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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Eachus offers proposals for taming property taxes

Orange County legislator and state Senate candidate Chris Eachus rolled out ideas this week for controlling property taxes, a topic on which Republicans had attacked the New Windsor Democrat as soon as he decided to challenge GOP Sen. Bill Larkin for the second time.

Eachus advocated a tax circuit breaker, a mechanism that prevents a homeowner’s property taxes from exceeding a certain proportion of their income. He vowed to fight for adequate state aid for local schools and to stop New York City charter schools from “making millions off of struggling Hudson Valley taxpayers.” He promised to fight for mandate relief and support the state’s existing limit on property-tax increases.

The last point was significant, because Republicans went after him as a tax-cap opponent in May when he announced his candidacy. Their argument was based on comments Eachus made to the Kingston Freeman at the start of his first Senate run in 2012, when he said that requiring a 60 percent supermajority of voters to support overriding a tax cap weakened the voting power of property owners who support doing so. ”A majority vote is democracy, and that’s what we need to get back to,” he was quoted as saying then. He told another publication a short while later that he supported the cap, and accused Larkin of distorting his position.

His statement this week reiterated his support and said: ”Limiting the potential growth of property taxes will require school districts and local governments to use tax dollars more wisely and prudently. Chris supports this program, but understands that a tax cap must be the first step on meaningful tax relief and must include mandate relief to help struggling municipalities.”

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GOP candidates chide Assembly Democrats for DREAM Act

Assembly Democrats gave their latest approval this week to a bill that would allow the children of illegal immigrants to claim state financial aid for college tuition, a proposal that has cleared their chamber each of the last four years but stands little chance of getting through the Republican-controlled Senate.

The DREAM Act passed, 89-49, a largely party line vote on Monday in which all four Democrats representing Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties supported the bill and all three Republicans opposed it. “For many New Yorkers, the dream of obtaining higher education would be impossible without years of saving and the help of state financial aid,” Speaker Carl Heastie said afterward in a statement. “Therefore, denying aid to thousands of immigrant students that graduate from New York high schools every year means denying them access to the education they need to fully participate in and contribute to our economy.”

Two Republican Assembly candidates from Orange County weighed in the next day with statements of opposition. Colin Schmitt, a New Windsor resident running for the Assembly seat held by Woodbury Democrat James Skoufis, denounced “NYC-controlled” Democrats for passing the bill and proposing $27 million in tuition aid for its beneficiaries. “Many men and women in Orange and Rockland Counties, like myself, are saddled with student loan debt that will take years to pay off,” he said. “Yet our Democratic Assembly members are dedicated to taking our tax dollars to give illegal aliens free college tuition. This is exactly why I am running for State Assembly.”

Rev. Bill Banuchi, a Newburgh minister who plans to challenge Assemblyman Frank Skartados, D-Milton, declared that the Democrats’ “ridiculous legislation” encouraged illegal immigrants to exploit American generosity and was “a slap in the face to the thousands of legal immigrants who have played by the rules to earn the success they have achieved.”

“Whatever happened to fairness?” he asked.

The Senate version of the bill is pending in the Senate Higher Education Committee, with one week left in this year’s legislative session.

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(Updated) Siena poll: Teachout and Faso leading primary opponents by double-digit margins

Three weeks ahead of congressional primaries a new poll shows that Republican John Faso and Democratic Zephyr Teachout are holding double digit leads against their primary opponents in the 19th Congressional District.

A poll of likely Democratic and Republican primary voters in the district done by Siena College and Times Warner Cable News found Faso, R-Kinderhook, is holding a 22-point lead over Andrew Heaney, R-Washington, 50-28 percent.

The poll also says that Teachout, D-Dover Plains, is leading Will Yandik, D-Livingston, by 30 points, 53-23 percent.

The poll also shows that Faso is viewed more favorable than Heaney among Republican primary voters. While 47 percent view Faso favorably and 30 percent see him unfavorably, 29 percent of the same voters see Heaney favorably while 45 percent see him unfavorably.

Steven Greenberg, Siena College spokesman, said along with her 30-point lead Teachout has the support of more than half of likely Democratic primary voters.

“In Ulster and Dutchess counties, which is expected to account for nearly half of the votes in this Democratic primary, Teachout leads Yandik by more than 40 points, while holding double digit leads in the remainder of the district. While moderate Democrats, who comprise less than one-third of the electorate, provide Teachout with only a 13-point lead, among liberal Democrats, she leads by more than 40 points.”

Teachout said she’s not resting on her laurels.

“It’s great to get positive feedback but I’m going to keep working to earn every vote,” Teachout said via email.

Tony Coppola, Yandik’s campaign manager, said there hasn’t been a congressional race or district-wide primary, besides a presidential race, that’s been competitive that he can remember.   He also questioned the methodology of Siena’s polling because of the uniqueness of the race between Yandik and Teachout, saying it’s an electorate “that’s very hard to predict.”

“We have data that shows a much closer race,” Coppola said.

Coppola said the campaign is focused on continuing to spread Yandik’s message of fighting for Main Street over big banks and corporations and roots in the district.

Heaney and Faso have been duking it out for months and super PACs in the district have spent more than $640,000 pushing out negative television advertisements and mailers against both. The competition between Yandik and Teachout has been generally cordial.

“Heaney’s job in winning the primary is considerably harder when he’s viewed unfavorably by a 16- point margin and Faso is viewed favorably by a 17-point margin. Additionally, while both Faso and Heaney commercials have each been seen or heard by two-thirds of the electorate, and slightly more voters say they’ve been contacted by the Heaney campaign, primary voters say Heaney is running the more negative campaign by a 36-20 percent margin,” Greenberg said.

Faso’s spokesman, Dain Pascocello, said the results confirmed what their own polls has been telling them.

“John Faso has concrete ideas to improve the economy, fix Washington’s broken system and address problems facing the 19th Congressional district — and people recognize that. That said, we will continue to work hard to win the trust, confidence and support of GOP voters” Pascocello said.

The 19th district includes all of Ulster and Sullivan counties. The open seat is being vacated by Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, who is not running for a fourth term despite the Siena poll showing that he’s viewed favorably by 86 percent of Republican primary voters and 60 percent of Democratic primary voters.

The poll was conducted by calling landline and cell phones from May 31 to June 2. They polled 431 likely Democratic primary voters in the 19th district with a margin of error of 4.7 percent and 436 likely Republican voters in the district with a margin of error of 4.8 percent.

Update: Just got a comment from Heaney’s camp, citing times when Siena’s polling wasn’t on the money, such as the City of Rochester’s mayoral race, mentioned here, .

“The only poll that matters is on Election Day, just ask retired House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Mayor Lovely Warren and Senator Todd Kaminsky,” said David Catalfamo, Heaney’s spokesman.

Correction: I’ve paraphrased a part of Coppola’s quote to more accurately reflect what he says he meant.

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Allegro, Brabenec duel over resistance to KJ leadership

In announcing on Monday his plans to challenge Assemblyman Karl Brabenec in a Republican primary, United Monroe activist John Allegro promised to be a “strong voice” in Albany to stand up to Kiryas Joel’s political leaders, arguing that Brabenec and others have paid lip service to that cause but done nothing more than what was politically expedient.

“The response from our representatives in Albany has always been light,” said Allegro, an 18-year Monroe resident and executive committee member for the United Monroe citizens group. Allegro, who is 52 and manager of sales operations for BBH Solutions, an information-technology integration company in Manhattan, plans to make his first political run as a candidate for the 98th Assembly District, which Brabenec has represented since 2015 and which crosses the southern half of Orange County and takes in part of Ramapo in neighboring Rockland.

Allegro argues the district needs a forceful advocate in Albany to stand up to the handful of men running Kiryas Joel, a group United Monroe has dubbed the KJPE, for Kiryas Joel Power Elite. Brabenec, in response, said through an aide that he is in fact such an advocate, and that Allegro’s challenge could deliver the Assembly election to a candidate supported by the KJPE, mistakenly referred to as the “Kiryas Joel Political Establishment.” Here is the statement from Joe Coleman, Brabenec’s chief of staff:

“Karl Brabenec was the first state lawmaker to introduce legislation to stop the Kiryas Joel annexation. Since taking office he has been a tireless fighter against the corrupting influence of the Kiryas Joel Political Establishment (KJPE). The only effect of Mr. Allegro’s candidacy will be to erase the two years of progress that’s been acheived against annexation, and to hand this seat over to the Kiryas Joel Political Establishment, empowering them in ways that will be difficult, if not impossible, to reverse. We hope for the sake of our communities that Mr. Allegro will reconsider this reckless decision and remember that we can only win this fight if we stay united.”

He didn’t elaborate when asked to, but he seemed to be arguing that Allegro and Brabenec might split the anti-KJPE vote if both wind up on the ballot in November. It’s unclear how Allegro’s candidacy would affect the two lawsuits opposing Kiryas Joel’s annexation of 164 acres, one of which was brought by United Monroe-affiliated Preserve Hudson Valley.

Allegro had mentioned the annexation bill Brabenec sponsored in his own explanation for running, arguing that its speedy dismissal illustrated ineffective representation rather than anti-KJPE credentials. He later elaborated on this sentiment in a statement posted on United Monroe’s Facebook page:

“Our representative did just enough, just in time to show us that we have a ‘friend’ in Albany. We watched as both sides of the fence were being played. A safe stance on the ‘annexation hot potato’ in Monroe. A ‘no’ vote to state oversight in the East Ramapo School District – while KJPE leader Gedalye Szegedin openly threatened the existence of the Monroe-Woodbury and Washingtonville School districts.”

Candidates for Assembly and state Senate began collecting signatures for major-party petitions on Tuesday and must file them by July 14. Primaries will be held on Sept. 13.



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Neuhaus will be delegate at GOP national convention

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus is bound for Cleveland in July as one of three delegates from New York’s 18th Congressional District to the Republican National Convention, the party’s expected coronation of Donald Trump as its 2016 presidential candidate.

The other delegates for the 18th District, which includes all of Orange County, are Orange County Republican Chairwoman Courtney Canfield Greene and Putnam County Republican Chairman Anthony Scannapieco Jr. Like most of New York’s 81 GOP convention delegates, all three are listed on the state Board of Elections’ delegate list as supporting Trump, the presumptive nominee and only remaining GOP candidate. A handful of delegates are described as backing Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who suspended his presidential campaign a month ago.

Among the GOP delegates representing the 19th District, which includes all of Sullivan and Ulster counties, are Dutchess County Republican Chairman Michael McCormack and Dutchess Sheriff Adrian “Butch” Anderson, an honorary co-chairman of Trump’s New York campaign. Former Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun of Blooming Grove and Putnam County Executive MaryEllen O’Dell are both listed as alternate delegates for the 18th District.

The Republican National Convention will take place from July 18-21 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Democrats will hold their national convention the following week at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, with Hillary Clinton as their presumptive nominee. The list of New York delegates to the Democratic National Convention was unavailable. Among the candidates who ran to be delegates in New York’s Democratic presidential primary in April were Ulster County Executive Mike Hein; Randy Florke, husband of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney; and former Orange County Democratic Chairman Jonathan Jacobson. All three are Clinton supporters.

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Newburgh minister launches Assembly campaign

A Newburgh minister who runs the New York Faith and Freedom Coalition has formally launched his campaign for the Assembly seat held by Frank Skartados, a Milton Democrat who represents a trio of Hudson River cities and three towns in Orange and Ulster counties.

Rev. Bill Banuchi is enrolled in the Conservative Party but is expected to get the Republican Party ballot line for his run, since no Republican candidates have entered the race. Banuchi, an Air Force veteran who served in the Vietnam War, recently kicked off his campaign with supporters – including former Newburgh Mayor Nicholas Valentine – at Changepoint Church in Poughkeepsie. In a statement afterward, he said, “This marks the beginning of a turnaround on a local level as well as a national level to restore the time-tested values that have secured a peace and prosperity unseen in all of human history.”

The 104th Assembly District encompasses the cities of Newburgh, Poughkeepsie and Beacon and the towns of Newburgh, Marlborough and Lloyd. Skartados has been in the Assembly for about six years and was easily reelected in in his last two races. Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by almost 2-to-1 in the district.

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Bagnall-Graham will challenge Seward for Senate

A Chenango County Democrat has announced his candidacy for the state Senate seat held by James Seward, a 30-year Republican incumbent whose sprawling district crosses nine counties and includes four towns in Ulster.

The challenger is Jermaine Bagnall-Graham, an Army veteran and father of two who works for the Bassett Healthcare Network in Cooperstown as a clinical systems analyst. “We deserve a Senator who fights against unnecessary constraints on our teachers, fights for our farmers and small businesses, and fights to end Albany corruption,” Bagnall-Graham said in a recent campaign announcement.

Seward returned to work this week after undergoing surgery for bladder cancer, saying in a statement that he has been given a clean bill of health. He is chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee and reported having around $412,000 in his campaign coffers in his most recent report.

Republicans hold a significant voter enrollment advantage in Seward’s 51st Senate District. Seward, who lives in Milford and used to be the Otsego County Republican chairman, has either had no opponent or won by blowouts in his last four races. The four Ulster towns in the eastern end of the 51st District are Hardenburgh, Shandaken, Olive and Rochester.

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Bonacic may have no Democratic challenger

Orange County Democrats had no candidate to endorse as a challenger for state Sen. John Bonacic at their convention on Tuesday, signaling that the Mount Hope Republican may have no opponent this fall for the third election in a row.

Mamakating Supervisor Bill Herrmann had announced in February that he would run for the 42nd Senate District seat, but later changed his mind and never registered as a candidate. No other takers have since stepped forward. Candidates for state Legislature begin collecting petition signatures on Monday and must file their petitions by July 14.

Bonacic, who turns 74 this month, has been a state lawmaker for almost 26 years, the last 18 of them in the Senate. He had a whopping $700,000 in his campaign coffers when he filed his last disclosure report in March. Democrats hold a voter enrollment edge in the 42nd District, which encompasses parts of Orange, Ulster and Delaware counties and all of Sullivan.

At their convention in the Town of Wallkill Tuesday night, the Orange County Democratic Committee endorsed three Democratic Assembly members for re-election and the following challengers for Republican incumbents: County Legislator Chris Eachus, who plans to take on Sen. William Larkin Jr.; Monroe resident Krystal Serrano, who plans to make a second run for the seat held by Assemblyman Karl Brabenec; and Middletown Court Judge Steven Brockett, who plans to challenge Orange County Court Judge Robert Freehill for a 10-year term.

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Lawmakers battle “zombie” properties

The state Assembly overwhelmingly passed a bill lawmakers from both parties have promoted for weeks, a package of measures to combat the abandoned, unkempt properties that mar neighborhoods by giving authorities more power to force banks to maintain the homes on which they have foreclosed.

The 116-22 vote sends the  bill, known as the Abandoned Property Neighborhood Relief Act of 2016, to the Senate. Most Assembly members representing Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties voted for the proposal; within that contingent, only Claudia Tenney, a New Hartford Republican with some Orange and Ulster towns in her sprawling district, voted against it. Among other steps, the bill would require lenders to maintain empty properties that are in “pre-foreclosure”; require periodic inspections of foreclosed properties; and create a statewide registry of abandoned properties.

The push for the bill began with a “bank shaming” campaign in which legislators held press conferences outside homes with overgrown lawns that banks had neglected after foreclosing on them. “No one wants to live next door to an empty home,” Assemblyman James Skoufis, D-Woodbury, said in a press release in April after staging a “bank shaming” outside an empty New Windsor house. “But in many neighborhoods, sluggish foreclosure proceedings are causing long-term damage by allowing abandoned houses to fall into disrepair. And in some cases, banks are to blame.”

Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, a Deerpark Republican, announced his support for a trio of “zombie property” bills the following month, saying he had fought the same problem as Deerpark supervisor before becoming an assemblyman in 2015. “No one ever wants to have their home foreclosed upon,” he said in a statement. “But in that scenario it best benefits the locality and its residents to document and track the status of these properties so we can ensure they stay well maintained and suitable for occupancy in the future.”

Assemblyman Frank Skartados, D-Milton, chimed in with a press release after voting for the bill that passed this week: “In portions of Poughkeepsie and Newburgh, low property values provide little incentive for banks to settle costly and time-consuming foreclosure proceedings. This measure would force banks to be responsible for their properties that have been abandoned after owners have given up fighting foreclosure and have moved out.”

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