Stefanik calls on Va. gov. to resign amid yearbook controversy

Candidate Elise Stefanik (R) speaks at a debate held by Spectrum News at its studio in Albany in October 2018. (Photo — Jenn March, Special to the Post-Star)

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, called on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to resign after a photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook surfaced of a person wearing blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe.

Northam at first said he was in the photo and then denied it, but said he had worn black makeup in the past, when he dressed up as singer Michael Jackson for a dance contest.

Stefanik sent a tweet saying, “Virginians deserve a new governor. Ralph Northam should resign.”

Her tweet generated a strong reaction online, including from former Democratic NY-21 candidate Patrick Nelson, who wrote “Hey @EliseStefanik you spelled @SteveKingIA wrong. Could you be any more transparent with your partisan double standard? Maybe they should both go, but there is no world where @RalphNortham should step down while Steve King stays in power. You can’t defend that.”

King, the Iowa congressman, has come under fire for making racist comments, including in an interview with The New York Times, in which he appeared to ask when the terms “white nationalism” and “white supremacist” became offensive.

While not calling specifically on King to resign, Stefanik issued a tweet following King’s comments saying, “We must unequivocally condemn the ideology of white supremacy and white nationalism. It is abhorrent and heinous and has no place in our discourse.”

[UPDATE: Stefanik’s office followed up with a statement saying she believes King should resign: “She believes Iowans in the 4th district deserve new leadership which is why she joined the vast majority of her colleagues in Congress by voting to condemn Steve King.”]

Other people who responded said Stefanik should call on President Donald Trump to resign for his history of making racist statements.

Stefanik reappointed

Stefanik was reappointed to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which will be reviewing the report from special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The committee also will be hearing from President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who will be testifying about any possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Cohen also helped direct payments to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy Playmate Karen MacDougal, who claimed they had affairs with Trump. Trump has denied the affairs.

Stefanik also served on this same committee in the last Congress.

“It is an honor to serve on this committee, which is devoted to protecting our country against threats to our national security and democracy. I’m looking forward to continuing my work from last Congress with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to increase our nation’s stability,” she said in a news release.

Gillibrand seeks agriculture money

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has called on the Department of Agriculture to fast-track implementation of Farm Bill provisions to help provide relief for dairy farmers being hurt by low milk prices.

Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said the government shutdown has resulted in a delay for farmers in getting the help they need. She called on Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue to provide premium refunds to farmers who bought Margin Protection Program coverage for any of the calendar years from 2014 to 2017, open the enrollment program for the new Dairy Margin Coverage program that is replacing the old system, and help FSA staff provide guidance to farmers on how they should buy a new policy.

“When Congress passed the Farm Bill last year and included my provision to refund insurance payments into the failed dairy insurance program, it was finally some good news for dairy farmers, but because of the government shutdown, they haven’t seen a penny of the refunds that they’re owed,” she said in a news release.

Gillibrand criticizes military officials

Gillibrand called on the military service academies to follow through on its commitment to reduce unwanted sexual contact, after a report showing that such incidents increased by 47 percent during the last two school years.

Gillibrand, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, has made the issue of sexual assault in the military a key issue in her Senate career. Military officials have promised zero tolerance.

“Despite this alarming number, most survivors still are not reporting assaults to the authorities — a clear sign that they do not feel confident in the military’s ability to adjudicate and prosecute these crimes without retaliation. Military leaders at all levels, including at our service academies, must take this problem seriously,” she said in a news release.

Gillibrand has sponsored the Military Justice Improvement Act, which would take the oversight over sexual assault claims outside the military chain of command and put it in the hands of independent military prosecutors. All crimes punishable by less than one year of confinement would remain in the chain of command.

Infrastructure money needed

Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, joined his GOP colleagues last week in calling for more funding to address upstate roads, bridges and water systems.

The Assembly minority issued a report based upon the findings of a task force. Among its recommendations was to establish parity between how much capital funding is awarded to the MTA and the state Department of Transportation; increase the CHIPS highway grant that funnels money to municipalities by $100 million per year for five years and tie it to the consumer price index to address inflation; and mandate that all funding received from the dedicated highway and bridge trust fund goes toward capital infrastructure and is not just put into the general fund or used for debt service payments.

The report also suggests creating a CHIPS-type program to offer financial assistance to local governments to fund drinking water, stormwater and sewer infrastructure; requiring the DOT to release a report each year detailing the condition of state-owned roads and bridges; developing a 20- to 30-year long-term transportation plan; and requiring the state to submit its capital plan for approval.

Stec said more funding for roads and bridges in the North Country is needed.

“All throughout upstate we are seeing issues with old and outdated infrastructure that was built decades ago,” he said in a news release. “Our local highway superintendents are doing the best they can with the funding they receive, but it just isn’t enough. We need to do better.”

Garcia gets endorsement

The Warren County Conservative Committee has endorsed lawyer Julie Garcia for justice of the Supreme Court 4th Judicial District.

Garcia has served as an assistant district attorney, Essex County district attorney and is on the assigned counsel panel in several counties in New York. She maintains law offices in Warren County and Essex County and represents clients in federal, supreme, county, family, local, drug and criminal courts. She also has argued cases before the Appellate Division 3rd Department.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie appointed Garcia to the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics.