaign filing deadlines, the arrest of Larkin’s former campaign manager and treasurer Carmen Dubaldi, collecting a state pension and salary at the same time, support of the Newburgh Armory and education issues like Common Core and gap elimination.

There were also a few questions about Eachus, including questions asking how voters felt about his legislative votes on reducing funding for a county lawsuit against Kiryas Joel, elimination of a subsidy for stocking fish in local bodies of water, support of the state Dream Act and rescinding the state property tax levy cap.

Mike Murphy, spokesman for the New York State Democratic Senate Campaign Committee,  said in an email that the poll indicated trouble for Larkin.

“The Senate Republicans are realizing that long-time politician, Skelos supporter and pension double-dipper Bill Larkin can’t win this seat and have started their backroom maneuvers to run another handpicked candidate from the Albany Skelos Machine,” Murphy said.

Scott Reif, Senate Republican spokesman,  said as a matter of policy they never discuss their polling or even whether or not they are doing so.  He then pointed to a statement Larkin released in May about his commitment for running for reelection. Here’s it is again:

“I am absolutely 100 percent running for re-election this Fall and my name will be on the ballot in November. I am running for re-election because I believe there is still more that I can do to help the families, seniors, veterans and small-business owners in my district and throughout the Hudson Valley,” Larkin said.

In addition, Reif used the opportunity to point out Larkin’s military record and attack Eachus, saying he is “out of touch” and highlighting his support for repealing the state property tax levy cap.

“You don’t need to commission a poll to understand that there’s a huge difference between the two candidates running for State Senate in November,” Reif said.

Larkin was out of town on a cruise in the Caribbean this week but Brian Maher, Larkin’s spokesman, said Larkin’s camp did not commission the poll. He also said there “was no chance” that Larkin will not be on the ticket this year. He referred back to Larkin’s statement as well and said nothing has changed since then.

Maher also addressed a change to Larkin’s designating petitions this year that reduce the members of his committee to fill vacancies to just the three GOP county chairman that make up the 39th Senate District. Members of the committee to fill vacancies has the ability to appoint a Republican in the district to run in the absence of the person on the petition. That can happen even after petitions have been filed and accepted, but within a certain window of time.

Maher said the changes are a reflection of the changes in Larkin’s campaign staff from previous years. Larkin’s former campaign manager, Dubaldi, is currently awaiting sentencing on corruption charges. Maher said the changes on the petition meant nothing else.

“There’s nothing to read into on that,” Maher said.

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Eachus rebukes Larkin for stalled Child Victims Act

Democratic Senate candidate Chris Eachus went after Republican Sen. William Larkin Jr. this week for the Senate Republicans’ resistance to the Child Victims Act, a longstanding bill that would lift the statute of limitations on charges of child sex-abuse in New York.

Democrats, who are in the Senate minority and powerless to compel votes, tried to force one on this priority in May by attaching it to an unrelated Republican bill, a move that Republicans blocked. Eachus, in a press release, counted that as a vote by Larkin against the bill, and vowed to push for its passage if he unseats the 37-year legislator in November. “When legislation was brought to the Senate floor that would give the victims of child sexual abuse the opportunity to seek justice, Senator Larkin voted against it,” Eachus said. “The victims of this heinous crime deserve the opportunity to confront their abusers and finally receive justice. The Child Victims Act is a good bill and when I am elected to the State Senate I will fight for its passage.”

Scott Reif, a Senate Republican spokesman, responded that the Senate didn’t vote on the Child Victims Act itself but on “whether a proposed amendment was germane to the bill before the Senate.” He also stated that “Senator Larkin has done more than anyone to protect women and children from dangerous sexual predators,” and accused Eachus of flip-flopping on whether he supports the state tax cap.

He didn’t respond when asked if Larkin supports or opposes the Child Victims Act. Larkin’s spokesman, Brian Maher, didn’t respond when asked about Eachus’ charge.

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GOP candidates want recordings made by fired Democratic tracker

Both Republicans running in a primary on Tuesday in New York’s 18th Congressional District race are demanding Democrats reliquish video recordings of them made by an overzealous party operative, who was fired this month after reportedly peering inside one of the candidate’s home in Westchester County.

Phil Oliva, whose wife reportedly caught Yougourthen Ayouni looking through a window in the couple’s house in Somers, said in a statement this week that he was concerned the rogue “tracker” had taken “inappropriate footage” of his wife, Jessica, or their young children. “My wife and I honestly don’t know what is on the tapes, and we hope it’s nothing,” Oliva said in the press release. “But we needed this for peace of mind, and I’m pretty sure most people can understand that.”

Oliva thanked Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the Cold Spring Democrat he hopes to challenge in November, for agreeing to relinquish the tapes. But the tracker was working for state Democratic Party, not the Maloney campaign, and it appears only the party could retrieve and relinquish the recordings if it chose to do so. Basil Smikle, the party’s executive director, didn’t respond to a question this week about whether he had obtained the recordings and would turn them over. Maloney condemned the tracker’s behavior after the New York Post reported it this month and commended the Democratic Party for firing him.

Ken Del Vecchio, the candidate competing with Oliva in the Republian primary on Tuesday, also had an encounter with Ayouni and wants any recordings made of that encounter and any visits Ayouni may have made to the Del Vecchios’ home in Warwick. He and his wife, Francine, have said that Ayouni confronted them at the Paramount Theatre in Middletown during the Hoboken International Film Festival, which Del Vecchio runs. Ayouni reportedly pressed them about abortion and Planned Parenthood while recording their conversation.

“I am now highly skeptical that Ayouni’s tracking misconduct went beyond his appearance at my film festival,” Del Vecchio said in a press release. “Did he record anything of my wife and 7-year-old son at my house? I demand that Maloney and the Democrat Party provide me copies of all recordings that Ayouni took of me and my family, and I also want an apology to my wife and son.”

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Maloney calls House sit-in “the best day I’ve had in Congress”

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney invoked the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, recalled Georgia Rep. John Lewis’ bravery as a civil rights crusader in the 1960s, and appealed for honest and unscripted politics in his speech to Democratic colleagues on the House floor on Wednesday, the first day of a gun-control sit-in that Democrats staged for 24 hours.

According to a transcript provided by his office, the Cold Spring Democrat began his turn at the microphone by recalling the sea of gay-rights activists outside the Supreme Court when the landmark ruling on same-sex marriage was rendered one year ago, and the spontaneous singing of the national anthem that followed.

“It made me emotional then – and it’s making me emotional now. Because here’s the deal – it still matters what we do in these buildings with marble columns and thick plush seats – when we come in with security and armed men, to do our business, there are people out there waiting – they’re waiting to see if it still works. They want to know if we can still do it in this country. They’re hoping and they’re waiting for justice and for their voices to be heard.”

Maloney went on to liken his caucus’s push for greater gun control in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shootings to past fights for justice, and called the 1960s-style demonstration “the best day I’ve had in Congress.”

“Look at these people sitting on the floor – when’s the last time you sat on the floor? Feels pretty good right? When’s the last time you felt that people really cared about what’s going on in this House?”

The two Republicans vying for their party’s nomination to challenge Maloney this fall took a more jaundiced view of the Democrats’ protest. Phil Oliva, a Somers resident and aide to Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, dismissed it as a publicity stunt, intended purely to help Democratic candidates raise campaign money. Ken Del Vecchio, a filmmaker who lives in Warwick, called it a waste of time and said, “They remind me of a bunch of goofballs who want to have a sleepover at camp together.”

Both candidates, who are competing in a primary on Tuesday, oppose the Democrats’ effort to prohibit anyone on a federal watch list as a potential terrorist from buying a firearm. Del Vecchio argued such a ban would do nothing to stop terrorists from obtaining guns illegally or finding other ways to commit acts of terror, and yet would infringe the gun ownership rights of people wrongly placed on a watch list.

“The only thing we should be doing in Congress is repealing laws that subjugate Second Amendment rights,” he said.

Oliva also warned about abridging constitutional rights and the potential for abuse and mistakes when “secret government watch lists” are involved. He argued that suspected terrorists should be denied guns only if due process if followed, with authorities presenting probable cause against them and a judge weighing the evidence and making the ultimate decision.

Oliva accused Democrats of targeting the wrong issue in response to the Orlando shootings, in which the killer had proclaimed allegiance to the Islamic State. “The focus is on guns right now, but I don’t hear anybody talking about how we’re going to defeat ISIS,” he said. “Is the enemy ISIS, or is it the NRA? I think the Democrats think it’s both. I think it’s ISIS.”

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Anti-gun group gives mid-Hudson Valley state lawmakers poor marks on gun safety votes

Mid-Hudson Valley state lawmakers have earned poor grades for their past votes on gun-related issues, according to new rankings released byNew Yorkers Against Gun Violence, an anti-gun group.

The advocacy group, that says its aim is to reduce gun violence, released the rankings Tuesday.

The rankings are based on legislators’ votes on gun bills since January 2013, including the controversial 2013 NY SAFE Act, a 2015 state Senate vote to repeal portions of the SAFE Act and a 2015 state Assembly vote on Nicholas’ Law, requiring the safe storage of firearms inside the home.

Out of the seven assemblymembers who represent Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties, all but two failed. All of our local senators failed the anti-gun group’s rankings as well.

Those included Republican Karl Brabenec of Deerpark, Claudia Tenney of New Hartford and Peter Lopez of Schoharie. Democrats James Skoufis of Woodbury and Aileen Gunther of Forestburgh also failed.

Assembly Democrats Kevin Cahill of Kingston and Frank Skartados of Milton both earned “needs improvement” marks.

All four of our regions current state senators – Republicans Bill Larkin, George Amedore, James Seward and John Bonacic – received a “fail” ranking.

You can check out the full list of rankings and their individual votes here.

Leah Gunn Barrett, NYAGV executive director, said they compiled the rankings in light of the mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub last week.

“At the end of the 2016 legislative session and after last week’s massacre in Orlando, it is important that voters know where their legislators stand on gun safety,” Barrett said. “The 2013 SAFE Act strengthened New York’s gun laws by closing the private sale loophole and toughening the assault weapons ban. These are common sense laws that need to be passed by Congress if we are to begin to address our national epidemic of gun violence.”

Assembly members received a “fail” if they voted against both the NY SAFE Act that closed the private-sale loophole and strengthened the assault weapons ban and Nicholas’s Law that would require firearms to be stored safely when not in the owner’s possession or control. A “needs improvement” rating was given if they voted for the SAFE Act but against Nicholas’s Law. An “above average” rating was given if they voted for both measures; and an Incomplete if there was no voting record.

Below are the ranking of all our local legislators. Having a little trouble lining up the columns but hopefully you’ll be able get the gist of it.

NYAGV NYS Senate Rankings 2016
District  Party  Senator 2013 SAFE Act   (S2230) Vote    2015  Repeal  SAFE Act (S5837) Vote Sponsor of Nicholas’s Law (S2291) Grade
98 Rep Karl A. Brabenec N/A No Yes Fail
99 Dem James Skoufis No No Fail
100 Dem Aileen Gunther No No Fail
101 Rep Claudia Tenney No No Yes Fail
102 Rep Peter Lopez No No Yes Fail
103 Dem Kevin Cahill Yes No Needs Improvement
104 Dem Frank Skartados Yes No Needs Improvement
NYAGV NYS Senate Rankings 2016
District  Party  Senator 2013 SAFE Act   (S2230) Vote    2015  Repeal  SAFE Act (S5837) Vote Sponsor of Nicholas’s Law (S2291) Grade
42 Rep Bonanic, John No Yes Fail
51 Rep Seward, James No Yes Fail
46 Rep Amedore, George Yes Fail
39 Rep Larkin, William No Yes Fail

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Democrats boot, scold party members for disloyalty

A group of Orange County Democratic leaders removed 10 City of Newburgh party members from their committee seats and scolded six Town of Monroe members this week, affirming the recommendations of a panel that had been asked to weigh separate claims of party disloyalty in the two places.

The disloyalty accusations were brought by Democrats who lost election bids last year and demanded the party expel certain committee members who supported other candidates. One was former county Democratic Chairman Jonathan Jacobson, who tried unsuccessfully to unseat Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy, a fellow Democrat. The other was former Monroe Councilman Dan Burke, whose town party rescinded its endorsement of him for reelection after he voted in favor of a petition to expand Kiryas Joel by 164 acres.

Brett Broge, Orange’s Democratic chairman, confirmed this week that about 35 to 40 members of the party’s executive committee had voted on Tuesday to accept the recommendations of a panel that heard the charges in May. For the Monroe members, that merely meant a reprimand. The Newburgh members were removed from their seats, although that may amount to only a short suspension: they are free to run to reclaim their seats in September.

The decision has angered further the Democrats who were accused of disloyalty and their supporters. Among the Monroe Democrats who were reprimanded was Tom Kemnitz, the town party’s chairman. He sent a summary of his defense to the executive committee the night of the vote, saying, “Either as a committee we can endorse or we cannot.  And if we can endorse, then certainly we can withdraw that endorsement.  This is party business, not disloyalty to the party. I urge the County Committee to consider carefully before it in any way accepts the finding of the subcommittee, because if we were disloyal in doing local Democratic Party business, then you are seeking robots programmed to obey a label rather than people motivated by their beliefs.”

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Democrats fire tracker who peeked in candidate’s home

State Democrats reportedly have fired a party operative for overzealously hounding a Republican candidate who hopes to challenge Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney this fall.

According to a New York Post article published on Friday, a campaign “tracker” named Yougourthen Ayouni allegedly peered in the windows of congressional candidate Phil Oliva’s home in Westchester County, startling Oliva’s wife, Jessica. Ayouni also is said to have contacted Jessica Oliva on Facebook to ask about taking an online fitness class she conducts.

Basil Smikle, the executive director of the state Democratic Committee, is quoted in the story as saying, “It’s behavior that is unacceptable to us and will not be tolerated. He’s been fired.”

Ken Del Vecchio, a Warwick resident competing with Oliva for the Republican nomination in a primary on June 28, and his wife, Francine, said Friday that the same tracker confronted them at at the Paramount Theatre in Middletown during the Hoboken International Film Festival, which Ken Del Vecchio runs. They say Ayouni began firing questions about abortion and Planned Parenthood and holding up his cell phone as they walked into the theater lobby after a film premiere on June 8.

“He started peppering me with all these questions about Planned Parenthood,” Ken Del Vecchio recalled.  He said the encounter lasted about five minutes and was “a little annoying,” but not illegal or over the line. “I said that I would completely defund Planned Parenthood,” Del Vecchio added.

He said he had no other encounters with Ayouni.

Maloney, a Cold Spring Democrat running for a third term in November, condemned the tracker’s behavior with the Olivas. “Clearly this young man crossed the line and was completely inappropriate,” he said in a statement on Friday. “While he never worked for our campaign, this is not the sort of activity I want done on my behalf and the New York State Democratic Party was right to fire him. Running for office is hard enough, I am sorry Phil and Jessica had to go through this.”

Oliva responded on Facebook: “My opponent, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney thinks it’s appropriate for his ‘tracker’ to stalk my wife on Facebook and show up at my house and peer through my windows when I’m not home. Jess is terrified and has filed a police report. Stalking a mom of three kids under the age of 4? Seriously?”

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Slow fundraising in GOP primary for NY-18 seat

Two Republican candidates competing in a primary this month to take on Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney have reported a combined $103,000 in their campaign coffers, a small fraction of the $1.8 million in funds reported by the two-term Democratic incumbent they each hope to challenge.

In financial disclosure reports filed by the campaigns this week, Phil Oliva of Somers reported raising $29,000 in the roughly two months from April 1 to June 8, leaving him with $78,000 on hand after expenses. Oliva is an aide to Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and the Republican Party’s endorsed candidate for New York’s 18th Congressional District race.

During that same period, his GOP primary rival, Ken Del Vecchio of Warwick, reported raising $4,000 and lending his campaign almost $28,000. According to his statement, he has now contributed almost $42,000 of his own money to the race and had a little over $25,000 to spend on the upcoming primary as of June 8. Del Vecchio is a filmmaker who runs the annual Hoboken International Film Festival at the Paramount Theatre in Middletown.

Oliva and Del Vecchio will compete for the Republican nomination in a primary on June 28.

Maloney’s campaign reported collecting $283,000 during the same two-month stretch, putting his warchest at $1.8 million. The Cold Spring Democrat is running for a third term in November as representative for the 18th District, which includes all of Orange and Putnam counties and parts of Westchester and Dutchess.


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