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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, September 1, 2011
Democratic primary in 28th District
By Anne Hayden
GUILDERLAND The race for the 28th Legislative District in Albany County got a lot more complicated last week when one candidate accused the other of running an illegal campaign.
Both are running in the Democratic primary on Sept. 13; neither are incumbents.
Terrence Hurley, the chief financial officer of the Albany Port District Commission, decided to seek Democratic backing for his first legislative run.
The United States Office of Special Counsel is still investigating whether Hurley’s run for office would violate the Hatch Act, which prohibits certain government employees from seeking elective office, but the Albany County Board of Elections decided yesterday that Hurley would remain on the ballot, for now.
“I’ve been interested in running for political office for a long time,” Hurley told The Enterprise this week. He said, as a financial officer, he has creative ideas for making better spending choices.
His opponent in the upcoming Democratic primary, Dennis Feeney, doesn’t think Hurley should be running at all. In fact, he thinks it would be illegal for Hurley to run for office.
A lifelong resident of Guilderland, Feeney is a partner in the law firm Feeney, Centi, and Mackey. He served one term in the 30th Legislative District, in Westmere, before he was defeated by Lee Carman in 1997.
“When the opportunity came up for me to run this year, I was interested because I think it is an exciting period; people will have to look at things different, and do things a different way,” said Feeney. After all the changes at the county level, he said the most important issues to focus on are property taxes and economic development.
Feeney filed a complaint with the United States Office of Special Counsel, asserting that Hurley was violating the Hatch Act. The act states that an individual cannot run for political office if his or her place of employment receives federal funds for any reason.
The Port District Commission receives “dock and wharf money” from the federal stimulus act, according to Hurley.
“My salary has nothing to do with the capital project to re-build the docks,” said Hurley; he does not think he is in violation of the Hatch Act.
“I don’t want to do anything that would hurt my employer,” said Hurley this week. Instead of continuing his run, he convened a committee to find a candidate to run in his stead, and favored his wife, Eileen.
“I think it has been a dream of his since I have known him, to run for public office,” Mrs. Hurley said. A fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center, she supports her husband’s political message.
“He believes in cutting back, and downsizing, and I tend to agree. The common people, the middle class, like us, are having the cut back, and the government should as well,” said Mrs. Hurley. She also said she wanted to teach her three children about open government, and show them that “anyone can run for office, and we have a right to voice our opinions.”
Feeney does not think that just anyone can run for office. When he discovered that Hurley planned to have his wife run for the seat, he filed an objection with the Albany County Board of Elections.
“A violation of the Hatch Act would not, under the circumstances presented, constitute a good and sufficient cause for the committee to fill vacancies to act,” wrote Feeney, in his letter of objection.
The board of elections decided on Wednesday afternoon that Feeney’s objection was valid.
“Hurley is under investigation, but that doesn’t serve as a cause for disqualification,” according to Rachel Bledi, the Republican commissioner for the board of elections.
The only valid reasons to file a certificate to fill a vacancy are death and illegal activity, said Bledi, and because Hurley’s candidacy has not yet been declared illegal, his certificate of substitution is not applicable.
“This could become a bigger legal problem,” Bledi said. If Hurley wins the primary and the Office of Special Counsel subsequently declares that he is disqualified, the Albany County Democratic Party will need to appoint someone else to run in the November election.
When The Enterprise notified Hurley of the board of elections’ decision, he said he would need to speak with his attorney before he could decide how to proceed.