Sullivan County Legislator David Sager vs. “Goliath” John Bonacic?

Before   Sullivan County Legislator,  Dr. David Sager,  (District 1)  took the podium  at his press conference this afternoon,  he arranged a pair of yellow and blue campaign signs on either side of the podium.  The signs proclaimed,  “Sager  for State Senate. No nonsense. Honest Leadership.”

Literally, the  announcement may  change the face of  NYS Senate District 42.

Not only did Sager  announced his intention to  challenge long-time incumbent Republican John Bonacic, but   he will do it as a Democrat.

Sullivan County Democratic Chair, Steve Wilkinson,   introduced Dr. Sager and welcomed   Delaware County’s  Democratic  Chairwoman Cindy Lockrow-Schimmerling and various other Democratic Party notables.

“I’d like to address the large elephant in the room,”  Mr. Wilkinson began.  “David  is changing his  political affiliation from Republican to Democrat.  This is not an opportunistic change but a a philosophical change,”  Mr. Wilkinson  continued to loud applause.   “To borrow from Winston Churchill,  ‘There’s nothing  wrong with change as long as it’s in the right direction.’  Democrats wholeheartedly welcome David to the Democratic Party. For too long  the New York State Senate has been the log jam to realizing change in New York. It has been mired in its own personal politics.”

Obviously, it  was not just any elephant Mr. Wilkinson was talking about.  Dr. Sager has held his  Sullivan County Legislative seat as a Republican.  In order for him to face Bonacic as a Democrat  in a  General Election,  he must get the nod from the  Democratic Chairs of the four  counties  which  comprise District 42:  Sullivan,  Ulster, Delaware and  a piece of Orange.

Ulster  County Legislator, Susan Zimet  (D, District 10)  campaigned against John Bonacic in 2006.  Although her effort fell short by roughly 12,000 votes,  it was a strong showing against the then-16-year incumbent. (Bonacic first became a member of the New York State Assembly in  1990 and has served in the NYS Senate since 1998.)  Zimet’s  2006 campaign website is still  up and available for viewing here.

Dr. Sager’s opening remarks  perhaps signaled  the tone he hopes to strike during the upcoming campaign.  “During the course of my service on the Sullivan County Legislature,  I have been honest and passionate. I have not been afraid of issues that were unpopular or complex.  If you liked me as a Republican, you will like me even more as a Democrat.  I will contuinue to champion fair and just causes and it won’t  matter to me if an idea is Republican or Democratic as long as it’s a good idea.  After  years of consideration,  I have changed my party enrollment and  have done so in good conscience.   I still stand  for fiscally  responsible and accountable government but my social views have evolved and are more in concert with core Democratic Party values.”

Taking on some who have criticized him  for  verbal  gaffs,  Sager said,  smiling at  The Times-Herald Record’s reporter,   “I have a reputation for having a  salty tongue — per The Times-Herald Record.  I will continue to be candid and fight for what’s  right. I will put the people first. Our state government is broken…and our current State  Senator is a long-time part of the problem. Unfunded state mandates have crippled  local governments and placed the burden on local taxpayers.”

“State Senator Bonacic  advocates for unfettered gas drilling.  I want a society and  government that asks at what price do we support industrial development that is potentially lethal to us  all.    At what point do we say no to large corporations who put their profits  first?   Gas drilling must be safe, legal, economically beneficial to all and subject  to local controls. We must take a hard look at a comprehensive  Environmental Protection Agency  study of gas drilling.  We must  support the Englebright bill which will institute a drilling moratorium in New York State until 120 days after the EPA releases the results of its study.   It’s a simple, sensible bill.  We can  wait for the science. We have a responsibility to provide safe drinking water to our children and families…. Safe drinking water is a right not a privilege.  Senator Bonacic  has been misguided [about gas drilling] while  I have been demanding a rational approach.  There must be a return to  local control. ‘Drill,  baby,  drill’  is a slogan not a policy.”

At a recent County Legislature meeting, Dr. Sager said  that the drilling issue  should not pit  farmers against non-farmers.  “It’s not an agricultural issue.  It’s about the industrialization of New York.”

“We must ask,  ‘Will the growth we advocate be sustainable?  How will  New York State and  District 42 grow?’  The 42nd District is in the process of becoming an important economic link to New York City  —  an important link to  a  sustainable lifestyle —  industrially, personally and agriculturally.”

On other topics, Dr. Sager  reminded the audience,  “I have sponsored sweeping and meaningful ethics reform for Sullivan County and  I will be at the head of it in New York State.”

“I will champion property tax reform and will be joining  Sullivan County Treasurer, Ira Cohen,  in  continuing to  review  tax exempt policies.  Large tracts of land and living complexes end up off  the tax rolls.  People cannot continue to vacation in the 42nd district for free.”

“I will fight for our schools, teachers and students so students can afford the college education they need and I’m determined to ensure our region has  the  infrastructure it will need  to benefit small businesses.”

“I’m going to need your help.  We need people who passionately support our cause. We need volunteers who will go door-to-door.  Please contact us at: until we get our website up and running which will be very soon.”

After his prepared remarks, Breathing asked Dr.  Sager  what he had to  say about local drilling issues and ethics reform.

“The county is in the  process, because of  my fierce prodding, of completely re-doing  our ethics policy.   As to drilling, I have not taken an anti  approach but there has been a general and blind pursuit of drilling without a necessary analysis of the science.  DEC’s  [NYS Department of Environmental Conservation] employees have  said the draft Supplemental Generic Impact Study is seriously flawed and no local official should be questioning that statement.”

Dr. Sager was also asked  how changing his  political party affiliation will affect his status with the Sullivan County Legislature.   “I’ve got a great working relationship with Jonathan [Rouis] and Woody [Elwin Wood]. I intend to caucus as a Democrat.”

A member of the  public  asked,  “Are you going to support green technology that  will help us avoid dependence on  Middle East  oil?”  and Dr. Sager reiterated,  “I want to turn the 42nd District into an area that promotes green technology. It’s how we’re going to grow our area.”

When Breathing asked a Sager supporter about  the candidate’s “salty tongue” remark,  the long-time patient of   “Dr. Dave”  said,  “Does he step in it sometimes?  Yeah.  He’s a passionate guy.  He’s not always smooth but that’s why I like him.  He does his homework and doesn’t have a lot of patience for  political games.”

For information on the amounts of money  NYS Senator Bonacic has raised in the past,  comprehensive postings have been made available  FROM PROJECT VOTE SMART and FROM THE DAILY KOS. Dr. Sager should hold on to his hat because both sites have published campaign war chest  figures for the Senator  in the $700,000 range.

9 thoughts on “Sullivan County Legislator David Sager vs. “Goliath” John Bonacic?”

  1. Dave Sager is a man with integrity. As this world seems so challenged by those that have consistently made having money more important than having a sense of humanity, I have no concern for how much $$$$ Bonacic has in his “War Chest”. We now have a chance to have a voice of reason speaking for us at the State level. I’m going to work for Sager, I’m going to raise money for Sager, and I’m voting for Sager.. Pass the hat, spread the word, we need, we deserve to be well represented, we must elect David Sager for our State Senate

  2. Could it be? A politician who is not interested in money. Thank my lucky stars.

  3. Even those who’ve debated his policies or political positions have never questioned his integrity or his intellectually honest examination of the issues. It will be interesting to see what Orange County and others unfamiliar with his directness make of him. I think his depiction of drilling as being about the degree to which we want to accept the “industrialization of New York” helped clarify the issues at stake, for instance. He’s a “process guy” and able to find the nub of an issue — whether or not people will agree with what he sees when he gets there is another question.

  4. yay! Dr Sager is someone we can count on to represent us in Albany! and to bring up important issues and face them head on. great article.. thanks, Liz.

  5. His announcement was my introduction to him as a person and a politician. I was taken aback by how progressive his words were, and I’m a bit too skeptical to get too excited about his strong liberal stance. I had cancelled my political active life during the Bush years, but perhaps he’s the kind of guy to get me back on track? We’ll see. Your blog is very well written Liz!

  6. Dear Meg,

    David’s the kind of person who always leaves people who’ve met him with strong memories. Our debates go back years — even before he ran for Coroner. They took place in his office, on the street and as we struggled, soaked and covered in mud, to drag tree limbs and garbage out of the creek in Jeffersonville. More than once they ended with each of us throwing our hands in the air and wondering how the other could posit such wildly divergent analyses of current events.

    When he says, “…my social views have evolved and are more in concert with core Democratic Party values,” it is a fact. All our disagreements were about social issues and we never missed an opportunity to hash them out because we always trusted the other to have thought deeply about them. No matter how I might think about something, he always gave me something valuable I could add to the mix. More than anything, he doesn’t listen to people for the sake of taking a poll. He listens so that his underlying ethic can function with as much information as possible.

    Obviously, we can’t know how the election will shake out, but our communities will benefit by David’s analyses being given full consideration.

  7. Here is a nice note about hospitality and the seismic trucks in the Milanville, Pennsylvania area:


    Commentary: Seismic Trucks are Rolling. Some Resistence and Sabatoge From Anti-drilling Neighbors

    by SM

    A recent drive on the mountain roads of Manchester and Damascus Townships following the orange flags and markers edcated me on the seismic route and the caliber of some of our neighbors. A lot of work went into flagging the route by the team from Michigan working for Dawson. I spoke with some of the workers who were gracious but concerned about the treatment from neighbors they had received in the Milanville area. They experienced verbal abuse, threats, and sabatage of their equipment and flags. I just want to let those neighbors know that you are “yelling at the help – not the boss” and it is embarassing to those of us who pride ourselves on being friendly and gracious to visitors.

    The workers I spoke with are just doing their job, far away from their homes in Michagan. They said in Michagan the unemployment rate is above 25% and they said their housing values have been cut in half with the bad economy. Because of this they can’t relocate so they have to seek work far away from home in order to survive. They are thankful to have the seismic jobs here in Pennsylvania. Please, NWPOA members, let these workers know you appreciate them and try and nullify the negative actions and impressions left by those neighbors who should be ashamed of themselves.


  8. Why are they afraid of David Sager? Bill Liblick

    Although legislator David Sager’s desire to unseat popular incumbent State Senator John Bonacic seems to be an almost impossible task, one would not think so with all the behind the scenes maneuvering to keep him off the ballot.

    Understandably, politicians do not like campaigns because they are stressful and costly, and especially in this political environment they are justifiably nervous it could be difficult to win over an angry electorate. We repeatedly hear voters want incumbents out of office, even though no one knows if it is true on a local level.

    Senator Bonacic has continually delivered for the entire Hudson Valley and has a proven track record. But, that does not mean he should not have a worthy opponent to give the public an opportunity to hear the issues, especially in a time when the State of New York is in such turmoil.

    Politicians and their supporters have been known to do anything feasible to ward off possible challengers. Candidates are often knocked off the ballot because of things like technicalities in petitioning.

    What is happening to prevent Sager from running on the Democratic line appears to be unethical, immoral, and gets one not only disgusted with politics, but also sick to the stomach.

    Sager’s change in enrollment will not take effect until January. In order for Sager to run as a Democrat he needs what is called a Wilson Pakula, an authorization to be placed on the ballot.

    Wilson Pakula’s are done all the time, practically all candidates running on Conservative or Independence lines need a Wilson Pakula. In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg received a Wilson Pakula in order to run as a Republican, even though there were Republicans who wanted to challenge him in a Primary. They later backed off.

    Informed and highly reliable sources have told me certain Democratic incumbents throughout the Hudson Valley and as far reaching as Long Island have been told from leaders within the Independence Party they will not receive their endorsement if Sager is allowed to challenge Bonacic as a Democrat.

    Even Hassidic leaders in Kiryas Joel have threatened to withdraw their support of Congressman John Hall.

    Call it coercion, call it using political muscle, call it what you want, these types of threats and backroom politics must be stopped.

    As ludicrous as this may sound, certain political officials are fearful voters are confused and believe the Independence Party is an independent political party and thus vote that line only for only that reason. They are scared many voters will not vote traditional party lines because of negative voter sentiment, and could lose if their candidates are not endorsed by the Independence Party.

    Ironically, political experts view this election season as being huge for Democrats in New York State with names like Cuomo, Schumer and Gillibrand leading the ticket all running without the backing of Independence or Conservative Parties.

    Democratic officials were ordered to pull the plug on Sager’s candidacy by running a political unknown. Seth Goldman, a political novice from Orange County, recently announced he is running against Bonacic. Goldman lost by huge margins twice for tax collector in his hometown, while Sager won legislator and countywide coroner as a Republican in Democratic territory.

    Wilson Pakula’s are not officially handed out until petitioning ends in mid July. Thus Sager and Goldman could essentially run in a primary.

    Instead of standing up and fighting, some appear to be succumbing and caving in to Independence Party demands. Others within the Democratic Party want to combat and expose the dirty truth. They say it is no longer about Sager getting their endorsement, but about preventing other political parties from using gangster like tactics to achieve their own political gains.

    Sullivan County’s Independence Party must not be implicated in this, and I am certain chairperson Tammi Chaboty has no idea this is even happening. Tammi Chaboty is probably one of the most respectable and honorable people I have ever met, and I cherish her friendship.

    It will be interesting to see how the public throughout the Senatorial District reacts as they begin to learn the facts.

    Sullivan County Democratic Chairman Steven Wilkinson has made terrific strides within the party to benefit all of Sullivan County, and I value his friendship. It must be very difficult to be in his shoes right now, as well as the other Democratic Chairmen in Ulster, Orange, and Delaware Counties.

    One really has to ask one simple question. Why are they afraid of David Sager?

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