Race for Bonacic's Senate seat heating up

If he runs for re-election, state senator John Bonacic will face at least two challengers this fall, in a race that is shaping up to be a referendum on natural-gas drilling in the region (which Bonacic emphatically supports).

Sullivan County legislator Dave Sager, who switched party affiliations from Republican to Democrat in order to challenge Bonacic, announced his candidacy yesterday. From the Times Herald-Record:

"Our current state senator is part of the problem," Sager said. "He is behind on flood mitigation, he is wrong on gas drilling and he has done nothing on ethics reform."

Sager's party switch is giving the Bonacic camp plenty of easy fodder. In Bonacic's campaign-trail thesaurus, "Democrat" is a synonym for "New York City," and the Senator isn't wasting any time painting Sager as a pawn in the hand of city interests. From the Daily Freeman:

Bonacic spokeswoman Joeann Drake called Sager’s candidacy a desperate attempt to find a Democrat to run against the incumbent. She said Sager is “grossly misinformed” about the drilling issue and is playing “into the hands” of New York City “elites.”

“Sen. Bonacic will continue to stand up to the New York City Democrats who will be funding Mr. Sager’s campaign,” Drake said. “These are the same people who have voted to deny New Yorkers property tax relief, imposed the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) tax … and are now forcing local contractors to lay off employees because they won’t fund road and bridge projects.”

The dark-horse candidate appears to be Glenn Dannaham, a Kerhonkson libertarian who's running as an independent. The Freeman also reports Susan Zimet, who lost to Bonacic in 2006, is also mulling a potential run.

Liz Bucar at Breathing Is Political attended Sager's announcement, and has a vivid account. Sager is supporting a bill that would impose a moratorium on gas drilling until 120 days after the EPA completes its study of the risks of hydraulic fracturing. Bucar quotes Sager at length on the topic:

“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.”