Maloney urges FERC to refund power-bill increases

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney announced Friday he has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to return to Hudson Valley electricity customers the increases they’ve paid on their bills since a controversial new “capacity zone” took effect in May.

“A refund is necessary for these arbitrary capacity charges,” the Cold Spring Democrat wrote in a Sept. 9 letter to the FEC’s acting chairwoman, Cheryl LaFleur, which he released Friday. “Hudson Valley residents deserve repayment for these excessive charges caused by FERC’s implementation of the new capacity zone — especially as FERC has the authority to ensure customers receive refunds back to the effective date for ‘unjust and unreasonable’ rates.”

With freezing temperatures soon coming to the Hudson Valley,” the letter added, “I firmly believe our constituents should not have to pay a penny more than they need to during these harsh winter months.”

Both Maloney and Rep. Chris Gibson, the Republican representing the neighboring 19th Congressional District, have been crusading to undo the unpopular capacity zone, which was put in place to try to lure more power plants to the Hudson Valley but has had the immediate effect of hiking residential power bills by 5 to 6 percent. They succeeded in attaching to a House spending bill in July a provision that would deny FERC funding to implement the new zone.

The capacity zone also has emerged as an unlikely campaign issue in the rematch race between Maloney and former Rep. Nan Hayworth, the Republican he unseated in 2012. The two candidates have been trading accusations about which of them could have done more to protest the zone or prevent it from coming into existence in the first place. Each blames the other for “inaction.”

Hayworth’s campaign declared last week that Maloney “had well over one year to respond to the outcry from utility providers in the region,” noting that Central Hudson Gas & Electric protested in May 2013 that the zone New York proposed in response to a FERC mandate could hike prices by “as much as 475 percent.”

Maloney’s campaign shot back two days later with automated phone calls and a web ad alerting residents that FERC accepted the proposal for a Hudson Valley zone in September 2011, while his predecessor was in office — “without any action from Hayworth.”

“Tea Party Congresswoman Nan Hayworth spent her time in Washington on partisan fights and gridlock instead of fixing these reckless energy hikes,” Maloney spokeswoman Stephanie Formas said in a press release.

A lawsuit challenging the capacity zone is pending in a federal appeals court.

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New poll shows Gibson with 24-point lead over Eldridge

KINGSTON — A new poll shows Republican Rep. Chris Gibson holds a strong, early 24-point lead over Democratic Sean Eldridge in the 19th Congressional District.

Gibson, from Kinderhook, has the support of 57 percent of likely voters compared to 33 percent who support Eldridge, with 10 percent still undecided, according to a new poll conducted by Time Warner Cable News and Siena College.

By margins ranging from nine to 29 points, voters see Gibson as better than Eldridge on a series of six issues, according to a press release.

“It may be early but incumbent Chris Gibson has a commanding 24-point lead against a well-financed challenger in Sean Eldridge,” said Siena spokesman Steven Greenberg. “Gibson has the support of nearly nine in ten Republicans and 60 percent of independents, as well as one-quarter of Democrats.”

The poll was conducted from September 4-9 by telephone calls to 609 likely voters and has a margin of error of four percentage points. You can find the crosstabs here.

“Gibson has double digit leads in every region of the district, with an overwhelming 41-point lead in the area surrounding the Capital Region,” Greenberg said. “There is little gender gap as Gibson leads by 28 points with men and 20 points with women.”

The poll gets even more gloomy for Eldridge, as Greenberg says he is unknown to “more than half of likely voters, including nearly half of Democrats.”

“Voters with an opinion are evenly divided between favorable and unfavorable,” Greenberg said. “Gibson, with 57-24 percent favorability rating, is viewed favorably by 76 percent of Republicans, 57 percent of independents and 37 percent of Democrats. He ended the campaign in 2012 with a 46-31 percent favorability rating.”

Eldridge’s campaign spokeswoman Sophie Friedman took the poll in stride, saying “the only poll that matters is the one on Election Day, and we’re excited to be getting our message out with the help of more than 500 active volunteers.

“We’re confident voters will side with the candidate who reflects their values, and not the one who has voted to sue the President and defund Planned Parenthood, supported fracking even though it puts our drinking water at risk, and signed the Koch Brothers’ pledge to take no action on climate change.”

Out of those polled, 43 percent were from Ulster and Dutchess counties while 25 percent were from Sullivan, Broome, Delaware and Otsego counties. About 23 percent considered themselves liberal, 41 percent moderate and 32 percent conservative.

“On every issue, including the most important issues to voters and those traditionally seen as Democratic strengths, voters say Gibson will do a better job than Eldridge. The range of support for Gibson is between nine points on health care and 29 points on war and political turmoil in the Mideast,” Greenberg said.

Gibson’s campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Valle said the poll shows that “upstate voters don’t want a representative with almost no experience who moved into our area solely to run for Congress.”

“Congressman Gibson puts service first, not partisan politics or personal ambition – a clear contrast with Sean Eldridge.  Our Home Team has never been stronger, and we will continue to work every day to ensure this seat cannot be bought,” Valle said.

Despite the commanding lead, Greenberg said the race is likely to tighten.

“At this point in 2012, Gibson led by 16 points in a Siena poll, closing to five points in the final Siena poll, before winning by six points,” Greenberg said. “Eldridge has a lot of work to do to close the gap but in this district with nearly equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans the race is likely to tighten.”

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Teachout stomped Cuomo in Ulster, Sullivan

Zephyr Teachout lost Tuesday’s Democratic primary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but the Fordham law professor’s liberal critique of Cuomo resonated with primary voters in Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties, particularly the latter two.

Teachout, who collected 33 percent of the statewide vote to Cuomo’s 60 percent, creamed the governor by ratios of more than 2 to 1 in Ulster (4,428-1,735) and Sullivan (1,154-490), according to unofficial tallies by the election boards in those two counties. They were two of 30 New York counties in which Teachout prevailed, after a feisty but underfunded and largely symbolic campaign.

Teachout, who made a campaign stop in Goshen on Aug. 27 to protest the potential privatization of Orange County’s Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation, almost notched a victory in Orange as well. The current tally before absentee ballots are counted has Cuomo ahead by five votes, 3,150-3,145.


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Maloney re-election campaign airs first TV ad

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who kicked off his campaign for a second term in Newburgh on Saturday, has aired his first TV ad, a 30-second spot that connects warm messages about public service and Hudson Valley families deserving to have “government on their side,” and steers clear of any partisan topics or mention of his Republican opponent, Nan Hayworth.

The commercial, titled “Dad”, starts by recalling the time his father, a disabled Navy veteran, visited him at the White House when the future congressman was working as an aide to President Bill Clinton. Here’s the video.

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Decision on KJ poll inspectors is reversed

An Orange County election commissioner has changed her mind about allowing Monroe residents who live outside Kiryas Joel to act as poll inspectors in the village, starting with Tuesday’s state and county primaries  – an accommodation that had been requested to tighten voting scrutiny and prevent fraud.

Sue Bahren, the county’s Democratic commissioner, confirmed Friday that she had reversed her decision to try to assign an outside inspector to each of the 10 voting tables in Kiryas Joel’s polling stations on Tuesday. She said she had done so because of “cultural reasons,” and the fact that the county had always had only residents of the Hasidic community acting as inspectors at its elections.

David Green, the county’s Republican commissioner, had not agreed to have non-Kiryas Joel residents as inspectors in the village. Each party appoints inspectors.

Monroe residents who had pressed for outside inspectors were hoping to avoid a repeat of last year’s elections, when they say their poll watchers were berated and intimidated whenever they tried to peer at voters’ signatures or stop what appeared to be fraudulent voting. Being inspectors would have given them more oversight ability, they said.

United Monroe, the citizens group that lost a voting duel with Kiryas Joel’s voting blocs in November’s town elections, later scoured the village’s poll books and questioned the authenticity of several hundred signatures. They submitted that list and affidavits from seven of its poll watchers to the FBI, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, the state Board of Elections and the now-defunct Moreland Commission.

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Petition of third candidate in Maloney-Hayworth race is invalidated

The state Board of Elections has rejected the petition of an independent candidate who tried to join the rematch race between Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and Nan Hayworth, the Republican he unseated two years ago.

After reviewing a blizzard of objections, the board invalidated 2,385 of Goshen resident Scott Smith’s signatures, leaving him with 2,532 — well below the 3,500 minimum he needed to get on the Nov. 4 general election ballot, board spokesman John Conklin said Friday. Smith had vowed previously to go to court if his petition was voided, but couldn’t be reached Friday.

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Morgillo touts law enforcement endorsements

Assembly candidate Mike Morgillo, who is a retired New York City police officer and union official, has announced endorsements from 13 police and firefighter organizations and the Civil Service Employees Association in the final days before he will compete in a four-way Republican primary for the 98th Assembly District seat.

Among the groups listed in press release from the Monroe resident’s campaign are:  the New York City Police Patrolman’s Benevolent Association; the Detective’s Endowment Association; the Sergeant’s Benevolent Association; the New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association;  and the New York State Fraternal Order of Police; and the FDNY’s Uniformed Fire Fighters Association.

“I am humbled by the confidence and support given to me by all the members of these organizations so that I can get to work and build jobs and to improve working conditions,” Morgillo said in the release.


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Hearing officers clear Castricone’s United Monroe petition

Two hearing officers have recommended the state Board of Elections approve Republican Assembly candidate Dan Castricone’s petition to run on the United Monroe line, after striking about 450 signatures but leaving more than enough for him to qualify for the ballot, Castricone said Friday after the hearing.

Castricone, one of four Republicans competing in a primary on Tuesday for the 98th Assembly District seat, said that two hearing officers ruling on hundreds of signature objections by Republican rival Karl Brabenec’s campaign determined that 1,960 of the 2,407 signatures United Monroe collected were valid, clearing the 1,500-signature threshold. One possible reason for invalidating a signature was if the voter previously had signed another petition for the same crowded Assembly race, which also includes three Democrats.

The Board of Elections commissioners will issue a formal ruling on the petition objections on Sept. 26, Castricone said.

If upheld, Castricone’s petition secures a significant place for him on the Nov. 4 general election ballot, regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s Republican and Conservative primaries (he and Brabenec are dueling for the Conservative line). United Monroe, a citizens group that emerged as a political force last year, generated roughly 6,000 votes for its slate of candidates in November’s heated town elections.

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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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