Larkin largely ab­sent from public eye in re-elec­tion bid

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Wil­liam J. Kem­ble news@free­manon­line.com

Can state Sen. Wil­liam Larkin con­tinue to serve ef­fec­tively as the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of New York’s 39th Se­nate Dis­trict?

That’s a fun­da­men­tal ques­tion can­di­dates nor­mally seek to an­swer as they stand for elec­tion. But Larkin has avoided a half­dozen op­por­tu­ni­ties to ap­pear with his chal­lenger while also be­ing shielded by his staff from di­rect con­tact with reporters and, in at least one recorded in­stance, even from po­lite but per­sis­tent ques­tion­ing by a mem­ber of the public.

Demo­cratic can­di­date Chris Eachus, an Or­ange County leg­is­la­tor who is mak­ing a sec­ond run for the Se­nate seat, says the 88-year-old Repub­li­can, who is seek­ing his 14th two-year term next week, has turned down six op­por­tu­ni­ties to de­bate, which Eachus says is part of a pat­tern of ab­sences that be­gan with miss­ing Se­nate votes this year.

“One of the rea­sons why I am

so fer­vent about run­ning and get­ting up there ... is that, in this last ses­sion, he missed so many, I think al­most over a quar­ter, of ses­sion meet­ings, and he missed nine out of 10 bud­getary meet­ings,” Eachus said. “That means that my dis­trict ... has lost mil­lions of dol­lars.”

In­for­ma­tion from State-Watch, a leg­isla­tive in­for­ma­tion busi­ness serv­ing lob­by­ists, re­ports Larkin ranked sixth among 63 sen­a­tors for the most ex­cused ab­sences, miss­ing 170 of the 1,822 votes taken dur­ing the 2016 ses­sion.

Eachus iden­ti­fied six events at which both can­di­dates were in­vited to ap­pear but which Larkin did not at­tend: a News12 meet-the-can­di­dates seg­ment; a Times Her­ald-Record de­bate; a Jour­nal News en­dorse­ment in­ter­view; events held by po­lice fra­ter­nal or­ga­ni­za­tions Or­ange County Shields and Rock­land County Shields; and an Ul­ster County Re­gional Cham­ber of Com­merce can­di­dates’ fo­rum.

Larkin’s aides have said the se­na­tor has been do­ing con­stituent work, which Eachus char­ac­ter­ized as brief ap­pear­ances un­der con­trolled con­di­tions at public hear­ings.

“He is given the abil­ity be­fore any­body else ... to speak, he usu­ally speaks for about three min­utes, and then he leaves,” Eachus said.

“Since I de­clared to run,” Eachus said, “I’ve been in the same room with him only five times — two rel­a­tive to the clos­ing of the emer­gency room at Corn­wall St. Luke’s Hos­pi­tal and, then, three for the wa­ter is­sue in the city of New­burgh.”

Eachus de­clined to com­ment on whether Larkin ap­pears to have a di­min­ished men­tal or phys­i­cal ca­pac­ity that could

af­fect his abil­ity to dis­cuss is­sues.

“I don’t even get to see him, re­ally,” he said. “I haven’t spo­ken to him, I haven’t talked to him, and that is not an eval­u­a­tion that I would make at all.”

Larkin, who lives in Corn­wall-on-Hud­son, has been a state se­na­tor since Jan­uary 1991 and was an assem­bly­man from Jan­uary 1979 through De­cem­ber 1990.

Larkin spokesman Brian Ma­her said Larkin’s ab­sence from the six events was, in part, be­cause “some of those six were out of the dis­trict.” He said the se­na­tor still is sched­uled to par­tic­i­pate in a ra­dio fo­rum in New­burgh on Satur­day, which is three days be­fore the Nov. 8 elec­tion.

Larkin long had a rep­u­ta­tion among reporters for be­ing ac­ces­si­ble and can­did, quick to re­turn a phone call and speak freely, but he grew no­tably less ac­ces­si­ble even be­fore the cur­rent cam­paign.

Larkin’s cam­paign was asked six times over the course of a week re­cently to re­turn calls for a short in­ter­view for a Free­man elec­tion pro­file. Ma­her ini­tially said there would be an ef­fort to find time for an in­ter­view. How­ever, one un­suc­cess­ful at­tempt in­cluded be­ing told at 6:19 p.m. on a Fri­day that Larkin was “in for the night, and I be­lieve his phone is off.”

The next day, Ma­her re­vised the state­ment to say Larkin had been vis­it­ing a gen­eral he has worked with over the years.

Asked if Larkin was avoid­ing the press, Ma­her re­sponded: “I wouldn’t say that the se­na­tor is avoid­ing reporters. I think we’re do­ing a lot of com­mu­ni­ca­tions.”

Ma­her ul­ti­mately with­drew the of­fer to find time for a phone in­ter­view and said a re­porter’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Larkin could be con­ducted only by email.

A YouTube video (bit.ly/2eXchBR) has sur­faced that shows Larkin cam­paign staff di­rect­ing a per­son to leave who was video record­ing an event at his elec­tion head­quar­ters.

The record­ing, which lasts about a minute and a half, shows a woman hold­ing Larkin’s hand and po­litely press­ing Larkin to say whether he sup­ports pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump in light of the video in which Trump was recorded mak­ing vul­gar com­ments about women and ex­press­ing a will­ing­ness to phys­i­cally force him­self on them. Larkin at­tempted twice to parry the ques­tion by say­ing he had not seen the video. A minute into the recorded en­counter, a staffer, ad­dressed as “Brian,” in­ter­venes to make Larkin’s case for him.

Within sec­onds, a sec­ond voice is heard and a hand ap­pears over the cam­era lens as the voice says, “Are you record­ing? You can’t be in here.”

Ma­her con­firmed he was present dur­ing the in­ci­dent, but said he did not know why the videog­ra­pher was asked to leave.

Ma­her said nei­ther Larkin’s age nor his men­tal ca­pac­ity were pre­vent­ing the se­na­tor from tak­ing ques­tions from the press.

“There’s no truth to that, there’s ba­sis to that, and I think any­one who wants to claim that can find what­ever rea­son they’d like to claim it,” he said. “You can see for your­self and hear for your­self at events that the se­na­tor will be cam­paign­ing at, and he is more than able, more than will­ing to cam­paign, win this elec­tion and serve two years.”

The 39th Se­nate Dis­trict in­cludes cen­tral and east­ern Or­ange County, the north­ern tip of Rock­land County, and the Ul­ster County towns of Plat­tekill and Marl­bor­ough.

PRO­VIDED

Christo­pher Eachus, left, and state Sen. Wil­liam Larkin

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