113th STATE ASSEMBLY DISTRICT - Dave Catalfamo, a Republican political strategist whose roots go back to former Gov. George Pataki and who has also worked extensively in economic development, is planning a run this fall against Democratic Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner of Round Lake.
Woerner is seeking her fourth two-year term representing the 113th Assembly District, which includes eastern Saratoga County and most of Washington County.
Catalfamo, 55, currently works as director of economic development for Oneida County, but has a long history in political consulting and lobbying state government in Albany, as well as high-level posts in the Pataki administration. He and his wife live in the Saratoga County town of Wilton.
While he said he’s been considering a run for public office even before the current economic crisis brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the crisis reinforced his plans to run. He submitted nominating petitions just ahead of the early-March deadline, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo moved up two weeks to reduce door-to-door interactions between petitioners and voters that could spread the virus.
He also formed a campaign finance committee, but his plans were not announced until the Times Union asked him about the filing on Friday. “I just hadn’t done an announcement because I think everyone should be focused on the current public health crisis,” he told the Gazette.
He readily confirmed his candidacy when asked, and said the current economic crisis and his role as a Pataki economic development official in the state’s response to the economic disruptions after the 9/11 terrorist attacks played a role in his thinking.
“I care deeply about the state, have spent most of my adult life in and out of public service and caring about the issues I think are important to new York state,” he said on Friday. “I could see what we are going to be facing, which are really large and difficult economic issues.”
There is Republican competition, and the nomination could be settled in a June 23 primary. The other candidates are Michael York of Stillwater and Jeremy Messina of Greenwich, neither of whom has the public profile or political connections of Catalfamo, who has worked on a number of GOP political campaigns, including Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro’s 2018 campaign for governor.
Catalfamo believes that New York City Democrats have too much control in state government at the moment — the governor’s office and both houses of the Legislature are under Democratic control — and that Woerner hasn’t been aggressive enough in defending upstate interests.
“I’m just wasn’t happy with direction of policies coming out of Albany before this crisis, but I’m even more concerned now, with the collapse of the economy and collapse of jobs,” he said.
Woerner, who was first elected in 2014, said she’s not focused on politics at this point, but on trying to help constituents through the pandemic. She defended her effectiveness.
“I am helping people navigate the absolutely terrible (Department of Labor) unemployment system, helping negotiate the definition of what’s an essential business, trying to make sure people get what they need,” she said on Saturday. “Democracy is about choice. People know me as someone who is practical and who gets things done.”
She noted her recent success in getting $3 million in video lottery terminal state aid restored for Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County. “I’m in the majority, so I am in the room where these decisions get made,” she said. “I am the one member from Saratoga and Washington counties who is in the majority, and I use that to get what I need for the people in my district. Right now, I am focusing on public health and what needs to be done for the reopening of the economy.”
Catalfamo has been director of economic development for Oneida County since February 2019. There, he has worked on development of a sports and entertainment district in downtown Utica, and counseled the team that attracted specialized semiconductor manufacturer Cree Inc. to plan a $1.2 billion plant — which will receive a $500 million state incentive package — to an industrial park in Marcy.
In 2018, he founded and continues to work for Capitol Public Strategies Media in Saratoga Springs, an economic development and communications consulting firm, and the latest in a series of jobs in which he worked for top-level Albany private political, communications, and lobbying firms.
From 2004 to 2006 he was director of communications for Pataki, overseeing the governor’s press and communications strategies and serving as a senior advisor to the governor. From 1997 to 2004, he was senior vice-president at Empire State Development, and it was in that role that he oversaw investment of $750 million in Lower Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, and managed the I Love NY tourism promotion campaign.
A graduate of the University at Albany, he made a run for the Albany City Council while in his early 20s and lost — his only previous bid for public office.
A former Army reservist, Catalfamo is treasurer of the Governor George E. Pataki Leadership Center, and a member of the Wilton Planning Board.
Catalfamo has yet to file his first campaign finance disclosure form, but he said he expected to be competitive in fundraising. Woerner’s most recent filing with the state Board of Elections shows her with about $75,000 in her campaign account.
“I’ve been blessed to have a lot of good friends and I feel confident we can raise the resources we need to be competitive,” he said.
Reach staff writer Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.