County agrees to widen pool of KJ poll inspectors

Responding to pressure from Monroe residents for increased scrutiny of voting in Kiryas Joel, an Orange County election commissioner said this week that she will try to assign an election inspector from outside Kiryas Joel to each voting table at the village’s two polling stations, starting with the Sept. 9 primaries that include a heated Assembly race.

The push to allow non-residents as inspectors stems from an intense town election year in November that pitted candidates backed by Kiryas Joel’s leadership and voting blocs against a slate supported by the citizens group United Monroe and voters outside Kiryas Joel. United Monroe supporters who worked in Kiryas Joel that day as poll watchers — but not inspectors — have complained ever since that they were berated and intimidated whenever they tried to inspect voters’ signatures or stop what appeared to be fraudulent voting, with people claiming blank signature spaces to cast multiple votes.

The Kiryas Joel-backed candidates won by large margins in that election.

The county’s two election commissioners — a Democrat and a Republican — decide where to deploy their roster of inspectors for each election, generally picking people who live in the election district they will oversee, whenever possible. Sue Bahren, the Democratic commissioner, said this week that she’ll try to have a non-Kiryas Joel resident among the four inspectors at each of the 10 voting tables the village will have for the Sept. 9 primaries.

She also said she plans to go to the Kiryas Joel polling stations on the morning of the election to supervise.

“We’ll do what we have to do to make the election run as smoothly, as orderly and as legally as we can,” she said.

Monroe resident Andrew Buck, who helped press the inspector issue, said this week that having only poll watchers in Kiryas Joel didn’t work last year because they were restrained from inspecting and challenging signatures.

“Our view was, this year let’s have a seat at the table,” he said.

United Monroe has sent affidavits from seven of its poll watchers, recounting their experiences inside Kiryas Joel’s polling stations last November, along with a list of several hundred voter signatures they questioned after studying poll books after the election, to the FBI, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, the state Board of Elections and the state’s now-defunct Moreland Commission.


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Court officers endorse Krahulik in Family Court race

Christine Krahulik, an Orange County Family Court judge candidate who will face David Hasin in Republican and Conservative primaries on Sept. 9, is touting the endorsement of the New York State Supreme Court Officers Association.

Her campaign quoted this week from an endorsement letter from association President Patrick Cullen, whose organization represents 2,500 active and retired officers. “Our members respect your experience as a fellow member of the New York State Court family.” Cullen wrote, referring to Krahulik’s background as a Family Court support magistrate.

In addition to the Republican and Conservative primaries for Family Court judge, Hasin and Democrat Christine Stage will compete in a separate race that same day for the Independence Party ballot line.

Both Krahulik and Stage have been rated as “qualified” for the position by the panel that reviews qualifications of judicial candidates for the state’s Second Judicial Department. Hasin wan’t rated in that listing.

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State weighs petition of third candidate in Maloney-Hayworth race

Independent congressional candidate Scott Smith said this week that the state Board of Elections will decide on the validity of his petition next Thursday, but seemed to be leaning toward rejecting it after reviewing objections to many of his signatures during a recent hearing.

Smith said he’ll challenge the board’s decision in court if it invalidates his petition.

Smith, a former Middletown alderman who now lives in Goshen, has petitioned to join the 18th Congressional District race between Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and Republican Nan Hayworth, the former congresswoman Maloney unseated in 2012.

Middletown resident Edward Blanchette filed objections with the Board of Elections, questioning the validity of 3,251 of the 4,918 signatures Smith collected, which would leave him with only 1,667. Smith needed 3,500 valid signatures to get on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.


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Monroe candidate declines KJ-created ballot line

United Monroe’s candidate for the vacant Monroe Town Board seat has declined the “Peace and Harmony” ballot line Kiryas Joel leaders had offered him by collecting petition signatures within the village.

That leaves Dennis McWatters running solely on the United Monroe line, destined to face either Susan Roth or Blanca Johnson in the Nov. 4 general election. Roth and Johnson, both Democrats, are competing in a primary on Sept. 9 for their party’s nomination.

Kiryas Joel leaders had announced their support for McWatters and their creation of a somewhat ironic-sounding ballot line in an Aug. 17 press release, which also scorned the citizens group under whose banner McWatters was running. They claimed to have collected 1,363 signatures for McWatters as a peacemaking gesture toward Monroe residents outside of Kiryas Joel, who turned out in droves for McWatters and other United Monroe candidates in town elections last November but failed to outvote Kiryas Joel’s giant voting blocs.

The winner of the November election will serve the final year of Harley Doles’ unexpired, four-year term as councilman. Doles vacated the seat in January after being elected town supervisor, and the board has failed to fill it for eight months.


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KJ backs McWatters for vacant Monroe seat

Kiryas Joel leaders have announced their support for Dennis McWatters to fill the Monroe Town Board seat left vacant since January, praising McWatters as a “professional public servant” while castigating the citizens group that already has petitioned to put him on the ballot in November.

According to a press release from Village Administrator Gedalye Szegedin on Sunday, 1,363 Kiryas Joel residents signed an independent petition to place McWatters on the ballot on a “Peace and Harmony” line. The petition was mailed to the county Board of Elections on Friday, according to the release, which cast the village’s support for McWatters as “a show of understanding and continued desire for peace.”

The release stated, “We heard the argument made by some Monroe residents that because of the voting practice of the KJ residents it may have the unintentional affect of somehow depriving the out of KJ residents in monroe of a feeling that they too are represented on the Town Board by candidates of their choice, therefore this nominating petition was submitted to nominate their candidate.”

McWatters, a town Zoning Board member and former Planning Board member, ran for Town Board in November with a slate of candidates backed by the United Monroe citizens group. Monroe voters in areas outside Kiryas Joel turned out in droves and overwhelmingly supported McWatters and the other United Monroe candidates, who lost nonetheless to contenders backed by Kiryas Joel’s voting blocs.

United Monroe is now campaigning for McWatters to serve the final year of the unexpired board term of Harley Doles, a former councilman who was elected supervisor with Kiryas Joel’s support in 2013. Doles and his fellow board members have failed to fill the vacancy through an appointment. Democrats Susan Roth and Blanca Johnson also have petitioned to run for the Monroe seat in November, and will compete in a Sept. 9 primary for the nomination.

Support for McWatters by both United Monroe and Kiryas Joel in November would guarantee his election, sidestepping a conflict that would likely exacerbate tensions over last November’s vote and the subsequent drive to expand Kiryas Joel by 507 acres.

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Two more petitions filed in crowded Assembly race

Two candidates in the crowded Assembly District 98 race  – including one who appeared to be out after her Democratic petition was invalidated — have cemented their places on the November general election ballot by filing independent nominating petitions this week.

Republican Dan Castricone, a former Orange County legislator who’s competing in a four-way GOP primary in September, submitted a petition to run on the ballot line of the United Monroe citizens group, and said that he and his United Monroe supporters had collected 2,400 signatures.

Jacqueline Boulin Romain, a Democrat and Rockland County resident also seeking the Assembly seat that Annie Rabbitt vacated in January, petitioned to run on a Preserve Hudson ballot line, putting her back in the field of candidates after her Democratic petition was rejected (unless this petition also gets invalidated). Once again, eight people are vying for the Assembly seat.

Here’s the complicated scorecard at this stage, with more time left for other candidates to file (and challenge) independent petitions before Tuesday’s deadline:

Four Republicans — Castricone, Karl Brabenec, Michael Morgillo and Kevin Hudson — and three Democrats — Aron Wieder, Elisa Tutini and Krystal Serrano — will compete in primaries for their parties’ nominations on Sept. 9.

Brabenec is assured the Independence Party line and perhaps the Conservative line as well. He had Castricone’s bid for the Conservative line blocked in court through a technicality, although Castricone is appealing that ruling and would face Brabenec in a Conservative primary on Sept. 9 if he wins his appeal.

So regardless of who wins the Republican and Democratic primaries and Conservative Party tussle, four candidates have certain places on the general election ballot at this point: Brabenec on the Indepedence line, Tutini on the Working Families line, Castricone on the United Monroe line and Boulin Romain on Preserve Hudson.

In other words, at least four candidates could run for the 98th Assembly District in November.

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Ex-alderman starts independent run for Congress (updated)

Former Middletown Alderman Scott Smith, who quit his Common Council seat last year before moving to Goshen, has filed a petition to run as an independent candidate for the congressional seat held by Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, saying on his web site that he had collected nearly 5,000 signatures.

Smith joins a rematch race between Maloney and former Rep. Nan Hayworth, the Republican Maloney unseated in 2012 after she had served one term in Congress. According to the state Board of Elections, Smith’s petition to run on the “Mr. Smith for Congr.” line was received on Aug. 6 and has been deemed valid, although it is being challenged.

A description of his political positions on his web site sounds Republican themes by denouncing the NY SAFE Act — a 2013 package of gun restrictions that was enacted in Albany and that Congress had nothing to do with — and the Affordable Care Act, which he describes as “an even worse miscarriage of legislative action.” He also called for tighter border control, tax simplification and cutting government waste.

Smith, who is 41 and not registered with any political party, successfully ran as a Democrat for 2nd Ward alderman in Middletown in 2009 and 2011. He needed 3,500 signatures to mount an independent run for New York’s 18th Congressional District seat.

Update: In an interview Friday, Smith, a married father of three who teaches 8th grade science in the East Ramapo School District, said he decided to run out of frustration with the country’s direction and sense that most politicians serve their own parties before the people. He said he’s uncertain about his chances, but said he would not have gone through the trouble of launching a campaign if it was purely a lark.

“I honestly believe that I have a chance,” he said.

He said he was “strongly independent” and “strongly unaffiliated” with either Republicans or Democrats, adding, “I don’t know if I’ll ever register with a party.”

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Tenney to face Herkimer sheriff in 101st primary

Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney will be facing off in a Republican primary against Herkimer County Sheriff Chris Farber, according to state Board of Election records.

Tenney, from New Hartford, recently lost her challenge to Rep. Richard Hanna in a Republican primary for the 22nd Congressional District but had enough time to run again for the seat she holds in the sprawling 101st Assembly District.

The 101st Assembly district nicks the borders of Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties and meanders northward through Delaware, Otsego, Herkimer and Oneida counties.

Tenney is serving her second term in Albany and the seat is up for reelection in November, with a primary in September.

There is no Democratic challenger.

As of July, Farber reporter $5,973.44 in his campaign account versus Tenney’s $10,558.84 in the same period.

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One less candidate, primary in crowded Assembly race

The cast of candidates seeking Annie Rabbitt’s vacated Assembly seat has dipped to seven from eight with the invalidation of the Democratic petition filed by a Rockland County contender, Jacqueline Boulin Romain.

The state Board of Elections’ updated list of candidate petitions also indicates the Independence Party paperwork submitted by Monroe resident Elisa Tutini — who’s also seeking the Democratic nomination and is assured the Working Families line in the November general election — has been thrown out. That reduced to three from four the number of primaries being held next month for the 98th Assembly District, which crosses southern Orange County and includes part of the Town of Ramapo in Rockland.

There are now four Republicans and three Democrats running in the Sept. 9 primaries. Two Republicans — Karl Brabenec and Dan Castricone — also will compete in a separate primary that day for the Conservative Party line. Brabenec now has the Independence line as a certain perch on the the general election ballot. Castricone is expected to run on the United Monroe line, which also would guarantee him a ballot spot in November.

The Democratic candidates are Aron Wieder, Krystal Serrano and Tutini. The Republicans are Kevin Hudson, Michael Morgillo, Brabenec and Castricone.

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Casino interests give $9,000 to Neuhaus campaign (updated)

Leading a county with the largest pool of casino applicants in the state paid some dividends for Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus in the last few months: the finance report his campaign filed last month after his first six months in office show he collected $9,000 in donations from a major casino company and real estate firm involved with three of the six bids for a casino license in Orange.

His report lists contributions of $2,000, $1,000 and $1,000 on May 8 and July 10 from developer David Flaum and his Rochester-based firm, which secured the 115-acre site in Woodbury on which Caesars Entertainment hopes to build an $880 million casino resort. Genting New York LLC, an affiliate of the Malaysian company with casino resort proposals in Tuxedo and Montgomery, donated $5,000 to the Neuhaus campaign on May 20.

All told, Neuhaus raised more than $47,000 in campaign funds between Jan. 11 and July 11, but he spent almost as much, leaving him with a net gain of $8 over that reporting period and around $16,000 in his coffers by its end, according to the financial statement. (Update: this sentence initially described his net cash increase as $8,000 instead of $8, inadvertently adding three zeros where they didn’t belong. Apologies for the mistake.)

Other large contributions included:

– $4,000 on June 3 and June 12 from Laborers Local 17, one of four building and construction trade unions that donated money to Neuhaus.

– $2,500 on May 8 from Jay Holt, managing director at Holt Construction, the Pearl River company that oversaw major additions to the SUNY Orange campuses in Middletown and Newburgh and has been hired to steer the planned overhaul of the Government Center.

– $2,500 on June 18 from Mediacom Communications Corp., the cable TV company that opened its new headquarters in Blooming Grove last year.

– $2,500 on March 14, June 12 and June 17 from Tern Construction and Development LLC in Carmel, N.Y.

– $2,000 on May 20 from Atlas Security Services Inc. in Goshen, which provides security in county buildings.

Among Neuhaus’ largest expenditures during the same period was a $20,000 payment on June 25 to the political consulting firm of Jay Townsend, who has advised Republican candidates and office holders at all levels, including Neuhaus’ predecessor as county executive, Ed Diana.

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