Teachout wins Ulster Democratic Committee endorsement

Zephyr Teachout narrowly won the endorsement  of the Ulster County Democratic Committee Thursday night against Democratic challenger Will Yandik.

Teachout, 44, won with 54 percent of the vote to Yandik’s 45 percent, according to Teachout’s campaign.

Teachout, the Fordham University law professor who took on Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2014 for the Democratic line, is looking to replace Rep. Chris Gibson in the 19th Congressional District. Gibson, R-Kinderhook, isn’t running for reelection this year but considering running for governor in 2018.

The voting is unofficial. By population Ulster County represents the largest number of voters in the 11-county district.

Yandik, a Columbia County farmer and deputy supervisor for the Town of Livingston, has said he’ll petition his way onto the ballot.

Teachout began renting a house in March last year Dover Plains in Dutchess County. She lived in Brooklyn before that and waged a strong gubernatorial challenge against Cuomo for the Democratic nomination in 2014.

Republicans John Faso, Andrew Heaney and Bob Bishop have been battling for support on the Republican side.

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Republican field narrows for NY-18 race

At least two of the six Republican candidates who hoped to run for New York’s 18th Congressional District have withdrawn in the wake of Monday’s vote by GOP committee members to endorse Phil Oliva of Westchester County as their preferred candidate.

Oliva, an aide to Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, won almost 73 percent of the weighted votes on a second ballot at the Republican convention at Kuhl’s Highland House, putting him far ahead of three rivals. Two candidates seeking the party’s endorsement were eliminated after a first round of voting.

“I am truly humbled by the incredible level of support that I received last night in a race with five other strong candidates,” Oliva said in a statement after his victory. “Obviously, my message resonated and my experience factored in, and the people who got to know me could see that my heart is in the right place. I’m running because America is heading in the wrong direction and our district is not getting the representation we deserve.”

Dan Castricone, who came in second with 10.4 percent of the weighted votes, told supporters in an email and on Facebook the next day that he was withdrawing from the race, forgoing a primary race against the party’s endorsed candidate.  ”I have the satisfaction of knowing that we gave life to a good cause that will live and endure in the years to come,” wrote Castricone, a former Orange County legislator from Tuxedo.

Frank Spampinato, a Newburgh native who returned to his hometown from Virginia to run for the office, also left the race after coming in fourth in the second voting round. “While my goal of being the candidate to recapture this seat for our party wasn’t to be, the larger goal of returning the seat to Republican hands where it belongs is still alive,” he said on Facebook. “That goal is not served by siphoning resources away from the GOP nominee, or dividing conservatives among ballot lines.”

Ken Del Vecchio, a Warwick resident and filmmaker who runs the annual film festival at Middletown’s Paramount Theatre, said afterward that he’s leaning toward waging a primary race but must weigh the time commitment with his family, given the movies he’s working on and upcoming festival in June. He was eliminated in the first round of convention voting, which wasn’t too surprising after his sharp criticism of the endorsement process as an insider game decided by a small number of people.

He estimated after Monday’s votes that between 200 and 250 committee members actually participated, casting an additional 800 proxy votes for members who didn’t attend. The committee members were from the towns in the 18th District, which includes all of Orange and Putnam counties and parts of Westchester and Dutchess.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Cold Spring Democrat, is serving his second term as congressman for the 18th District. He faces a likely primary challenge on June 28 from Diana Hird, an attorney and fellow Cold Spring resident.

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Sean Eldridge pens piece on “broken campaign finance system”

Sean Eldridge, former Democratic candidate for the 19th Congressional District, has written a piece for Medium where he lambastes what he calls the “broken campaign finance system.”

In the piece, that can be found here, Eldridge speaks about the “corrosive” roll of big donors in politics and the access and favors he said that garners them.

But aside from the roll of big donors, Eldridge says equally as harmful is what he calls the “unseen opportunity cost of campaign fundraising.” He says that elected officials are “caught in a system where they are encouraged to act more like telemarketers than lawmakers, trapped in soulless call rooms, spending hours a day pleading for contributions.”

Eldridge, from Shokan, was whomped in the 2014 by Republican Rep. Chris Gibson even though Eldridge outspent Gibson and contributed millions of dollars of his own money to his bid. The 19th Congressional District includes all of Ulster and Sullivan counties.

Eldridge says the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recommends spending four hours a day raising money on the phone :

For members of Congress, the DCCC’s recommended schedule is not really a suggestion. Incumbents are expected to raise their “dues” to the party, and candidates in competitive districts have their fundraising tracked on a weekly basis. In my own race, despite the fact that I was able to significantly self-fund, almost every interaction with the party and party leaders centered around money. “How is this quarter looking?” “What did your opponent raise?” “How many hours of call time do you have scheduled this month?”, were frequent questions from party leaders. “What are you hearing on the campaign trail?” “What issues are resonating with voters?” “How many community events did you attend this week?”, were not questions I often heard.

Elridge says the fundraising pace takes time out of doing the job you’re elected for. Eldridge ultimately calls for publically financed campaigns.

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Sara McGinty registers to run for Ulster County Surrogate’s Court judge

Rosendale lawyer Sara McGinty has registered to run for Ulster County Surrogate’s Court, according to state Board of Elections records.

McGinty, a Democrat who’s married to Ulster County Family Court Judge Anthony McGinty, registered on Feb. 29. The seat is currently held by Judge Mary Work, a Democrat who won a second 10-year term in 2014.

Surrogate court judges hear cases involving the affairs of dead people including the validity of wills and the administration of estates.

Work turns 70 this September, the mandatory retirement age for judges in New York by state law. She’ss be able to serve until Dec. 31, 2016. The position pays $174,000  a year.

By law a judge can continue their duties as a Supreme Court justice if they’re certified that there services “are necessary to expedite the business of the court and that he or she is physically and mentally competent to fully perform the duties of such office.”

A certification is valid for a two-year term and can be extended for up to two additional two-year terms until the age of 76.

According to a campaign website McGinty spent 15 years advising clients on estate and elder law planning, representing parties and trying cases in Surrogate’s Court. She was Rosendale town justice from 1992 to 2000 and in 2015 appointed to fill a six-month vacancy on the court.

McGinty’s also been a hearing officer for the Kingston Housing Authority since 2010.

One particularly interesting part of McGinty’s website is the section on probate law intersecting with pop culture, with snippets talking about movies like AristoCats, Downton Abbey, Brewster’s Millions and Twilight Zone.

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Bonacic joins press conference on ethics reform

State Sen. John Bonacic added his across-the-aisle support at a press conference that a Democratic assemblywoman staged in Albany on Wednesday to lament the surprisingly low profile ethics reform has gotten so far this year and promote a package of reform bills that she favors.

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef from Westchester County presented 15 bills dealing with political power, ethics and government transparency, arguing that the convictions last year of both of the Legislature’s top leaders on corruption charges presented a mandate that could not be ignored. “Everyone knows that something has to be done,” said Galef, who also was jointed by Blair Horner from the New York Public Interest Group.

Bonacic was one of three lawmakers at Galef’s press conference and the only Republican. He was quoted on the Times Union’s Capital Confidential blog as saying he expected lawmakers to enact substantial ethics reforms during the current session, although probably not until after they have finished the budget. “Don’t anticipate just because things  are quiet now that the Legislature’s not interested in doing ethics overhaul,” he reportedly said.

The Mount Hope Republican proposed constitutional amendments this year that would lengthen legislative terms from two years to four and prohibit lawmakers from earning pay from outside jobs in the private sector.

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Del Vecchio flogs looming GOP convention for NY-18

Republican congressional contender Ken Del Vecchio thinks the GOP convention being held in Middletown on Monday to anoint a challenger for Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is “typical establishment crap” and he’s bashing it with Trumpian glee — even though he thinks, as The Donald surely would, that he could win it.

Del Vecchio, director of the annual film festival at Middletown’s Paramount Theatre and one of six Republicans registered to run for New York’s 18th Congressional District, issued a doozy of a press release this week to lambaste the endorsement process as an insider game with too few insiders bestowing the party’s imprimatur. The nonbinding blessing is decided by a vote among several hundred GOP committee members from the towns in the 18th District, which encompasses all of Orange and Putnam counties and parts of Westchester and Dutchess.

In a one-two headline combo, the attorney-turned-filmaker “guaranteed” he will win the June 28 GOP primary, regardless of the coming convention results, and scorned the endorsement process as “BULL$H#T DESIGNED TO DISENFRANCHISE VOTERS.” Then he got down to business:

“This is why I’m running for Congress. Because while I think there are some great elected officials, most politicians are gutless. They’re politically correct mental midgets who have allowed our economy to crumble. They stand by and allow our tax dollars to pay for abortions, ObamaCare, and entitlements for losers who refuse to work. They’re too afraid to fight for our Second Amendment rights and they wither at the notion of deporting illegal aliens.”

Big Trump supporter, by the way. In the subsequent text and a follow-up interview, Del Vecchio lamented that even fewer people than are eligible actually participate in party endorsement votes because of proxy voting, which lets bigwigs cast bunches of votes for non-attending members. “This whole process is just screwy,” he fumed.

Also competing for the party’s endorsement at Kuhl’s Highland House on Monday night are Dan Castricone of Tuxedo; Frank Spampinato of Newburgh; Sakima Brown of Poughkeepsie; John Lange of Bedford Hills; and Phil Oliva of Somers. Whoever wins can count on the assistance of GOP foot soldiers in collecting petition signatures to get on the ballot, a process that starts March 8.

Oliva, an aide to Westchester Couty Executive Rob Astorino, announced the endorsement of former Rep. Sue Kelly this week. Kelly, a Westchester resident, served in Congress for 12 years and was unseated in 2006 by Democrat John Hall.

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Gibson v. Maloney clash postscript: Medicaid

At last week’s Pattern for Progress “Across the Aisle” breakfast, representatives Chris Gibson and Sean Patrick Maloney went head to head about Gibson’s potential run for governor in 2018, including arguing over federal proposals to cut Medicaid.

While Gibson, R-Kinderhook, and Maloney, D-Cold Spring, have used the annual forum to highlight their ability to reach across the aisle before, the two ended up arguing over Gibson’s potential run for governor.  Gibson isn’t running again for the 19th Congressional District this year but has begun fundraising for a possible gubernatorial run.

You can read my story from last week here.

Gibson and Maloney, who’s running for reelection, also clashed last week over the budget of Rep. Paul Ryan — specifically about Gibson’s support for turning Medicaid into a block grant system. The initiative allocates less money to states in exchange for more freedom to spend it. Maloney said it would cost New York $10-15 billion, a move that would hamper Gibson if he became governor.

“I think Chris is going to find that the Ryan budget is going to become a very big liability,” Maloney said. “You as the governor of New York are going to blow a hole in your own budget.”

Gibson said Maloney was “flatly wrong” and said New York is the only state that passes half of Medicaid costs onto counties. He said if he runs for governor and wins, he could handle cuts to Medicaid funding.

“There is a way for the state to manage this program and to make sure the people who need this assistance get this assistance,” Gibson said.

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Skoufis forms committee to explore Senate run (updated twice)

Assemblyman James Skoufis said Thursday that he had taken the first step toward a possible run for the state Senate seat Bill Larkin holds by filing papers with the state Board of Elections to form a campaign fundraising committee for the 39th Senate District.

“I’m very seriously considering my options for this year,” said the Woodbury Democrat, a second-term assemblyman. “Creating a committee is the next step in the process. It allows me to raise money for a Senate run.”

Skoufis, who has said previously that Democrats have urged him to run for Senate, said he is still undecided and has set no deadline for himself. He said he must gauge the interest and support of voters, community leaders and elected officials in his potential candidacy, which includes “making sure the resources will be there should I decide to run.” Other factors will be whether Democrats are likely to wrest the Senate majority from Republicans this year and which presidential candidates will likely be at the top of New York’s ballots in November, he said.

No filing deadline is imminent. Candidates for Assembly and Senate begin collecting signatures on June 7 and must submit their petitions by July 14.

Larkin, R-Cornwall-on-Hudson, has been a senator for 25 years and was an assemblyman for 12 years before then. The 88-year-old lawmaker has made no formal announcement about seeking another term in November, but he has a campaign website (www.larkin2016.com) and a twice-postponed fundraiser now scheduled for March 24 in Rockland County.

The 39th Senate District consists of 10 towns and the City of Newburgh in Orange County and two towns each in Ulster and Rockland. It has a Democratic voter-enrollment edge and could be a key contest in this year’s battle for control of the closely divided Senate.

Update: Scott Reif, a spokesman for the Senate Republicans, issued the following response to this blog post:  ”Professional politician James Skoufis votes in lock step vote with the New York City liberals who support taxpayer funded political campaigns, shifting more school aid to New York City and providing free college tuition to illegal immigrants. Skoufis is a terrible fit for this Senate district because he is hopelessly out of touch with middle class Hudson Valley families.”

Another update: In a statement issued by his spokesman, Larkin accused Skoufis of breaking his word not to run against him, something he said two of them discussed in a meeting last April.  ”He stated that as long as I was the Senator he would not run against me.  I’m not concerned with whether or not the Assemblyman wants to run for State Senate.  My question based on previous statements would be is he willing to endorse me for re-election?  What matters most to me is that the people of the 39th Senate District have a representative who serves with honesty and integrity.  Assemblyman Skoufis needs to decide if he is going to be a man of his word or just another professional politician who says one thing and does another.”

Skoufis issued this response: ”This Senate seat belongs to the people of the 39th Senate District and not one specific politician. After nearly four decades in Albany, Senator Larkin is playing the kind of political games that Hudson Valley voters are sick and tired of. As I have said all along, my concern is making sure that people have the representation they deserve in the Senate and therefore I’m seriously considering a run for this seat. The feedback thus far has been very positive and people are demanding change to Albany’s broken status quo.”

And Mike Murphy, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats, flipped the “man of his word” line back at Larkin, noting that the senator had declared in 2012 that he would not run again for re-election after that year’s race. Larkin had told Gannett’s Albany bureau at the time, “This is going to be my last hurrah, ” and went on to say that at “86 years old, let someone else try it.”

Murphy said: ”Maybe  Bill Larkin has forgotten that 4 years ago he said he would not run again.  I suggest he take his own advice and be a man of his word.”

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GOP will endorse NY-18 candidate on Feb. 29

Republican committee members from the four counties in New York’s 18th Congressional District will meet in Middletown at the end of this month to endorse a candidate for that congressional seat from the six contenders now planning to run for it.

The endorsement convention is scheduled for the evening of Feb. 29 at Kuhl’s Highland House. The participants will be the committee members from all of Orange and Putnam counties and the sections of Dutchess and Westchester counties that are in the 18th District. The six candidates currently vying for the Republican nomination are Dan Castricone of Tuxedo; Frank Spampinato of Newburgh; Kenneth Del Vecchio of Warwick; Sakima Brown of Poughkeepsie; John Lange of Bedford Hills; and Phil Oliva of Somers.

Whichever candidates file petitions after the party has given one its imprimatur will compete in a June 28 primary. Petitioning starts March 8.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the Cold Spring Democrat who has represented the 18th District since unseating Republican Nan Hayworth in 2012, may face a Democratic Party challenge from Diana Hird, a fellow Cold Spring resident who has registered as a candidate. In addition, Goshen resident Scott Smith has registered as an independent candidate for the seat.

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Orange County Democratic leadership endorses Maloney

The executive committee of the Orange County Democratic Party endorsed Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney for reelection this week over a Democratic challenger who’s running to Maloney’s left and may compete with him in a primary in June.

Orange County Democratic Chairman Brett Broge announced in a press release on Friday that the committee backed the two-term congressman on Tuesday, saying Maloney has been has been “a fierce advocate for all of the citizens of Orange County,” has “worked tirelessly” for the district and represents “the values and ideals” of commitee members. He said later by email that no other county committees in New York’s 18th Congressional District, which includes all of Orange and Putnam and parts of Westchester and Dutchess counties, have made an endorsement yet in the Democratic race.

Maloney’s Democratic challenger, Diana Hird, is an attorney who lives in Maloney’s adopted hometown of Cold Spring and says that her experiences as a volunteer in the City of Newburgh inspired her to run for Congress. She contends on her website that Maloney “spends too much time with Wall Street and oil and gas interests to learn about us, his constituents in District 18. “

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