ROCHESTER –Terry Bernardo isn't being offered the Republican nomination for her reelection bid as the district 21 county legislator, but recent political maneuverings to unseat her have left the current chairman of the legislature resolved to emerge victorious in her party's primary. Meanwhile, Democratic challenger Lynn Archer thinks Rochester residents deserve a choice.
Bernardo's snub stems from an ongoing conflict with Rochester Republican Chairman David O'Halloran. Until recently, O'Halloran was also chair of the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency, or IDA, which gives tax breaks to businesses — and sometimes tries to take them away, which is what's happened with TLB Enterprises, owned by Bernardo and her husband, Len. O'Halloran is also owner of Pine Grove Ranch in Kerhonkson, and asked the county legislature to support his bid to allow video lottery terminals (VLTs) there, a plan which worried business owners and lawmakers who have an interest in a casino license being granted for the Nevele, in the town of Wawarsing.
Bernardo abstained from that discussion, which ultimately failed. O'Halloran said it was revenge for the IDA actions against her business, and sought another candidate for the legislature. Bernardo, however, says that the county ethics code prevented her from getting involved since O'Halloran had been a campaign contributor and was, at the time, a county officer (IDA chairman).
She points to a text message O'Halloran sent, asking her to have a cup of coffee and discuss a strategy to "show support for each other" as proof that O'Halloran was up to no good. O'Halloran dismisses those allegations, claiming that there's nothing wrong with discussing shows of public support.
In addition to her fight with O'Halloran, Bernardo believes that flow control also played a part in her facing a primary opponent, dark horse John Dawson. She calls the law that allows the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency to require all garbage haulers to use its services "a government monopoly on garbage which raised the cost of garbage on taxpayers. I don't think we should be increasing the costs of garbage service through a government granted monopoly — what could be less Republican than that?"
The party nominations for this election made on May 29 are informal — if more than one candidate secures enough signatures, there will be a primary.
"I will take my case to the voters, who like neither higher garbage rates nor political corruption. I will continue to champion the interest of the taxpayers and will let them decide who is the best candidate," Bernardo said in emailed comments. She is intending on pursuing the Conservative and Independence lines, as well; while her husband, Len, is county chairman for the Independence party, he has stated in the past the he does not make the decision on his wife's candidacy.
Whether Bernardo could hold on to her chairmanship should Republicans retain their majority while she regains her legislature seat on another party line seems unlikely, to many political watchers.
Seeking the Democratic line is Rochester town council member Lynn Archer. Archer did not have time to speak at length before press time, but said that she believes, "It's time for the people of the district to have a choice for county legislator."
Manuela Michailescu, twice previously a challenger to Bernardo for legislature who had said she would run again, advised that she will not run after all.
"With an excellent challenger on a major line, my mission is accomplished," she advised.
In other nominations last week, Timothy Distel will run again against incumbent Republican Craig Lopez in district 14, comprised of large portions of the towns of Wawarsing and Shawangunk; incumbent Democrat T.J. Briggs will run unopposed in the Ellenville and surrounding Wawarsing portions of district 15;
Tracey Bartels, a non-enrolled legislator who caucuses with the Democrats will seek to hold on to her seat in district 16, made up of parts of Shawangunk and the town of Gardiner against Republican Frank Lenny Zapka; Democratic incumbent Richard Parete will run unopposed in district 18, made up of portions of Marbletown and Hurley; and Democrat Manna Jo Greene, a Rosendale town board member, will seek to take the seat currently held by Democrat Robert Parete, who is not seeking re-election citing family reasons, against the GOP's Kevin Hines in district 19, made up of Rosendale and the remainder of Marbletown.
In other Ulster County races, comptroller Elliott Auerbach will seek a third term against Republican James Quigley III, the town of Ulster supervisor who was defeated by 174 votes in 2008. Republican Nina Postupak is seeking re-election as county clerk with cross-endorsements from both parties and no challengers.