Early challengers to Maloney, Serino
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
They’re off and running. Hopefuls for federal state and county offices are launching campaigns, seeking money and volunteers, and pursuing victory in the Nov. 6 general election.
Typically, several candidates declare for state or federal races; all must gather the required number of signatures of registered voters to appear on the ballot. Anyone running for U.S. House, for example, must gather at least 1,250 signatures in the six weeks beginning March 6.
House of Representatives
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the incumbent Democrat whose House District 18 includes the Highlands, has two Republican challengers, Jarred Buchanan and James O’Donnell, who share a background in law enforcement and enthusiasm for President Donald Trump’s policies.
Raised in Yorktown, Buchanan graduated from Lakeland High School in 2001 and joined the New York City Police Department in 2007. He declared his candidacy on Facebook on Nov. 23, saying he was motivated to run by dismay at the federal response to the 2012 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya. Hillary Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state in 2012, “is a liar and never fully told the truth,” he wrote, adding that Maloney, who served in the White House under President Bill Clinton, is “cut from the same cloth as those liars and corrupt, horrible people.”
Buchanan called his target “tax-raise Maloney” and accused him of having a “socialist agenda”; criticized NATO leaders as “some of the most tactically unsound people I have ever seen”; said the United Nations “needs to leave America” because “those people are war criminals”; and described himself as “very pro-gun” and eager “to repeal all laws on the federal level [and] all local and state laws that stand against your right to have and carry a firearm.”
The other GOP contender, O’Donnell, declared his candidacy on Jan. 31. From 1973 to 1997, O’Donnell served in the New York State Police, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He became chief of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority police in 1999 and next served for nine years as Orange County’s deputy county executive. In 2016, he won a seat in the Orange County Legislature.
In launching his campaign, O’Donnell backed term limits for elected officials, better regional transportation infrastructure (including a train stop at Woodbury Common and rail spur to Stewart Airport); and Republican control of Congress “so we can keep these programs going, where we have companies coming back to the country” and can “get secure borders but continue this country of immigrants and continue to prosper.” He called Maloney “ineffective” as a representative.
Both men have registered with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which enforces campaign finance laws but had not posted financial data on them as of Feb. 7. A third challenger, Alex Fernandez, has declared he will run on the Anti-Corruption Party and launched a GoFundMe page, but the FEC has not posted data on him.
By Dec. 31, Maloney had nearly $3 million in campaign funds, according to FEC records. His campaign noted that, as in 2014 and 2016, the National Republican Congressional Committee has made him a “top target” for defeat. Although Trump won the district by 2 percent in 2016, Maloney defeated Republican Phil Oliva with 56 percent of the vote, losing only in Putnam County.
So far, Maloney has not confronted his challengers. “There will be plenty of time for politics later,” he said on Wednesday (Feb. 7). “I’m focused on fixing our infrastructure, helping our veterans and fighting the heroin epidemic. The last thing we need is more partisan bickering, so I’m just going to do my job.”
Incumbent Sue Serino, a Republican whose district includes Philipstown and Beacon, faces a threat from Joel Tyner, a Democrat who serves in the Dutchess County Legislature.
Tyner, from Rhinebeck, announced his plans on Dec. 3 on Facebook. His platform includes promoting “a minimum wage that’s a living wage, single-payer [health plan] for New York, full school funding, eliminating school property taxes by restoring truly progressive taxation of the wealthy, strict campaign finance limits, public funding of elections,” and various other initiatives, including making New York fossil-fuel free by 2035 and legalizing marijuana use.
Labeling Serino “$ell-Out-$ue,” on Jan. 27 he accused her of “devotion to corporations instead of us.” A day later, he suggested voters elect someone “not afraid to stand up strong for what’s right, no matter what the cost politically” as, he said, his actions the previous year demonstrated.
An eight-term veteran of the Dutchess Legislature, Tyner was censured in 2017 by colleagues there for language which, his critics claimed, likened a Dutchess official to a bureaucrat in Nazi Germany.
The New York State Board of Elections (NYSBOE) did not show any financial data for Tyner’s campaign as of Feb. 7, while Serino reported campaign funds totaling $88,425. Her campaign Facebook page promoted a Feb. 10 gala but otherwise showed no signs of ongoing activity. She won her first term in 2014, defeating incumbent Terry Gipson.
MaryEllen Odell, a Republican, seeks her third three-year term as Putnam County executive. As of Feb. 7, she had no apparent opponents and a campaign balance of $3,448, according to NYSBOE.
Odell’s campaign website cited her record as county executive in ensuring that Putnam “has the lowest tax bill of any of the 62 counties in New York,” while maintaining an excellent bond rating; keeping budget increases under the state’s 2 percent cap; fighting the opioid crisis by suing “Big Pharma” drug companies; overseeing construction of a senior center in Cold Spring; and trying “to protect our citizens from an unwarranted invasion of their safety and personal privacy” by joining county clerks in rejecting a Freedom of Information Law request for gun owners’ names and addresses.
Another Republican, County Clerk Michael Bartolotti, elected in 2014, announced on Feb. 6 that we will seek re-election. He also had no early opposition. His campaign funds total $7,094.
If elected to a second term, Bartolotti said, he will work for “the betterment of the community.” He said he intends to focus on unveiling an electronic land records system; possibly opening Department of Motor Vehicles branches throughout the county; pressing Albany for “our fair share of DMV revenue to further offset property taxes; exploring emerging technology to streamline office operations” and advocate “the rights of pistol-license holders.”