Fleming to Challenge Odell for Putnam Executive

State senate, U.S. House, governor seats also in play

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

As spring sets in (weather permitting), the political season revs up too.

In Putnam County, Maureen Fleming, the supervisor for the Town of Kent, earlier this month launched a campaign to become the next county executive. She hopes to replace MaryEllen Odell, who seeks a new three-year term in the Nov. 6 general election.

A Democrat who describes herself as “a pragmatic fiscal conservative,” Fleming announced her candidacy on March 9. Formerly an attorney for the City of New York, she has been Kent’s full-time supervisor since 2014. She said that her two terms in office there showed that when people of all political backgrounds unite, “we get the job done. I want to bring that kind of cooperation and respect back to county government.”

Odell said on March 10 that “I welcome Maureen to the race and look forward to a substantive campaign on the issues.”

Fleming and Odell (Photos provided)

According to Fleming’s campaign, in Kent she has improved services while adding more than $1 million to the general fund without a tax increase.

In her State of the County address on March 15, Odell cited her own fiscal record. Among other points, she said that Putnam County has the lowest county tax charge — 9 percent of property tax bills — of New York’s 62 counties and that her budgets have remained under the state tax-increase cap.

“We continue to move Putnam County in the right direction, with smart growth and key investments all while maintaining a solid financial operation,” she said.

A former county legislator who was elected county executive in 2011, Odell serves as president of the New York State Association of Counties, which represents county governments in Albany and Washington.

Fleming responded to Odell’s State of the County address by saying it “lacked professionalism and a vision” and “rehashed and repackaged” old, “stalled” ideas.

“Putnam deserves better than we’re getting from the Odell administration,” she said. “Putnam County has the highest sales-tax rate in the region, forcing consumers away” from local businesses to those in nearby counties and Connecticut. “And yet, our property taxes rise every year, making it more expensive to live here.”

Fleming promised to provide “professional management of our tax dollars” if elected as Putnam’s executive.

As of the January filing deadline, Odell had $3,448 in her campaign account, according to the New York State Board of Elections. There are no records so far on Fleming’s finances.

State Senate

Karen Smythe

In the race to represent the 41st State Senate district, which includes the Highlands, Joel Tyner, a Dutchess County legislator, suspended his campaign, clearing the way for Karen Smythe to challenge Republican incumbent Sue Serino. Dutchess County Democratic Party officials endorsed Smythe on March 1, two days after she entered the race.

A Vassar College graduate and Vassar trustee, Smythe has an MBA from the University of Virginia. She oversaw her family’s construction firm, C.B. Strain & Son, before becoming executive director of the Beatrix Farrand Garden Association in Hyde Park. She lives in Red Hook.

Smythe said she wants Serino’s seat because “Hudson Valley families and businesses, especially the small businesses that are the backbone of our community, are being underserved in Albany. We deserve better. We need economic development support, increased school aid, tax relief, and greater protections for our natural resources.”

The state Board of Elections lists Smythe as a candidate but had no campaign financial information as of March 22.

Governor

Terry Gipson, who represented the Highlands in the state Senate before losing to Serino in 2014, on Wednesday (March 21) abandoned his campaign to become the Democratic gubernatorial candidate by ousting incumbent Andrew Cuomo.

Cynthia Nixon

After withdrawing, Gipson endorsed actor Cynthia Nixon, best known for her role on Sex and the City, who launched her own Democratic campaign on Monday. Nixon said she is running because “it can’t just be business as usual anymore” in Albany. “If we’re going to get at the root problem of inequity, we have to turn the system upside down.” Growing up, she said, “I was given chances I just don’t see for most of New York’s kids today. Our leaders are letting us down.”

Nixon has never held elected office but is known for her advocacy on education and involvement in LGBTQ causes.

Another activist in those causes, U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat who lives in Philipstown, on March 8 criticized Nixon’s plan to challenge Cuomo.

Maloney, who in 2014 married his partner, Randy Florke, in Cold Spring, recalled that Cuomo “took on the marriage equality issue when few politicians dared,” providing “unabashed efforts, often to his political detriment. That’s called leadership.” Maloney urged the LGBTQ community to support Cuomo, “the leader and friend who supported us. It doesn’t work any other way.”

Marc Molinaro

On the Republican side, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro is expected to announce his candidacy for governor on April 2. A former mayor of Tivoli and county legislator, he was elected county executive in 2011 and re-elected in 2015. John DeFrancisco, the deputy state Senate majority leader from DeWitt (near Syracuse), also wants to be the Republican candidate.

A Siena College poll released Monday found DeFrancisco led Molinaro by 4 points but that at least half of Republicans asked remain undecided and 13 percent said they would not vote for either man.

As of January, Cuomo had raised $30.4 million for his campaign, compared to $792,290 for DeFrancisco and $100 for Molinaro.

U.S. House

In February, Republican officials endorsed Orange County Legislator James O’Donnell, a Goshen resident, to challenge Maloney, who hopes to win his fourth two-year term in Congress.

James O’Donnell

At a meeting of the Republican nominating committee, Jarred Buchanan, a Lakeland High School graduate and New York City police officer, withdrew from the race and endorsed O’Donnell.

“I’m looking forward to taking my message of good government and my record of results to the front doorsteps of the people of the Hudson Valley,” said O’Donnell, a retired state police commander and former chief of the MTA police.

Maloney had $3 million in campaign funds as of Dec. 31, according to the Federal Election Commission. FEC records did not include any data on O’Donnell’s finances as of Thursday.

Other races

Barbara Scuccimarra, a Republican  who represents Philipstown in the Putnam County Legislature, did not return a phone call asking if she intends to run for re-election for what would be her third, three-year term. Nor have Philipstown Democrats endorsed a candidate.

No opponent has filed to challenge Sandy Galef, who represents Philipstown in the state Assembly. Her campaign had $75,505 on hand as of January, according to the state Board of Elections. Nor has any candidate filed to oppose Assemblyman Frank Skartados, who represents Beacon. He had $19,308 as of January. Both are Democrats.

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2 Responses to "Fleming to Challenge Odell for Putnam Executive"

  1. Ann Fanizzi   March 25, 2018 at 10:04 am

    Odell has a record of mendacity and cronyism bar none from the convoluted negotiations surrounding the Butterfield Senior Center to the millions spent on the Putnam Golf Course and Tilly Foster Table to the agreement/no agreement with the Danbury mayor re:construction of sewer line along Route 6 in Brewster, to the reported misuse of county websites for political purposes and to her support of Roger Ailes and involvement with Vincent Leibell. Fleming has a full course with which to challenge her.

  2. Patty Villanova   March 25, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    Ms. Fleming has a very good chance of unseating the current County Executive, given the fact of years of incompetent and dare I say corrupt GOP rule of Putnam County. As we are seeing on the western side of the county, Putnam Valley and Philipstown are going from red to purple to blue. Who knows what the ratio will be in November, but never forget the independents or “blanks” who are often the new majority voters.

    The recent disaster we experienced with the storms and subsequent loss of power could have been ameliorated if Odell and her cronies in the Legislature had been paying attention to the many years of problems with New York State Electric and Gas Corporation. I guess they were all too lazy to read the Moreland Report from 2013 that documented what had gone wrong after Hurricane Sandy and the suggested remedies.

    As far as Legislator Scuccimarra, whether she decides to run or not, there will be competition for her seat in District 1. There are many of us once loyal Republicans who have gotten sick and tired of what happened to the party and its leadership of Putnam County. There are several options we are exploring and everything is on the table.

    I have no doubt that Ms. Fleming is a strong enough candidate that there will be a lot of crossover votes from the “R”s who are fed up with Odell’s inept management of the county.