Independent drums up cash for second congressional run

A Goshen resident who waged an independent run for New York’s 18th Congressional District in 2014 is soliciting donations to run again for the seat held by Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney.

Scott Smith has refreshed his campaign website and issued a statement saying he feels the same frustration with the political system that motivated him to run last year but could use financial support to launch a second campaign. Smith, who voiced dismay in 2014 at his exclusion from debates and forums that featured Maloney and Republican challenger Nan Hayworth, wound up winning 4,294 votes, or more than 2 percent. Maloney defeated Hayworth by around 48 percent to 46 percent.

In an email message, Smith said he spent about $14,000 on his first race, about half of it on legal fees to overcome an effort to invalidate his petition. Asked how much he hoped to raise to start a second campaign, Scott responded: “In all honesty, and sincerely, I would ask you in your journalistic experience what amount would be required to warrant actual inclusion in the race by the media at large?”

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Lopez enters race for NY-19

New York State Assemblyman Peter Lopez

Republican State Assemblyman Peter Lopez will enter the race to become the new representative for the 19th Congressional District.

Lopez, who represents 102nd Assembly District, threw his hat in the ring via an email press release Monday night. He said he has been made “keenly aware” that the district is likely to be one of the top ten contested seats in the nation.

“If there is one thing the voters are saying this year, is that we need to aggressively challenge the status quo. My message is that we need to someone who is grounded in the community to represent the hard working people back home and not let Washington insiders and power brokers decide who will represent you by buying the seat,” Lopez says in the release.

Lopez, 54 and from Schoharie, was first elected in 2006. As an assemblyman he represents Saugerties in Ulster County and 6 out of the 11 counties in the 19th Congressional District. If elected he would represent all of Ulster and Sullivan counties.

Lopez filed federal paperwork to run on Oct. 20 with the Federal Elections Commission. Republican Rep. Chris Gibson, a retired Army colonel, said he won’t run again in 2016 for the seat but is considering a run for statewide office in 2018.

Lopez joins a growing Republican field looking to snatch the open congressional seat. John Faso, a former state assemblyman from Kinderhook, and Andrew Heaney, a Dutchess County heating oil executive, are both running and have already traded political jabs.

Two more Republicans candidates have also filed to run in the district but haven’t made formal announcements: Republicans Robert Michael Shaver from Katonah and Bob Bishop from Hamden.

Democrat John Patrick Kehoe, who lists his residence as Rochester in papers but says he has a business in Woodstock, has also said he’s running.

Democrat Mike Hein, who just won a third term for Ulster County executive, says he won’t speculate on a congressional run but hasn’t ruled it out. Democratic committee chairs in all 11 counties of the 19th drafted a letter last week urging Hein to run.


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Panel sets hearing on raising state lawmakers’ pay

A newly formed commission that will likely award New York’s state senators and Assembly members their first raises since 1999 has scheduled a public hearing in New York City next week as it begins its work.

The seven-member, appointed panel also will be looking at salary increases for the governor and other statewide elected officials; management employees in the administration; and state judges. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers approved the creation of the New York State Commission on Legislative, Judical and Executive Compensation as part of the budget this year; the governor, legislative leaders and chief judge of the state Court of Appeals later chose the members.

The commission will hold its hearing at 11 a.m. on Nov. 30 at the offices of the New York City Bar Association in midtown.

Under the law that formed it, the commission will make its pay recommendations next November, after the next state elections. Whatever it suggests will take effect the following January unless state lawmakers reject or change the proposal.

State lawmakers, whose annual sessions in Albany last for six months, receive a base pay of $79,500, although most also get stipends for party leadership positions and for serving as committee chairmen or ranking minority members on committees. Among the 11 legislators representing Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties, those stipends range from $9,000 to $25,000. (Only Assemblyman James Skoufis, D-Woodbury, doesn’t get a stipend-earning title, known in Albany as a “lulu”.)

Two of the region’s senators — William Larkin Jr., R-Cornwall-on-Hudson, and John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope — also collect their state pensions on top of their salaries and stipends. The addition of the pension brings total compensation to $163,000 for Larkin and $156,500 for Bonacic.

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Maloney sides with GOP on refugee screening bill

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney was one of 47 Democrats who joined nearly all House Republicans Thursday in passing a bill that would impose new requirements on the screening of Syrian refugees before they can come to the U.S., a reaction to recent terrorist attacks in Paris.

The Cold Spring Democrat said beforehand during a conference call with reporters on an unrelated topic that he had faith in the government’s screening practices and saw no reason why the administration can’t certify that it has investigated each refugee, as the bill requires it do. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask the adminstration to certify their own process,” he said.

The bill passed, 289-137, with 242 Republicans and 47 Democrats in support, and 135 Democrats and two Republicans in opposition. In a statement after the vote, Maloney straddled the political divide on the issue by condemning politicians who have “turned their backs on refugees” while supporting the Republicans’ demand that three administration officials guarantee that each refugee poses no threat.

“Our nation has long stood as a beacon of freedom, but after the events of the last few weeks some leaders have given into fear and turned their backs on refugees. These actions are reprehensible, and present a false choice between our values and our security. It’s understandable that people are scared, and Americans have a right to know that the process we use to screen refugees will keep us safe. I have faith in our system, and I don’t believe these refugees — the overwhelming majority of whom are women, elderly, and children – threaten our communities or national security. So instead of slowing the program or pausing it, the Administration should agree to immediately certify refugees if they pass the current extensive screenings and we should all refocus on actual threats.”

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Bonacic led Mid-Hudson delegation in Albany expenses

Just as he did last year, Sen. John Bonacic led his state Legislature colleagues from Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties in expenses charged for travel, meals and overnight stays in Albany in 2015, according to data the comptroller’s office provided for lawmaker reimbursements through Sept. 20, after this year’s session and the bulk of lawmakers’ trips to Albany had ended.

The Mount Hope Republican had billed the state for almost $16,000 in expenses through that date, about the same amount as he had last year. Close behind were freshman Assemblyman Karl Brabenec and longtime Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, each of whom had about $14,000 in total expenses.

The bulk of the bills are standard “per diem” charges of $61 per day for meals and $111 for overnight stays, fixed amounts that lawmakers can claim for days when they are in Albany, regardless of how much they actually spent. They are also entitled to reimbursements for gas mileage, tolls, taxis, parking and air fare, for those who have flown to conferences and other events.

Cahill’s total more than doubled since last year, due partly to about $3,200 in air fare. Three lawmakers — Sen. William Larkin Jr., R-Cornwall-on-Hudson; Sen. James Seward, R-Milford; and Assemblyman James Skoufis, D-Woodbury — sought no reimbursements for mileage. Three others — Sen. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam; Assemblyman Peter Lopez, D-Schoharie; and Assemblyman Frank Skartados, D-Milton — submitted no bills at all.

Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope: $15,784

Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, R-Deerpark: $14,005

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston: $14,331

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Forestburgh: $12,899

Sen. James Seward, R-Milford: $12,722

Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford: $10,511

Assemblyman James Skoufis, D-Woodbury: $8,971

Sen. William Larkin Jr., R-Cornwall-on-Hudson: $8,383

Sen. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam: no expenses

Assemblyman Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie: no expenses

Assemblyman Frank Skartados, D-Milton: no expenses

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Monroe Democratic chairman rips “disloyalty” claim

Dan Burke

Monroe Democratic Chairman Tom Kemnitz has issued a scathing response to town Councilman Dan Burke’s accusations of disloyalty against fellow Democrats who withdrew the party’s endorsement of Burke shortly before the Nov. 3 election.

In a six-page statement, Kemnitz traces deep divisions in the town Democratic Committee to Supervisor Harley Doles’ unsuccessful bid for state Senate in 2010, lists town employees with links to Burke and other officials, and scorns the notion that Democrats must support Burke “no matter what actions he takes.” The statement concludes:

“The question is: who is disloyal, and to what?  If being a Democrat is merely a label without any other meaning, then Dan Burke might be your man.  If being a Democrat has a meaning rooted in beliefs and actions, then he is not likely your man.  At any rate, a majority of the Democratic Committee of the Town of Monroe did not think that he should be our man.  In fact, it is likely that they would hold Dan Burke as disloyal to much of what we hold dear as Democrats.”

As reported in The Fray on Friday, Burke has asked the Orange County Democratic Committee to remove Kemnitz and five other committee members for disloyalty, blaming them for the town committee’s public repudiation of him. County Democratic Chairman Brett Broge has said he will appoint a subcommittee to conduct a hearing and recommend whether to take action. Burke lost his bid for a second term as councilman this month and will leave office at the end of December.

The Democrats’ denunciation of Burke in October focused on his vote to support a 164-acre expansion of Kiryas Joel a month earlier. Kemnitz’ rebuttal to the disloyalty charge deals more with the town’s employment of Burke’s longtime girlfriend, Elisa Tutini, as planning board chairwoman and head of the town’s Dial-a-Bus program, jobs that pay her a combined $57,000 a year, according to town records. He cast that hiring as part of a web of friends-and-family connections on the town payroll.

“In my view,” Kemnitz wrote, “ethical people do not use their positions to give favoritism to their family members.  And they do not take advantage of their relatives’ office to obtain jobs or preferential treatment.”

Kemnitz also made reference in his statement to the ongoing investigation of Doles by the state Attorney General’s Office, the subject of recent subpoenas served in Monroe.

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Burke seeks ouster of Democrats who snubbed him

A Monroe town councilman whose fellow Democrats revoked their endorsement for him and who lost his reelection bid this month is asking the Orange County Democratic Committee to oust those critics from their party positions for disloyalty.

In a statement presented to the county Democrats’ executive committee this week, Dan Burke said six members of the Monroe Democratic Committee orchestrated the public snubbing of him at an Oct. 1 meeting, after deceiving him about the purpose of the meeting and discouraging him from attending. The snubbing did not come until shortly before Nov. 3 election, when Monroe Democratic Committee Chairman Tom Kemnitz released a platform and a repudiation of Burke, largely for his supporting a 164-acre expansion of Kiryas Joel in September.

Burke subsequently lost his bid for a second term. United Monroe candidates Mike McGinn and Tony Cardone easily won the race for two board seats with the support of most voters outside Kiryas Joel and the backing of the smaller of Kiryas Joel’s two voting blocs.

Orange County Democratic Chairman Brett Broge said Friday that he will empanel a subcommittee to hear Burke’s charges and recommend whether to remove the Monroe Democrats he named from their party seats — a decision that will be made either by the full county committee or its executive committee.

Any ousters might be short-lived, since any removed committee members could run for reelection in the next party election in September 2016, he added.



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Maloney touts $325 billion transportation bill

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is praising the six-year transportation funding bill the House passed last week, highlighting pieces that he sponsored or co-sponsored and voicing optimism that the mass transit funds the House cut would be restored before the legislation is sent to the White House.

In an interview on Tuesday, the Cold Spring Democrat said the $325 billion bill will speed repairs for local and county bridges by making them eligible for a greater share of funding, thanks to the addition of a one-sentence proposal he introduced in July.  Previous legislation had “created a roadblock” for municipalities and counties trying to upgrade deteriorating bridges by allowing only 30 percent of the money to be directed to crossings on local roads, he said.

Maloney, who serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, ticked off other provisions he crafted or supported, including tightened regulations on oil transport trains and hard deadlines for the installation of positive train control systems, a safety improvement he has championed.

“There’s a lot in here to like,” he said.

One day earlier, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer had blasted the bill’s elimination of mass transit funding for New York and six other densely populated states, a program that he said had directed almost $72 million to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority last year. Maloney voiced confidence that the program will be restored when the House and Senate reconcile their competing versions of the bill, a process that has not yet begun. The Senate passed its bill in July.

Asked what impact the mass transit cut would have on Metro-North service, Maloney said, “It wouldn’t be good. But it’s not going to happen.”

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O’Donnell vows to donate salary if named to Legislature

Former Deputy Orange County Executive James O’Donnell, one of four people vying to be appointed next week to fill a county Legislature vacancy, told the Times Herald-Record on Tuesday that he’ll donate his $30,000 legislative salary to nonprofits if he gets the nod.

O’Donnell is a Goshen resident who worked in the administration of former County Executive Ed Diana for eight years after a law enforcement career with the state police and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority police department. He left his post as deputy county executive in the spring of 2013, Diana’s last year in office.

“I don’t want to be on the sidelines,” O’Donnell said Tuesday, explaining his interest in returning to county government (and lack of interest in a salary). “I want to be back where the action is, and help my community.”

O’Donnell and other candidates seeking to replace Shannon Wong in the Legislature’s District 21 seat are due to make their pitches on Wednesday to the three town boards that will make the appointment. Goshen Supervisor Doug Bloomfield said last week that he had gotten letters of interest from Goshen Mayor Kyle Roddey and Goshen Councilman Phil Canterino, and expected Goshen Councilman Ken Newbold and O’Donnell to submit their names as well. O’Donnell has since submitted his letter.

Wong, a Goshen Democrat, officially resigned from the seat last week after taking a new job with the New York Civil Liberties Union. The Goshen, Wawayanda and Blooming Grove boards are set to meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Goshen Town Hall to meet the contenders and appoint a replacement to serve until the November 2016 election.

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Town boards will appoint Wong replacement Nov. 18

At least four people may compete for an appointment to replace Shannon Wong on the Orange County Legislature when three Town Boards convene in Goshen on Nov. 18 to make the selection.

Wong, a Goshen Democrat, officially vacated her seat on Wednesday, having announced almost a month earlier that she had gotten a job with the New York Civil Liberties Union and had to surrender her political office. Two years remain in her four-year term; the person appointed to replace her will serve until the November 2016 election.

Three Town Boards, all with Republican majorities, will vote on the decision, but Goshen’s votes will count more than Wawayanda’s and Blooming Grove’s because it has the largest population in the 21st District. Goshen Supervisor Doug Bloomfield said Friday that he had scheduled a joint meeting of the three boards at 7 p.m. on Nov. 18 at Goshen Town Hall.

Bloomfield said he had gotten letters of interest from Goshen Mayor Kyle Roddey and Goshen Councilman Phil Canterino, and expected to get ones from former Deputy County Executive James O’Donnell and Goshen Councilman Ken Newbold as well. All of those candidates except Newbold are Republicans.

Canterino and O’Donnell both ran for the seat in 2013 and wound up in a three-way race with Wong, who won. O’Donnell, who had prevailed in a Republican primary, had the Republican line in the race, while Canterino ran on the Conservative Party line.

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