Canterino, O’Donnell wage Legislature rematch

Orange County Legislator Phil Canterino and former Deputy County Executive James O’Donnell will compete in three primaries next week, in what will be the third competition the two men have waged for the Legislature’s District 21 seat since 2013.

Canterino, a former Goshen councilman, was the Republicans’ endorsed candidate for the office that year, but O’Donnell beat him in a GOP primary as a write-in candidate. Yet Canterino remained in the race as the Conservative Party candidate, having fended off another write-in challenge by O’Donnell for that ballot line. That set up a three-way race that the Democratic candidate, Shannon Wong, narrowly won in November 2013.

Two years later, Wong resigned from her seat after accepting a new job with the New York Civil Liberties Union, and both Canterino and O’Donnell applied to the three Town Boards in District 21 to be appointed as Wong’s temporary replacement. The Republican-dominated boards chose Canterino over O’Donnell and Goshen Councilman Ken Newbold, a Democrat.

Canterino has held the seat since then and must run for election to serve the final year of Wong’s unexpired term. This time, Republican committee members have endorsed O’Donnell, who will compete with Canterino on Sept. 13 in three separate primaries for the GOP, Conservative and Independence lines.

Whatever the outcomes, Canterino holds an unusual fallback position for a Republican for the general election ballot in November. The Democrats, who had no members of their own party lined up for the seat, have authorized Canterino to run as their candidate for the District 21 seat, which represents all of the Town of Goshen and parts of the towns of Wawayanda and Blooming Grove.

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NY holds third set of 2016 primaries on Sept. 13 (updated)

First came the presidential primaries in April. Then came the congressional primaries in June. And now, New York will hold its third set of primaries for 2016 on Sept. 13, this time for state and local offices.

Elections will be held that day for five Senate and Assembly races in Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties, three of them involving major-party lines. The most heated – and complicated – of those contests in the 98th Assembly District scrum, in which pairs of Republicans and Democrats are squaring off for their parties’ nominations while also scrambling for third-party lines in separate primaries. In the 101st Assembly District, two Republicans are competing for the nomination for a seat that the Republican incumbent is vacating to run for Congress. And in the 42nd Senate District, a Democrat activist is waging a write-in effort to get on the November ballot against GOP incumbent John Bonacic.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the Sept. 13 state primaries in the region.

Assembly District 98

In the 98th Assembly District, which crosses the southern half of Orange County and includes part of Ramapo in Rockland, freshman Assemblyman Karl Brabenec and John Allegro, a leader of the United Monroe citizens group, are competing in a Republican primary. Krystal Serrano of Monroe, the Democrats’ endorsed candidate, will compete against Aron Wieder, a Rockland County legislator from Spring Valley, for their party’s line. (Update: Serrano announced that Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, a Suffern Democrat who represents part of Ramapo and all of Orangetown in Rockland, has endorsed her.)

And to liven things up, five others parties have primaries in that race: Wieder and Brabenec will duel for the Independence Party line; Brabenec faces write-in challenges for his Conservative and Reform ballot lines; Serrano faces a write-in challenge for her Women’s Equality line; and there will be an open write-in contest for the Green Party line. In short, if you are enrolled in any party except Working Families and live in the 98th Assembly District, there is a primary ballot waiting for you at your polling station on Sept. 13.

Senate District 42

Pramilla Malick, an environmental activist who has been involved with the campaign against the Competitive Power Ventures plant being built in Wawayanda, is waging a write-in effort on Sept. 13 to get on the general-election ballot as a Democratic opponent for Sen. John Bonancic, a Mount Hope Republican and 18-year incumbent. Having missed the usual petitioning period for candidates, Malick filed what is known as an opportunity-to-ballot petition that will enable Democratic voters in the four-county district to write in her name – or anyone else’s – to place a Democratic candidate on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Though Malick is the only Democrat known to be seeking the nomination, Bonacic recently made a subtle move to thwart her by sending letters to Democrats in his district who vote by absentee ballot that asked them to write in his name for re-election – without mentioning his party or the upcoming primary.

(Update: Malick announced Friday that she has now gotten the endorsement of the Democratic committees in all four counties in the 42nd District: Orange, Ulster, Sullivan and Delaware. Ulster made the most recent endorsement, on Thursday, according to her press release.)

Assembly District 101

With Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney forgoing re-election to run instead for the congressional seat that Richard Hanna is vacating, Maria Kelso – an aide on her staff – and Oneida County legislator Brian Miller are competing for the Republican nomination to try to succeed her. There is also a write-in contest that day to challenge Kelso for the Reform Party ballot line.

The winner will face Democrat Arlene Feldmeier, a Little Falls attorney, in the general election. The 101st District is an absurdly gerrymandered Albany creation that runs like a line from Oneida and Herkimer counties in the north to the towns of Crawford and Montgomery in Orange County, swallowing five Ulster and Sullivan county towns along the way. Republicans have the enrollment edge.

Two additional state races in this region have minor-party primaries on Sept. 13. There are write-in contests for the Women’s Equality and Working Families’ lines in the 39th Senate District, the race in which Democratic Orange County legislator Chris Eachus is challenging Republican Sen. William Larkin Jr. And there is a write-in competition for the Green Party line in the 46th Senate District, which includes party of Ulster County. That is the race in which Sara Niccoli, a Democratic town supervisor in Montgomery County, is seeking to unseat Sen. George Amedore, a Republican freshman from Rotterdam.

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Mandelbaum will host “poolside” fundraiser for Neuhaus

Affordable-housing builder Jonah Mandelbaum and his wife will host a campaign fundraiser at their Warwick home next month for Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus, an event billed as “a casual poolside evening” on the invitations.

The gathering is from 6-8 p.m. on Sept. 9 and ticket prices range from $100 to $1,000. Mandelbaum is a prodigious and bipartisan campaign donor who gave the Neuhaus campaign $7,500 last year and was one of the biggest contributors for Neuhaus’ predecessor, Ed Diana. Mandelbaum has given Gov. Andrew Cuomo more than $120,000 in campaign donations since 2010, according to state Board of Elections records. Neuhaus and Diana are Republicans; Cuomo is a Democrat.


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Brabenec takes “United Monroe” ballot line from United Monroe challenger (updated)

Karl Brabenec

Assemblyman Karl Brabenec has caused a furor by filing a petition to run on the United Monroe ballot line in November, yanking a well-known party name from the United Monroe leader who’s challenging him in a Republican primary and planned to run on the United Monroe line as well.

According to the state Board of Elections, Brabenec filed his “United Monroe” petition at 9:03 a.m. on Tuesday, the first date on which candidates could hand in their paperwork to run on an independent party line. United Monroe Chairwoman Emily Convers arrived at the board’s office in Albany later in the day and submitted a United Monroe petition on behalf of John Allegro, her fellow United Monroe board member, at 1:07 p.m. Since Brabenec got his petition in first, Allegro can still run on a third-party line but must choose a name other than United Monroe – a name that carries considerable political clout – for that ballot position.

(Update on the petition timing from Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin: “We open at 9:00 am.  Brabenec’s people were in the hall waiting for us to open the counter.”)

In an interview with the Times Herald-Record after learning what had happened, Allegro argued that Brabenec was trying to infringe on his group’s political capital and predicted the maneuver would backfire with voters, calling it “political suicide” for Brabenec. In a statement he later released, Allegro called the move “an act of desperation and malice” and an “insult to the intelligence” of thousands of voters who supported candidates United Monroe endorsed in the 2014 and 2015 elections.

John Allegro

“His bald-faced attempt to steal the political goodwill of an organization that is in a four-year fight for honest, transparent, and civil government, is a clear indicator of his lack of morals and integrity,” Allegro wrote.

Brabenec didn’t return a call to discuss his “United Monroe” petition, but issued a statement on Tuesday that portrayed it as a groundswell of popular support for him.

Here’s the statement:

“My record clearly shows that I have been fighting for the issues that are important to the membership of United Monroe and all citizens of the 98th Assembly District. Regrettably, it has become increasingly clear that the leadership of United Monroe is more interested in amassing political power than serving the residents that they claim to represent. When leaders lose sight of their goal, the citizenry needs to act, and that is reflective by the nearly 2000 signatures that were collected. The response from residents and friends was overwhelming and sends a clear message that the citizens of the 98th Assembly district need me to continue to fight for them in Albany for another two years. I am thrilled to have the United Monroe Line, and will continue to fight for issues of concern to them, and residents in all towns in the 98th Assembly District.”

Convers fired back with a statement asking, “Why would a sitting Assemblyman, in his run for reelection, hire a band of upstate youths to knock on doors and deceive citizens into believing he was the United Monroe endorsed candidate?

“The answer is simple.  Karl Brabenec has failed his constituents.  He voted down a bill which would have given veto power to the monitor assigned to oversee the East Ramapo School District.    Brabenec has also been spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on mailers you have been receiving in your mailbox. That’s right- you are paying for these so-called informational mailers from your Assemblyman which have been conveniently sent right before his bid for reelection.  In 2014, when Karl Brabenec first ran for NYS Assembly, he refused to answer a single citizen question about annexation.  Brabenec received the Kiryas Joel bloc vote in the primary which secured his place on the ballot for the Republican line.  Now, he has the nerve to pretend to oppose annexation and steal the United Monroe line.”
Brabenec and Allegro are set to compete in a Republican primary on Sept. 13 on the GOP line, but both will be on the Nov. 8 general election ballot on their independent lines, regardless of the primary results. Two Democratic candidates, Krystal Serrano of Monroe and Aron Wieder of Spring Valley, are competing for their party’s nomination on Sept. 13 primary in that same race. There also will be primaries that day for various third-party lines involving Wieder, Serrano and Brabenec.
Brabenec, a Republican freshman from Deerpark, won a three-way race two years ago for the 98th District seat, which had been vacant since Annie Rabbit left it to take office as Orange County clerk in January 2014. Dan Castricone, a fellow Republican and former Orange County legislator who also competed in that 2014 Assembly race, won more than 9,100 votes on the United Monroe line alone.
The 98th Assembly District consists of the towns of Monroe, Warwick, Tuxedo, Minisink, Greenville and Deerpark and City of Port Jervis in Orange County, and part of the Town of Ramapo in Rockland.

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Teachout challenges wealthy pro-Faso supporters to debate

Democrat Zephyr Teachout said Monday that she wants to debate two wealthy hedge fund managers who are helping to fund a super PAC supporting her GOP opponent, John Faso.

Teachout, the anti-corruption crusader and Fordham University law professor, issued the debate challenge to Paul Singer and Robert Mercer at a press conference in Kingston Monday. The two have contributed $1.1 million altogether to the New York Wins PAC, a super PAC (political action committee) that’s supporting Faso.

“The voters deserve to hear directly from the billionaires backing John Faso about what they expect to get from him in Congress. When someone writes a $500,000 check they don’t do it out of the goodness of their heart. These are people probably trying to buy power, and voters should know who they are and what they stand for. I’m challenging Paul Singer and Robert Mercer to put your mouth where your money is and debate me directly, not through your mouthpiece,” Teachout said.

Faso, a lawyer, former assemblyman and lobbyist, and Teachout are vying for an open seat in New York’s 19th Congressional District. Retired Army colonel Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, who now holds the seat, isn’t seeking another term. In a release, Teachout said the men are trying to buy power.

Federal Election Commission records show that Mercer, a financial consultant of Renaissance Technologies in East Setauket, gave $500,000 to New York Wins PAC. Paul Singer, CEO of Elliott Management Corporation, has given $600,000. Forbes says Mercer is worth $150 million and manages a $29 billion hedge fund. Singer, from New York City, is worth $2.2 billion and manages a $27 billion hedge fund, according to Forbes.

Super PACs can accept unlimited amount of money to support a candidate so long as they don’t coordinate with that candidate.

Teachout also released a video to go along with her call for a debate with the hedge fund managers.

The 19th district includes parts or all of 11 counties, including all of Ulster and Sullivan.

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Colin Schmitt avoids primary on Reform Party line

The state Board of Elections has invalidated an effort to force a Reform Party primary in the race for the 99th Assembly District.

An opportunity-to-ballot petition carried by a member of Assemblyman James Skoufis’ staff has been invalidated. The  decision will stop a Reform Party primary against Republican challenger Colin Schmitt, who’s facing off against Skoufis, D-Woodbury.

Here’s what happened: Records show that Patrick Ziegler, a member of the the petition’s “committee to receive notices,” signed an affidavit saying he didn’t authorize his name to be on the petition and asked the Board of Elections to find the ballot invalid.

To be clear, Ziegler isn’t someone that actually signed the petition but is one of five people listed on the petition that acts as contacts for the petition. Petitions generally have up to a five-member committee on them to act as contacts and in this case it’s was five Reform Party members.

Ziegler was disqualified, making the petition invalid and stopping an opportunity to ballot on the Reform Party line. That would have allowed primary voters to fill in a name on that line. Now they will not.

Skoufis will carry the Democratic, Working Families and Women’s Equality party lines. Schmitt will carry the Republican, Conservative, Independence and Reform party lines in the Sept. 13 primary.  The 99th District consists of nine Orange County towns and Stony Point in Rockland.

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Petition rejections alter two Assembly races

The scorecard has changed for two local Assembly races with the invalidation of petitions by the state Board of Elections or Supreme Court.

An updating listing of petitions and their status by the Board of Elections on Friday indicated that Jack Hayes, the Republican challenging Democratic Assemblyman Kevin Cahill of Kingston, has had his Republican petition voided. He’ll remain in the race for the 103rd Assembly District on the Conservative line. Cahill’s Independence Party petition also was rejected; he’ll be on the Democratic and Working Families lines in November.

In the neighboring 104th Assembly District, Assemblyman Frank Skartados has averted a Democratic primary with the invalidation of a petition by Ali Muhammad, a Beacon councilmen who intended to challenge him. In another victory for Skartados, the Republican petition of William Banuchi Sr. has been rejected in that race, leaving him the Conservative and Reform lines only. Skartados will have the Democratic, Independence and Working Families lines.

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More on the KJ ballot challenges for Senate, Assembly (updated)

The Record reported earlier this week on the opportunity-to-ballot petitions Kiryas Joel residents signed to force primaries in September for third-party ballot lines in the 39th Senate District and 98th Assembly District races. Here are some details and comments that didn’t make it into the story.

The Senate petitions had 64 total signatures from Kiryas Joel, of which 60 were for the Working Families line and four were for the Women’s Equality line. Both petitions, if they withstand any objections, would force primaries for those parties on Sept. 13 and enable voters to write in candidates other than Chris Eachus, the Democrat endorsed to run on those lines. The intent is to strip Eachus of those lines in his bid to unseat Republican Sen. William Larkin Jr., much as Kiryas Joel leaders forced a primary in 2013 to take the Working Families line from Roxanne Donnery, the Democratic candidate for Orange County executive.

The same four people — all 18-year-old students at Kiryas Joel’s rabbinical college — signed the Women’s Equality petition for the Assembly race. Two older Kiryas Joel men, both enrolled Republicans and therefore unable to sign the petitions, submitted them on the students’ behalf.

There were three other opportunity-to-ballot petitions for the Assembly: 34 Kiryas Joel residents signed for the Green Party, 181 more signed for the Conservative line and a Monsey couple signed for the Reform Party line.  All three were submitted by Lawrence Weissmann, a Rockland County attorney who also was representing Aron Wieder — a Democratic candidate for the 98th Assembly District — in his defense of his petition for yet another ballot line, the Independence Party. Republicans had challenged Wieder’s Independence petition on behalf of Karl Brabenec, the Deerpark Republican who currently holds that seat.

Two of those opportunity-to-ballot petitions would enable an opponent to challenge Brabenc for the Conservative line and challenge Krystal Serrano, another Democrat in the race, for the Women’s Equality line. Wieder, a Rockland County legislator who has run for Assembly twice before, said he wasn’t involved in the petitions when asked about them, even though he’s the likely beneficiary. Weissmann, asked the same thing, said people in the community had asked him to submit the petitions. “I’m Aron’s lawyer,” he explained. “I knew it would help him, but he didn’t direct me to do it.”

(Update: On Friday, an acting state Supreme Court justice in Albany rejected Brabenec’s challenge of Wieder’s Independence petition. In addition, Wieder said Friday that the state Board of Elections had rejected objections to the Conservative and Green Party opportunity-to-ballot petitions, ensuring that there will be primaries for those lines as well on Sept. 13.)

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Teachout introduces seven-point small business plan

Congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout unveiled a seven-point small business plan Thursday in the City of Kingston, calling independent businesses the “beating heart of region.”

Teachout, a Democrat and Fordham Univesity law professor who’s running for the open seat in the 19th Congressional District, unveiled the plan at Keegan Ales on James Street in Kingston. You can see the full plan here, but here’s the highlights of what she’s calling for:

  • An increase to access to loans from big banks to independent businesses, saying commercial and industrial loans under $1 million have “plummeted” since the recession
  • Increasing the amount of goods we buy locally by, in part, rejecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, deal and renegotiating the North American Free Trade Act, or NAFTA. She also calls criticizes subsidies for large farms out west
  • She calls for cutting “red tape and unfair fees”
  • Teachout calls for reducing property taxes by making the state take on the full cost of Medicaid costs from counties
  • A reduction of health care costs by fighting pharmaceutical corporations lobbyists and pricing
  • Trust busting by pushing to Federal Trade Commission investigate and unfair business practices, enforce laws and expand antitrust tools
  • Increase broadband internet access

Teachout said if elected she would push to become a member of the House small business and agriculture committees to help make her plan a reality.

Teachout’s Republican opponent, former assemblyman and lobbyist John Faso, quickly responded with a press release slamming the plan. Here’s what he said:

“Professor Teachout hasn’t a clue regarding what ails the small business economy. She doesn’t realize that the private sector needs business tax and regulatory reform from both Washington and Albany. She doesn’t know that property taxes, workers comp rates and energy costs make New York State the worst state in the nation to do business. She supports a $15 minimum wage that will kill small business jobs and cause many small employers in upstate New York to close. She favors higher estate taxes that destroy family owned businesses, especially small family farms. She would do away with the property tax cap. Having just parachuted into our district from New York City, Professor Teachout has a naïve and dreamy vision of how to create jobs. She is clueless to the fact that big, oppressive government is hurting upstate New York and our small business employers.” — John Faso

Teachout, in an interview after the noon press conference, said Faso “makes stuff up all the time” and that he cashed out as a lobbyist who cozies up to billionaires like longtime Republican fundraiser Paul Singer, who dropped $500,000 in a super PAC to support Faso during the primaries.

She also said that though she supports a $15 minimum wage a raise has to “consider special treatment of small business and independent farmers.”

Teachout also criticized Faso as a “career politician”  who “doesn’t even bother to read a plan before providing a knee jerk, partisan response. Voters are looking for someone who’s independent and willing to work together to solve our problems and listen to people regardless of party.”

The 19th Congressional district encompasses all or part of 11 counties, including all of Ulster and Sullivan counties.



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Proposed raise would make NY lawmakers highest paid in U.S.

The 47 percent raise being considered for state lawmakers in Albany would vault New York past Pennsylvania and California to become the state with the highest paid Legislature by far.

A member of the appointed panel considering pay increases for the Legislature, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other state officials recently proposed 47 percent raises for all of them in 2017, which would increase base pay for lawmakers to $116,900 from $79,500. Since most senators and Assembly members also get stipends ranging from $9,000 from $41,500 for various titles they hold, the true salary range — known in Albany as “lulus” — would jump to $125,900-$158,400 for those with stipends.

New York’s Legislature currently has the third highest base pay in the country, but would skip to the front if the panel approves that $37,500 increase. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which compiles fresh date every year on state lawmakers’ pay and benefits, California – which has nearly double the population of New York — has the highest current base pay, $100,113. Pennsylvania is second at $85,339. And behind New York are Michigan ($71,685) and Illinois ($67,836).

Texas and Florida, each of which has a larger population than New York, pay their state lawmakers much less. Florida’s base pay is $29,697, and the Texas salary is a mere $7,200.

The New York State Commission on Legislative, Executive and Judicial Compensation is set to meet again on Sept. 13 and could decide then on raises for the Legislature, Cuomo, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and state department heads. Cuomo’s salary would jump to $263,000 from $179,000 under the 47 percent proposal.  The commission consists of seven people appointed by Cuomo, the Senate and Assembly leaders, and the former chief judge of the state Court of Appeals.

The commission’s decision will automatically take effect in 2017 unless the state Legislature reconvenes to reject it, allowing lawmakers to run for reelection this year without taking the politically perilous step of enacting raises for themselves. Their base pay has been at the same level since 1999, when lawmakers gave themselves a 38 percent raise.

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