The Rockland GOP held its annual convention Monday night, announcing nominees for 22 seats up for election this November. County Executive Ed Day gave the keynote address.
The convention proceeded without great controversy, not always a guarantee.
In countywide races, the GOP nominated Ed Day for a second term as county executive and Michael Koplen for the vacant justice of the Surrogate Court.
This year the GOP leadership nominated two council candidates for the Town of Ramapo who are not in the part; Democrat Grant M. Valentine, currently serving as trustee in the Village of Chestnut Ridge and Susannah M. Bechhofer, who is not affiliated with any party. Valentine, one of two African-American candidates [the other Allan Thompson] to be nominated by the GOP this year, has swapped Democratic and Republican Party registration over the course of his career and is not considered a partisan Democrat.
Bechhoer is a newcomer to politics and could represent an effort by the Ramapo GOP to build a bridge to the town’s Orthodox Jewish community.
The Town of Ramapo, of course, has been the scene of tremendous tumult and controversy. Longtime Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence was convicted of fraud charges by a federal jury last month, while Ramapo LDC Executive Director Aaron Troodler pled guilty to fraud in the same case, in anticipation of a reduced sentence.
Prosecutors argued St. Lawrence misrepresented town finances in pursuit of better rates on bonds issued to the town, as well as engaging in various unscrupulous fiscal practices to finance a baseball stadium in Pomona. Town Attorney Michael Klein and Deputy Finance Director Nat Olberman have been hit with civil charges by the SEC in the same case.
The GOP nominated former council candidate William J. Weber, Jr. for the office of town supervisor. Weber said, “Tonight I am honored to accept the nomination of the Ramapo and Rockland County Republican committees as their candidate for Town of Ramapo supervisor. After 16 years of the previous supervisor’s governance, we are left with a shattered Ramapo. Along with Town Council candidates Bechhofer and Valentine, we will focus on the shared concerns of all constituents of Ramapo; a shared desire for good governance based on transparency, good communications, in depth accounting analysis and, more than anything, respect for every person across the board…We will be sharing details of our platform shortly, along with opportunities to join our campaign.”
George Hoehmann was nominated for a second term as Clarkstown supervisor and Jim Monaghan for a second term as Stony Point supervisor. Former Congressional candidate Chris Day was nominated as candidate for Orangetown supervisor, while the Town of Haverstraw supervisor, town council and all other town seats were left uncontested. The Haverstraw Democrats have held virtually every seat in the town for decades.
Four candidates were announced as nominees for Town Council of Clarkstown, seats which are now divided into four districts called wards, instead of the town-wide council votes held in all other Rockland County towns. The Clarkstown ward candidates are Frank Borelli, Adrienne Carey, John Noto, Jr. and Pete Bradley. Borelli and Noto, Jr. are incumbents, while Carey served as an appointment to the council in 2016, filling a seat vacated by Supervisor Hoehmann. She was defeated by Democrat Daniel Caprara in a 2016 special election and seeks to regain her seat. Bradley, an outspoken leader in the Clarkstown Preservation society and the region-wide “preserve” movement seeks his first major elected office.
In the Town of Stony Point, Tom Basile was nominated for a second 4-year term, while Michael J. Puccio, a 2016 appointee to fill Jim Monaghan’s vacated seat and winner of a special election last November, was nominated to run for his first full 4-year term. The GOP nominated incumbents Dennis Troy and Thomas Diviny as candidates for Town Council of Orangetown.
In other seats, Robert Romanowski was nominated to challenge for the office of Ramapo, superintendent of Highways. In Clarkstown, Scott Ugell, was nominated again for town justice, along with fellow longtime incumbent Craig E. Johns. Newcomer Moira C. Balseca will challenge Democrat Justin Sweet for the town clerk position in Clarkstown, while Frank DiZenzo will defend the office of superintendent of Highways for the first time since sweeping Wayne Ballard out of office in 2015.
The GOP, which holds every seat in Stony Point except town clerk, nominated incumbent Frank Phillips for another term as town justice and Kathy Lyons for another term as receiver of taxes. Other Orangetown candidates announced at the convention were the unbeatable James Dean, incumbent superintendent of Highways for many decades and Richard Finning, incumbent town justice.
In fall village races, the GOP nominated Suffern Mayor Edward T. Markunas for a second term, and also gave the nod to incumbent Village of Suffern trustees Frank Hagen (deputy mayor) and Moira Hertzman. The GOP nominated Allan A. Thompson to run for mayor of Spring Valley, a position he held in the 1990s.
The GOP did not nominate a candidate for the New York State Supreme Court Justice, 9th Judicial District contest. They also did not nominate a candidate to run against County Clerk Paul Piperato, regularly amongst the highest vote getters in the county. Other positions left uncontested were Town of Orangetown clerk, Town of Ramapo justice and all positions in the Town of Haverstraw, where Democrats run a well-oiled political machine.
Being a party nominee does not quite ensure a candidate a place on the primary ballot in September let alone the general election. The candidate still must gather legally valid petition signatures to qualify for the primary election. Challenger within the party can primary the party’s official nominee, provided they gather enough signatures. It is not uncommon for candidates to challenge each others’ petition ballots in court, occasionally finding petition defects that knock a candidate off the ballot.
Non-party members can gather petitions to qualify for a “petition-to-ballot,” essentially becoming write-in candidates, or, if they are supported by party leadership, can get their name on the line through the “Wilson Pakula” law. On Monday, the GOP issued Wilson Pakulas to Valentine and Bechhofer.
The Rockland County Democratic Committee will hold their convention Thursday, June 8 (today).
Candidates running for office likely to receive Democratic Party nominations on Thursdayinclude political newcomer Stony Point attorney Maureen Porette for county executive, former 14-year Town of Orangetown Supervisor Thom Kleiner for that same position, following 8-years working in the New York State Dept. of Labor, suspended Town of Clarkstown Police Chief Michael Sullivan for town supervisor of Clarkstown, incumbent Town of Clarkstown Councilman Daniel Caprara for town council, incumbent Town of Clarkstown Clerk Justin Sweet for clerk and incumbent Rockland County Clerk Paul Piperato for county clerk.
In the contest for Surrogate Court justice, Keith Cornell and Legislator Alden Wolfe are gearing up for a primary. Whether the party will endorse either side remains to be seen.