Who will run where?

Primaries scheduled for Thursday, September 13 in Assembly and Senate races
GHENT–It’s Election Day next week, September 13. Not the general election–that’s November 6–but several primaries to determine who gets what line on the November ballot. Two contests in particular have generated some heat.
The primaries are scheduled for a Thursday rather than a Tuesday to avoid conflicting with  observations 9/11. Democrats living in the newly redrawn 107th Assembly District, which covers much of the north and east of Columbia County, have to choose between former town Justice and attorney Cheryl Roberts of Austerlitz and former Rensselaer County Legislator and Town Board member Keith Hammond of the Town of Poestenkill.
In a twist in that race, there is also a companion Assembly primary for the Working Families line, with Ms. Roberts, the choice of the Working Families state leadership, facing off against Brenda J. Mahar on the ballot. Mr. Hammond readily acknowledges that Ms. Mahar is his fiancée and that he mounted her challenge to Ms. Roberts as a way of giving Working Families primary voters a chance to write in his name as a candidate. He believes that strategy gives him a chance to appear on the November ballot even if he loses the Democratic line to Ms. Roberts.
The other race in Columbia County involves the seat in the state Senate seat in the 43rd District, which includes all of Columbia County as well as parts of Rensselaer, Washington and Saratoga counties. Incumbent Republican Senator Roy J. McDonald faces a challenge from Saratoga County Clerk Kathleen A. Marchione for the GOP ballot line. Meanwhile, Ms. Marchione is challenged by a different opponent, Edward J. Gilbert, for the Conservative Party nomination in the 43rd.
The Senate primary winner or winners will face Democrat Robin Andrews, the Claverack town supervisor, in November.
All districts were redrawn following the 2010 national census. And there has been an ongoing shift in registration in the region, with Democrats slowly gaining ground on the GOP in recent years, while the third largest group of voters after those enrolled in the two major parties consists of those not enrolled in any political party. In New York State, non-enrolled voters may not participate in primaries.
The new 107th District covers the Columbia County towns of Austerlitz, Canaan, Chatham, Hillsdale, Kinderhook and New Lebanon. The district also includes most of the municipalities in Rensselaer County except the cities of Troy and Rensselaer and the suburban Town of North Greenbush, plus two towns in southern Washington County. And though not the largest district in the state, the 107th stretch more than 60 miles end-to-end.
In a recent interview Ms. Roberts said she had heard from around voters the district worried that the gas industry might seek to use the process of hydraulic fracturing, called fracking, in the district. She said education and the preservation of farmland were also on the minds of district residents she has met.
She cites her past experience as a congressional staffer working on environmental issues and her experience leading a team of lawyers who won a recent ruling in state court that gives towns the right to prohibit fracking as skills she could put to use on behalf of the district. She also was a town justice and advises several municipalities, including the Village of Chatham and the City of Hudson, which she believes make her “fully prepared to step into a position” in the state Assembly, she said.
Ms. Roberts believes she has “the best chance of taking the seat back” from incumbent Republican Steve Mclaughlin, who is finishing his second term and seeking reelection.
Mr. Hammond, who said he now holds two jobs, ran a family farm for 20 years. He also served as Poestenkill deputy highway superintendent in addition to his positions on the Planning and Town boards. He said what he hears from voters is concern about pollution from the Dewey Loeffil Landfill in Nassau, now a federal Superfund toxic waste site, and about the cost of education. If elected to the Assembly he said he would support a law to require that school district superintendents be elected not appointed.
He also said he wants to make the state Education Department “more answerable to the people,” and he faults the school funding formulas as “too complex.” 
The issue of endorsements has played a part in this race, with Ms. Roberts winning the support of the Democratic Committees of both Columbia and Rensselaer counties. She also received the support of Working Families. But Mr. Hammond says that the Working Families decision was made by the state leaders of the party after Rensselaer County Working Families leaders endorsed him. That’s when he petitioned to get the name of Ms. Mahar, a member of the Working Families party, on the party’s ballot. With two names on the ballot–Ms. Roberts’ and Ms. Mahar’s–the members of the party who vote in the primary will also have the option of writing in Mr. Hammond’s name. So even if Ms. Roberts wins the Democratic primary, assuming Mr. Hammond receives enough write-in votes to defeat her and his fiancée in the Working Families primary, the general election could end up a three-way race.
Late last month Mr. Hammond was embroiled in accusations that he had acted improperly with a rider on a Rensselaer ARC bus that he was driving. Police subsequently declined to investigate the matter and Mr. Hammond said this week that he had received apologies from his boss and the woman initially said to have filed a complaint. “There was no case,” said Mr. Hammond, who described the accusations as “politics at its worse.”
The other primaries in the county are in the new 106th District, which covers the City of Hudson and the Towns of Ancram, Clermont, Copake, Gallatin, Germantown, Ghent, Greenport, Livingston and Taghkanic. There are opportunities for members of the Independence Party to write in candidates for Assembly, where incumbent Didi Barrett has been endorsed by the party leadership and, in Gallatin and Copake, to write in candidates for Town Board. In Gallatin, Working Families members may write in the names of candidates for Town Board.
Polls are open in each town and the City of Hudson from noon to 9 p.m. Only voters registered in a party may vote in that party’s primary.

Learn more about primaries
TO GET MORE information about the candidates in next week’s primaries, here are some websites:
•Columbia County Board of Elections (find sample ballots here): www.columbiacountyny.com/depts/elections
107th Assembly District
•Keith Hammond: www.keith-hammond.com
•Cheryl Roberts: http://cherylroberts2012.blogspot.com

43rd Senate District
•Roy McDonald (official state Senate site): www.nysenate.gov/senator/roy-j-mcdonald
•Kathleen Marchione: www.marchione2012.com

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