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Voices in the Crowd
By Daniel Flatley & Perry White
Times Staff Writer & City Editor
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Voices in the Crowd

Colleen O’Neill returns from ‘Sheriff School’; Stefanik establishes leadership PAC

First published: December 15, 2014 at 10:27 am
Last modified: December 15, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Jefferson County Sheriff-elect Colleen M. O’Neill said Friday she was pleased with the pace of her preparations ahead of her swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 1.

“I’m way further ahead in the middle of December than I thought I would be and I’m very thankful for that. It’s the support around me that’s making it happen,” she said.

Ms. O’Neill, who is the first-elected female sheriff in New York state history, returned Wednesday from a training program for newly elected sheriffs sponsored by the New York State Sheriff’s Association.

Daughter of former Sheriff Alfred P. O’Neill and a 28-year veteran of the New York state police, Ms. O’Neill named fellow state police veteran Brian R. McDermott to be her undersheriff on Dec. 5, a move she said was planned to coincide with the certification of the election and the training session.

Both Ms. O’Neill and Mr. McDermott attended the training session in Albany, which is intended for both sheriffs and undersheriffs.

Current sheriffs conducted classes on social media strategy, corrections law, budget considerations and grant and scholarship opportunities, Ms. O’Neill said.

Classes on handling personnel complaints and ethical issues were also conducted, according to Ms. O’Neill

Of particular interest were the classes on corrections and on becoming an accredited law enforcement agency through the New York state Division of Criminal Justice Services, Ms. O’Neill said.

“We talked a lot about accreditation and all of the benefits of accreditation,” Ms. O’Neill said. “In our instance, I can look for our sheriff’s office to be accredited in any or all of the three different branches — the civil, the corrections or patrol — and once I get settled I’d really like to look at that because that’s an example of ‘everybody wins.’ There’s strict standards and then it takes the guesswork out of ‘Are we doing it right?’”

Ms. O’Neill said that one of the principal benefits of the training was getting plugged into a network of sheriff offices across the state.

“It was a lot of information. Neither Brian or I were expected to leave there knowing every single bit of it but we definitely know where to find the answers when they arise now,” Ms. O’Neill said.


■       ■       ■

Rep.-elect Elise M. Stefanik has created a political fund called a leadership PAC, or political action committee, according to Bloomberg Politics Moneyball blog.

Leadership PACs can be established by current and former members of Congress and provide candidates a way to fund travel, office expenses, consultants, polling and other non-campaign expenses, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The funds are also used to help fund other candidates or campaigns, especially new candidates or threatened candidates, according to the center.

“Politicians often use their PACs to donate to other candidates because they are considering seeking a leadership position in Congress, a higher office, or leverage within their own party as they show off their fund-raising ability,” according to the center.

Ms. Stefanik, a Republican, became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress after defeating Democrat Aaron G. Woolf and Green Party candidate Matthew J. Funiciello in November.

Her leadership PAC is called “E-PAC,” according to Greg Giroux, who covers federal campaign finance for Bloomberg Politics.

Several other incoming freshmen representatives have also created leadership PACs, according to Mr. Giroux.

Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., who campaigned with Ms. Stefanik in Watertown in September, was an early adopter of using the tactic of establishing a leadership PAC to gain favor with party leaders, Mr. Giroux wrote.

To read Mr. Giroux’s post, visit


Rep.-elect Stefanik announces new hires for congressional staff

First published: November 26, 2014 at 9:52 am
Last modified: November 26, 2014 at 10:45 am

Rep.-elect Elise M. Stefanik announced Wednesday she has hired two staff members for her office in the 114th Congress, including a fellow former George W. Bush staffer.

Lindley Kratovil, who will serve as chief of staff, previously worked in the Bush administration in the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Legislative Affairs and the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. Following her experience with the executive branch, Ms. Kratovil served as legislative director to Scott Tipton, R-Colo., and Todd Rokita, R-Ind. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from Vanderbilt University, according to a news release about the announcement.

“I am pleased to announce that Lindley will join my team as Chief of Staff. She brings a wealth of experience from both the Legislative and Executive Branches, has a mastery of key policy issues and has helped start up a new office before,” Ms. Stefanik said in the release.

Ms. Stefanik worked in the White House from 2006 to 2009 on the Domestic Policy Council staff and in the Chief of Staff’s office.

“I’m honored to be joining the Congresswoman-Elect. We will focus on a seamless transition, the committee assignments we need to be most effective, and superior constituent service and response,” Kratovil said.

Ms. Stefanik also hired Emily Hunter, who will serve as scheduler. Ms. Hunter is a native of Michigan who attended the University of Rochester, where she studied political science, English and international relations. Prior to joining Ms. Stefanik’s office, she served as scheduler to Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas.

Ms. Kratovil and Ms. Hunter will officially start work on January 3.


Rep.-elect Stefanik’s transition team includes several prominent Republicans

First published: November 21, 2014 at 2:42 pm
Last modified: November 24, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Congresswoman-elect Elise M. Stefanik has named several people to a districtwide transition team.

The group, which is billed as a bipartisan committee, includes several prominent Republicans from both the eastern and western sides of the 21st Congressional District, including Willsboro Town Supervisor Shaun Gillilland and former state Sen. James W. Wright, now CEO of the Development Authority of the North Country.

Elected officials named to the committee are all Republicans, including State Senators Hugh T. Farley, R-Schenectady; Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome; Elizabeth O’C. “Betty” Little, R-Queensbury, and Patricia A. Ritchie; R-Heuvelton; as well as Assemblymen Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River; Marc W. Butler, R-Newport; Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, and Assemblywoman Janet L. Duprey, R-Peru.

There are also several business, hospital and nonprofit executives, including Mark N. Wladis, head of the Wladis Law Firm in Syracuse; Gary Dake, president of Stewart’s Shops; Dr. John Rugge, founder of Hudson Headwaters Health Network; Marcia White, president and executive director of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and Denise K. Young, executive director of the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization.

According to a news release from Ms. Stefanik’s office, the group will “help identify key issues, priorities and personnel across the north country to help ensure a seamless transition.”

“I am so honored that these prominent leaders from across the District will help us get off to a strong start in serving the hardworking residents of the 21st District,” said Ms. Stefanik. “I am committed to working with anyone, across the district and in Washington, to make sure the issues that are important to the residents in the North Country are heard in Washington.”

The first organizational call for the transition team will occur in the next week, according to the release.


Stefanik meets with Schumer, Gillibrand and Owens

First published: November 20, 2014 at 2:15 pm
Last modified: November 20, 2014 at 2:15 pm
Congresswoman-elect Elise M. Stefanik meets with U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., Thursday. Ms. Stefanik became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress on Nov. 4, 2014. She is a Republican.

Congresswoman-elect Elise M. Stefanik met with key members of the New York’s Congressional delegation this week, including U.S. Senators Kirsten E. Gillibrand and Charles E. Schumer and her immediate predecessor William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh.

Mr. Owens, who was sent to Washington during a special election in 2009, will step down as the representative of New York’s 21st Congressional District at the end of this year. He did not seek re-election.

Ms. Stefanik, who became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress on Nov. 4, 2014, met with Sen. Schumer Thursday.

The two discussed Fort Drum, expanding the craft brewery industry, invasive species and Plattsburgh International Airport, according to Sen. Schumer’s office.

Sen. Schumer released a statement about Ms. Stefanik following the meeting.

“It was a pleasure to meet with Ms. Stefanik today. She is smart, savvy, and will be an excellent Representative for the North Country. I look forward to collaborating with her on a wide range of issues affecting the region,” Sen. Schumer said.

Ms. Stefanik is a Republican.

■       ■       ■

The Washington D.C. political blog DecodeDC posted an interview with Mr. Owens to its website Wednesday.

“My view of the world is that there is a band of rational thought that we should all act in. I’m not saying that there is nothing you should be passionate about. But I think ultimately you have to go back to a thought-process that is fact-based and analytic,” Mr. Owens told DecodeDC.

To listen to the interview, click here:


Stefanik featured in Roll Call, Washington Post election wrap-ups

First published: November 11, 2014 at 11:12 am
Last modified: November 11, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Elise M. Stefanik’s record-setting run for Congress is attracting plenty of national attention.

Roll Call, a Washington D.C.-based political journal, highlighted Ms. Stefanik’s campaign as one of the “Best Congressional Campaigns of 2014,” giving credit to her campaign team and her messaging offering “new ideas and fresh leadership.”

The Washington Post also included Ms. Stefanik, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, in a video about the record number of women elected to Congress in 2014.

According to the Post video, 101 women will serve in the 114th Congress, an increase over the 99 serving in the 113th. That number could go up, as 4 races with female candidates haven’t been decided yet, the Post reports.

“81 of those women are in the House, including Republican Elise Stefanik, who’s 30 — the youngest woman to serve in Congress,” according to the video’s narrator.

However, the video points out, we are far from achieving gender parity in the House or Senate.

According to the Post, women make up 64 percent of the electorate but only 19 percent of Congress, with the new additions.

“According to one study, women won’t make up half the Congress until 2121,” the narrator says.

Data is from Rutgers University and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Watch the video here:

For Katherine Clark Ross’s story about women in north country politics, visit:


■       ■       ■

Roll Call also published a longer analysis of the Stefanik campaign Tuesday that included some interesting nuggets of insider information:

“Still, in early April, even Stefanik’s own polling showed Doheny with a 17-point lead in the primary. Her campaign had reserved their television airtime early, leaving certain weeks open so allies could fill the advertising gaps. They ran $200,000 worth of their own positive spots on Stefanik, plus radio ads in a district where driving is essential.”

“Stefanik had already honed her message to suit her youthful visage. A self-described millennial, she frequently billed herself as the candidate of ‘new ideas and a new generation of leadership in Washington.’

But the campaign’s internal polling, conducted by Linda DiVall and David Kanevsky, showed Stefanik still had trouble with seniors, especially women over age 65. Stefanik, who had just turned 30 in July, had to talk about social security.”

To read the full story, visit:



Some election night tidbits

First published: November 04, 2014 at 6:30 pm
Last modified: November 04, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Republican Elise M. Stefanik, who may become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress tonight, is gathering with supporters at Queensbury Hotel in Glens Falls.

Democrat Aaron G. Woolf will be at the Cobble Hill Inn on Route 9 in Elizabethtown. The documentary filmmaker’s parents bought a home in the town in 1968.

Born on Nov. 3, 1967, Green Party congressional candidate Matthew J. Funiciello’s is celebrating his birthday tonight with a combination election night/birthday party at his combination bakery/cafe in Glens Falls.

The three candidates are vying to replace Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, as the representative for New York’s 21st Congressional District. Mr. Owens is not seeking re-election.

In Jefferson County, Democrats, including sheriff’s candidate Colleen M. O’Neill and Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, are gathering at the Masonic Temple on Washington Street while Republicans, including sheriff’s candidate John R. Bocciolatt and Assembly candidate John L. Byrne III, are gathering at an election night party at the Italian American Civic Association on Bellew Avenue.



By the numbers

First published: November 03, 2014 at 1:04 pm
Last modified: November 03, 2014 at 1:04 pm

For fans of numbers, on this day before the general election, there are some interesting statistics for Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties to ponder about the 21st Congressional District.

According to the state Board of Elections, there are 144,462 registered voters in the three counties. The district has 439,151 voters, meaning that the three counties on the westernmost verge of the district comprise a mere 32.9 percent of all voters. And thus does reapportionment weigh heavily on this side of the 21st; when Oswego County’s better than 70,000 voters were in this district, the western part of the district was virtually equal to the eastern side.

Tellingly, all three candidates for the post being vacated by Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, are residents of eastern counties (or at least, sort of residents, in a couple of cases). Elise Stefanik who claims Willsboro as her home, Aaron Woolf, who has long had property in Elizabethtown, now calls that home, and Matthew Funiciello is a native of Glens Falls.

Of course, a significant question of the election has been what the turnout will be. A districtwide vote of 285,000 would be nothing short of spectacular; that would represent 65 percent of registered voters. Many political experts, however, are predicting a turnout in the low 50 percent range. So if less than 230,000 votes are cast, the turnout will be just over half of registered voters.

And keep in mind: the total of 439,151 registered voters is only about 57 percent of the total population of the district. Clearly, 43 percent of the district is not below the age of 18, so there is an all-too-large percentage of eligible voters who have disenfranchised themselves by not registering to vote.

When you go to the polls tomorrow to vote, take a moment to pat yourself on the back for your good citizenship.



Millenial voters and candidates; some assorted endorsements

First published: October 29, 2014 at 6:53 pm
Last modified: October 29, 2014 at 6:53 pm

Millenials — that amorphous category of individuals aged 18 to 29 — are proving to be just as fickle as the rest of us.

During the 2010 midterm election, 24 percent of this demographic voted, favoring Democrats 58 to 42 percent, according to exit polls.

In 2014, the fall Institute of Politics survey found that likely young voters prefer Republican control of Congress by “a slim four-point margin” of 51 to 47 percent.

Asked to explain this phenonenon, Institute of Politics Polling Director John Dellavolpe said that young people are reverting to their “pre-Obama roots of being a swing constituency.”

Right now, millenial voters are “politically up for grabs,” and politicians may ignore them at their peril, said Maggie Williams, director of the Institute of Politics.

Conversely, this year has also seen a bumper crop of what are being colloquially referred to as “millenial candidates,” though some of them have already aged out of the category as defined by the Institute of Politics survey.

Of note is that fact that Elise M. Stefanik, the 30 year old Harvard graduate running for Congress in the 21st Congressional District, was once a member of the Institute of Politics.

Her name, along with other young congressional candidates, including Seth Moulton, a Democrat, Harvard graduate and former Marine, brought a note of approval from Mr. Dellavolpe, who said that young candidates help make politics tangible, “and I wish we had more.”

The institute did not ask questions about millenial candidates; however, a sophomore from the college said she thought younger candidates would receive more support from millenials, adding that student loans were at the forefront of young voters’ minds.

Ms. Stefanik, who launched final push through the district Wednesday in Glens Falls, is facing Democrat Aaron G. Woolf and Green Party candidate Matthew J. Funiciello in the Nov. 4 general election.


n n n

As the election season grinds to a close, the endorsements are rolling in.

It’s hard to keep track of them as they pass by, but we’ll do our best.

In the 116th Assembly District race, Lewis County Sheriff Michael P. Carpinelli and one-time gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino endorsed Conservative Party candidate Russell J. Finley in the race.

Mr. Finley is facing Democrat Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell and Republican John L. Byrne III.

Mr. Byrne has been endorsed by a bevy of north country Republicans, including State Senators Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton; Elizabeth O’C. “Betty” Little, R-Queensbury, and Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome; Assemblymen Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, William A. Barclay, R-Pulaski, Marc W. Butler, R-Newport, and Assemblywoman Janet L. Duprey, R-Peru.

Mr. Byrne has scheduled a press conference for 10:30 a.m. Thursday in front of the Dulle State Office Building. There has been no indication as to the content of said press conference.



Stefanik releases final TV ad

First published: October 28, 2014 at 11:58 am
Last modified: October 28, 2014 at 11:58 am

Elise M. Stefanik, the frontrunner in the race for New York’s 21st Congressional District, has released a final TV ad in the contest.

The 30-second spot, “Solving Problems,” sticks to a pretty basic script, highlighting Ms. Stefanik’s oft-repeated tagline that her generation “can’t just complain about problems, we have to help solve them as well.”

At 30, Ms. Stefanik would be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress if she wins next week’s election. A WWNY-TV/Siena College poll shows her leading her Democratic opponent, Aaron G. Woolf, by 18 points.

Mr. Woolf’s campaign took the poll results in stride, calling the 50 percent showing by Ms. Stefanik an indication that she could not sway undecided voters in the race. Mr. Woolf received 32 percent of the vote, according to the poll.

Ms. Stefanik’s video can be viewed here:



Stefanik press grows increasingly positive; Woolf film will be shown ‘on the farm’

First published: October 25, 2014 at 1:20 pm
Last modified: October 25, 2014 at 1:20 pm

As the campaigns in the 21st Congressional District stagger toward election day, the situation has begun to look grim for Democrat Aaron G. Woolf — at least for pundits outside the district.

Today, Stuart Rothenburg of the Rothenburg Report moved the district from “lean Republican” to “Republican favored.”

“There is no hard evidence that Republican Elise Stefanik won’t take over this Democratic open seat. Democrat Aaron Woolf just has too much on his resume for Republicans to attack, he never seemed to gain traction in the race, and without an incumbent, Democratic groups aren’t spending to keep it in their control,” Mr. Rothenburg wrote. “This appears to be the first time in six years that Republicans in the region have rallied to support a single candidate and that is bad news for Democrats. Move from Lean Republican to Republican Favored.”

The Stefanik campaign today also sent out a release quoting New York Post columnist William McGurn.

His column said, in part: “Meanwhile there’s Stefanik. Though her principles aren’t surprising for a Republican — she favors lower taxes, less regulation and a foreign policy rooted in American strength — her real appeal has been her ability to connect her principles to the concerns of ordinary voters.”

n n n

Meanwhile, someone else is going to present a showing of “King Corn,” the Peabody Award-winning documentary produced by Mr. Woolf, but has moved the film from a theater to their own farm based on the Watertown Daily Times’s experience with the Federal Election Commission.

The organizer of the event, Danielle Giordano, told the Times in an email that based on the FEC advice to the Times, the theater became concerned about “FEC repercussions.” The plan was to present the film at Cumberland12 in Plattsburgh.

“We are now going to show the film at our farm, Conroy Farm, in Clinton County,” Ms. Giordano wrote.

The film will air at 5:30 at the farm on Route 9 near Plattsburgh. Mr. Woolf will attend to talk to the audience about the film.

Unless, of course, squads of FEC enforcement officers in black helicopters swoop in to stop it.

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