Challengers could force Republican primaries
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
Criticizing Putnam County’s current Republican leadership, GOP dissidents recently launched campaigns to oust County Executive MaryEllen Odell, their party’s flagbearer, and District 1 Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra, who represents Philipstown.
On Monday (May 7), Patty Villanova, a paralegal, Putnam Valley resident and Cold Spring shopkeeper, announced her candidacy for Scuccimarra’s seat.
Three weeks ago, Paul Denbaum, a lawyer and member of the Kent Town Board, declared his candidacy for county executive. He became the second Kent official in the race. Kent Supervisor Maureen Fleming, a Democrat, announced her campaign on March 9.
The primary election, if necessary, would take place Sept. 13.
Scuccimarra on Tuesday (May 8) gave mixed signals about her plans. She said mid-day that while close to a decision, “I’m not yet” sure whether to run again. “Let me think about this and I’ll get back to you.” But before the day ended, her Facebook page displayed a notice of a campaign-launch fundraising cocktail party on June 6.
On Friday, after The Current print edition went to press, Scuccimarra responded to requests sent Wednesday seeking clarification of her plans. She apologized, saying she had experienced “an insane week,” and confirmed that June 6 as her “kick-off date.”
District 1 covers Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley. Like Scuccimarra and Odell, the other eight legislators are Republicans (along with the county clerk and county district attorney.)
Villanova, in a news release and interview, blasted the county’s Republican “establishment,” which she said includes Scuccimarra, charging that it has shirked responsibility for economic development and infrastructure support.
“The Putnam County government is broken and has been for quite a while,” she said, accusing the incumbent of holding “a no-show job where she collects a paycheck while pretending she’s serving the needs of taxpayers. She’s not doing her job. We’re not getting anything” to assist with tourism, Main Street revitalization, or other needs, Villanova said.
“I will do whatever it takes to get us the services and financial support we are entitled to receive,” she said. “The legislators forget that this is our money they are dealing with.”
Scuccimarra declined comment. “I don’t want to compete with Patty Villanova in the newspapers right now,” she said in her mid-day conversation with The Current.
Villanova foresees opposition to her candidacy as a Republican and said she is exploring options for running as a Democrat, a Conservative, or an independent. She said that while she’s a lifelong Republican, she has “trashed the Republicans more than anybody.” She added that supporters of all affiliations, including Democrats and Conservatives, and some “pretty high up” in party hierarchies, urged her to run. Public service “is not about what letter you have after your name,” she said.
In taking on Odell, Denbaum cited his efforts on the Kent Town Board to fight tax increases and craft budgets that avoid them. (Fleming, his fellow Kent Town Board member and county executive candidate, claimed the same thing in announcing her campaign.)
As another accomplishment, Denbaum mentioned promoting term limits, “ensuring that Kent will be a run by a citizen government, not by career politicians.” He slammed Putnam County’s administration for what he termed “pet projects” that “divert important county resources from our roads and infrastructure at the expense of our tax bills.” He added that “until we have a county executive who will think big and share a vision for our future, we will never realize our true potential.”
Denbaum drew attention beyond Kent last year for sponsoring a resolution, approved 4-1, declaring the town would assist federal immigration officers and share the immigration status of anyone, if asked. Fleming cast the sole “no” vote.
At one point, Denbaum described the legislation as necessary because a “recent action of a neighboring municipality [Philipstown] encouraging the safe harbor of illegal aliens who have committed crimes puts the safety of the residents of Kent in jeopardy.” A month earlier the Philipstown Town Board had adopted an “equal protection” measure calling for fair treatment of all residents, regardless of immigration status.
Odell’s campaign could not be reached for reaction to Denbaum’s statements.
The day Denbaum announced his candidacy, Odell toured the site of the senior center at the Butterfield site in Cold Spring for a photo opportunity with labor union representatives who endorsed her re-election bid.
County candidates affiliated with a party can begin collecting signatures on nominating petitions on June 5. Independent candidates can begin July 10. A Republican candidate for county executive needs to collect at least 1,103 signatures from registered Republican voters and a Republican candidate for the District 1 seat must collect 101, according to the county Board of Elections.