Showdown in the 20th

Two local politicians go head-to-head to claim the 20th Congressional District seat. Plus: local races


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Democrat Frank Skartados has his work cut out for him as he challenges 14-year Republican incumbent Thomas Kirwan for the 100th Assembly District seat. Skartados, a former teacher, businessman, and farmer, has launched a vigorous campaign placing school tax reform, green energy legislation, and childhood education at the forefront of his agenda. Presenting himself as a sort of everyman of the district, Skartados has criticized Kirwan’s complacency, saying, “We have been represented for 14 years by Republican Assemblyman Tom Kirwan who has ignored large sections of our District. He has long avoided speaking about the quality of life in some of the District’s inner cities and addressing the decline in good paying jobs in the Hudson Valley.”

Kirwan, a retired New York State police lieutenant, has been applauded by Gov. David Paterson “as a top government reformer whose integrity he would bear witness to anytime.”



Nobody expects incumbent John Hall, who swept into power in 2006 with a narrow win over longtime Republican institution Sue Kelly, to be displaced by Peekskill’s Kieran Michael Lalor. But the independent Republican challenger has been mounting a stiff offense in his pursuit of the 19th Congressional District seat. Recently, he accused Hall’s campaign of filing “frivolous objections” to his Energy Security Now! Party petitions, claiming that Hall is trying to avoid making the election a referendum on energy policy, an issue that is at the forefront of both campaigns. In addition to energy independence, Lalor supports improved care for veterans, economic reforms (including earmark policing and income tax reduction), illegal immigration legislation, and the Second Amendment.

During his congressional tenure, Hall — one of the founding members of pop band Orleans — has shown commitment to universal health care reform, energy policy reform (including gasoline and oil price relief), and an end to the war in Iraq; he also has been a vocal advocate of many measures to improve veteran’s benefits. Lalor — an Iraqi vet — is the founder of the Eternal Vigilance Society and Iraq Vets for Congress; he has criticized Hall as being “anti-military.”



Republican Marc Molinaro first made waves on the political scene in 1994 when he was elected to the Tivoli Board of Trustees at the ripe old age of 18, making him the youngest person ever elected to office in New York State. The following year he set yet another sensational precedent, becoming the youngest mayor in the United States, a post he held for five years. His effectiveness as a politician was further evidenced by his smooth transition to the Dutchess County Legislature, where he served for four years, successfully cutting the county tax rate and reforming the county’s adoption and foster care services. Today, Molinaro’s political efforts are largely focused on enhancing education, property tax reform to address New York’s “fiscal trauma,” and reforming state government by implementing stricter ethics laws.

The incumbent prince of Tivoli now faces off for the 103rd Assembly District seat against Midwest-transplant Anne Rubin. Democrat Rubin, a community activist and Green Party member, is mounting a formidable campaign emphasizing tax fairness, job growth, water quality and the environment, protecting farms, and capping rural sprawl.



What election season would be complete without a smear campaign or two? The very accusations that would seem to offer a hand up to Democrat-endorsed Republican John Degnan over freshman incumbent Greg Ball in the race for the 99th Assembly District seat have instead inspired a new enclave of public support for Ball, and a few raised eyebrows at Degnan, the onetime mayor of Brewster. Ball, a former Air Force officer and self-proclaimed “Albany’s loudest advocate for reform,” was elected to the Assembly in 2006 after a landslide victory that unseated six-term incumbent Willis Stephens. But in early September 2008, a former staffer accused Ball of sexual harassment, compelled by the revelation that he had been accused of stalking an ex-girlfriend in 2003. Publicization of the sordid accusations was immediately credited to Republican State Senator Vincent Leibell, a financial supporter of Degnan and known Ball opposer.

Is the scandal enough to dethrone the reform bulldog, who has vehemently opposed tax increases, promoted immigration reform, and leads the way in legislation to cut dependence on foreign oil? It appears quite the opposite; as Somers’ resident Janet Ross told the Journal News, “There’s been a huge amount of money spent to discredit him, so I came out to vote for him. He’s upset a lot of politicians in Albany, so he must be doing a good job.”


Did You Know...?

  • As of March 2008, there were 689,411 registered Democrats in the Valley, and 503,841 registered Republicans.
  • John Kerry garnered 52.3 percent of the Valley’s vote in 2004, compared to George W. Bush’s 45.3 percent (a margin of 84,648 votes).
  • The closest thing the Valley has to a swing state is Rensselaer County, where there were only 529 more registered Democrats than registered Republicans as of March. Rensselaer County is also the only Valley county to have more registered independent voters (those not enrolled in any particular party) than registered Democrats or Republicans.
  • The last presidential candidate to take all 10 Valley counties was Richard Nixon in 1972.
  • In four consecutive presidential elections (1976, 1980, 1984, and 1988), Albany was the only county in the Valley to go to the Democrats.
  • Of the four presidents who were native New Yorkers, two were born in the Valley — Martin Van Buren (Kinderhook) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (Hyde Park).
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