Democrat Photo By Nathan Mayberg
TOWN OF THOMPSON Councilwoman Moniquka Diaz-Corley is all smiles after learning that she had won election on Tuesday night. She is holding son Bryce while husband Jason is holding daughter Aja. A Democrat, she beat Republican challenger Janet Newberg and Equal Justice candidate Michael Bernstein.
Democratic Tide Carries Candidates At All Levels
By Nathan Mayberg
SULLIVAN COUNTY November 10, 2006 Democrats were victorious at all levels Tuesday evening when they captured the United States House of Representatives for the first time in 12 years and were on the verge of taking control of the U.S. Senate, depending on the ultimate outcome of the race in Virginia, where Democrat James Webb currently holds a lead of approximately 7,000 votes.
The Dems ran the table on all three statewide races. Elliot Spitzer easily defeated Republican John Faso to become the first Democratic Governor in New York since Mario Cuomo a dozen years ago.
Comptroller Alan Hevesi maintained his office seat despite a brutal scandal which could result in his eventual removal and Spitzer naming a successor. He beat back the Republican candidate, Saratoga County Treasurer Chris Callaghan.
The party also kept control of the Attorney General’s office, where Andrew Cuomo defeated Republican Jeanine Pirro.
Two Democrats Congressman Maurice Hinchey and New York State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, who both represent the entire Sullivan County, were unopposed.
New York State Senator John Bonacic, a Republican, faced a challenge from Democrat Susan Zimet of New Paltz but was able to pull away with the win with a wide margin of victories in Sullivan, Orange and Delaware Counties. It was tightest in Zimet’s home turf of Ulster County.
“I was hoping that the dissatisfaction and anger with national Republicans would not trickle down,” Bonacic said.
Two intense congressional races in his district saw the ousting of Republican house members in John Sweeney (representing Delaware County) and Sue Kelly (representing Orange County).
After eight years in the State Senate, Bonacic said he hoped people would judge him on an individual basis for what he has done for his constituents. However, he also realized that this is a high-growth area with people moving in from metropolitan areas who might not be as aware of his record. In addition, he had to contend with the Democrat leaning SUNY New Paltz in his district.
He said his opponent’s campaign was based solely on her party affiliation, as exemplified by her late-running commercials featuring Spitzer. Bonacic estimated his total campaign spending at $450,000 but placed his opponent’s at about $350,000.
The senate will remain in the hands of the Republicans, thus denying the Democrats complete control over the capitol. Bonacic said it will ensure a good checks and balances, ensuring New York City does not dominate the agenda.
But Bonacic also said he looks forward to working with Spitzer. “I hope he is a great Governor. I’ve worked with both Democratic and Republican Governors (he served in the Assembly in the Mario Cuomo era). It’s about checks and balances.”
The senator said he could be the Governor’s new best friend if Spitzer engages Albany in reforms such as medicaid, school taxes, tort reform and tax exempt issues. So far, the senator blamed State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for blocking those reforms. Bonacic predicted the first three months of Spitzer’s tenure as being the most fertile for getting reforms accomplished.
Locally, the Democratic party took three of the four major races in the county. In the District 3 Legislator race, incumbent Democrat Elwin Wood held a lead of just 25 votes over Republican challenger Patrick Casey. More than 2,000 voters showed up to the polls in that district. There are still about 150 absentee ballots to be counted November 16. Therefore, Casey has not conceded the race.
The key for Wood was undoubtedly the decision by the county legislature to reverse its decision on the large parcel bill, effectively decreasing taxes after they skyrocketed the year previously with their adoption of the bill. Wood was able to take credit for the turnaround.
Casey acknowledged that Neversink was notoriously a Republican stronghold and was surprised he did not fare better in that town. Wood won there by a tally of 537-456.
Casey was ahead in the Town of Rockland by 601 votes to 544 for Wood. Wood led by just one vote in the Town of Liberty
Wood said it was a “very good election. I am happy so many people turned out. It was a very clean election.”
Wood said he campaigned hard, traveling door to door throughout his district. He said he looks forward to working with the Town of Rockland on addressing the constant flooding as well as permanently addressing the large parcel tax issue in Neversink.
Town of Thompson
In the county’s largest town, incumbent councilwoman Moniquka Diaz-Corley survived late controversy over her failure to pay taxes, and defeated Republican challenger Janet Newberg by a tally of 1,545 to 1,189, as Democrats turned out in force in the Village of Monticello, the home to Diaz-Corley.
Michael Bernstein, who lost to Diaz-Corley by just one vote in their Democratic Primary, was unable to gain any traction on the Equal Justice line, all the way at the bottom of the voting machine. Bernstein was unable to campaign after fracturing his leg in an accident while loading a fire truck. He received exactly 300 votes.
There are still approximately 301 absentees left to be counted in the town, although 392 forms were applied for. Newberg would need 356 more votes to tie Diaz-Corley.
Diaz-Corley was jubilant while celebrating in Monticello with supporters at Vino’s. She received major backing and campaigning from Councilman William Rieber, Supervisor Anthony Cellini and his wife Linda, as well as Rock Hill Fire Department’s Jim Cavello.
She also thanked her boss, Sullivan County Clerk George Cooke, the local unions and “most of all my family. I would like to thank Janet Newberg for running a clean and decent campaign.”
The loss was a disappointment to Newberg and her supporters, who were hoping for better results. Newberg has been a familiar face to the community for her work in opposing the expansion of the Sullivan County Landfill and the Calpine project.
Nonetheless, the seat will be up for another election next November. Newberg did not say whether she will run again.
In the Town of Liberty, Democrat Clarence Barber Jr., a former Highway Superintendent, bested well-known Republican Gary Siegel by more than 200 votes in the race for the vacant seat left by Sean Hanofee Jr. John Wombacher, running under the independent Liberty party, received 72 votes.
The Town of Bethel saw two frequent candidates finally be able to go after each other one on one for the vacant council seat left by Harold Russell, when he became Supervisor.
Republican and Conservative Andy LaPolt captured 674 votes to the 579 tallied by Democrat and Open Door candidate Ted Yeomans. One hundred and thirty-one of the votes won by LaPolt were under the Conservative line.
The Town of Delaware Town Board race was an easy win for Kara McElroy who won by an unofficial final tally of 447 votes to 187 for Republican Alice Schlichting.
Democratic Party Chair Reaction
Sullivan County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Hill said his party was “just thrilled” with the results locally, statewide and on the national level.
“It is long overdue,” he stated. On his party’s local success, he called it “a testament to the hard work of the Democratic Party regulars.” He acknowledged that some of the local candidates benefited from feelings about national politics. He cited the party’s success at a statewide level for also helping local candidates.
He called the election a referendum on President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. “He deserved a thumping,” said Hill.
Republican Party Chairman John J. LiGreci was not available for comment.
One former Republican leaving the polls Tuesday in Monticello explained why she switched to the Democratic party this year.
Kathy Fraser said education and the war in Iraq were her major issues. On the education side, she would like to see an improvement in the teaching of academics, but would also like to see less volatile school taxes. On Iraq, she would like to see an end to the war.
“People are tired of the issues going on. This is the first time I voted for change… I don’t see things getting better. I think that the government could do a lot better. Some people have been in power too long. It’s time to get some fresh blood in there.”