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Fake endorsement video raises a stir in Assembly race

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Republican state Assembly candidate David Catalfamo said it was meant as satire when he paid “Real Housewives of New York” star Dorinda Medley to record a fake endorsement video of Democrat opponent Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake.

“It’s a tongue-in-cheek way to get across that Carrie votes 94% of the time with (Assembly Speaker) Carl Heastie,” of Manhattan, he said.

Woerner, who represents the 113th Assembly District, was not amused.

“It’s the worst kind of political stunt, and that’s what it is — a stunt,” she said.

Catalfamo’s campaign paid Cameo, a celebrity video-sharing website, to have Medley record the video, following a text that Catalfamo, a former campaign consultant and spokesman in Gov. George Pataki’s administration, had written.

Medley does not specifically ask people to vote for Woerner, but praises her work ethic and the respect she has among the New York City society scene.

“You always come through when needed, no matter what,” Medley said. “You live in Saratoga, which you know is one of my favorite places ever.”

Woerner lives in Round Lake, a village in Saratoga County.

Catalfamo said he struggled with how to make Round Lake sound like a savvy place to live, and decided on Saratoga, instead.

Medley, in the video, said that Woerner is humble: “You’re very shy about taking credit for what you do. So, take some credit girl. Pat yourself on the back. Keep making it nice.”

Catalfamo downloaded the video to YouTube, the public video-sharing site, on Friday morning, and sent out a news release Friday afternoon with a link to the video, without disclosing that his campaign paid for its production.

In a telephone interview later on Friday, Catalfamo disclosed that his campaign paid “about $150” for the celebrity message.

Woerner, contacted Friday, said she had never heard of Dorinda Medley, the reality television star, and was not familiar with Cameo, the celebrity video-sharing website that most often is used to purchase birthday and retirement-type greetings.

Woerner said she is concerned that people not familiar with the vast array of social networking websites and apps might think it is a legitimate endorsement.

“At best, this was a childish joke. At worst, he paid someone to lie about me,” she said.

“I am honestly too busy talking with constituents, resolving problems for them and working on legislation to help our communities to pay attention to cheap political stunts,” she continued. “If you want real news, the governor will be signing my bill, A10271, on Monday that will facilitate home repairs for low-income seniors in rural communities under the RESTORE program.”

Catalfamo, an economic development official and writer from Wilton, said that the concept was not original to his campaign.

“I wish that I had thought of it,” he said.

He got the idea from the Pennsylvania Republican Senate primary, in which John Fetterman paid for reality star Snooki to record a celebrity video critical of opponent Dr. Mehmet Oz, who narrowly won the election.

Catalfamo said his point was to allege that Woerner is more in line with New York City voters than those in the Warren, Washington and Saratoga counties, a notion that Woerner disputes.

Woerner, a four-term incumbent, said the statistic Catalfamo publicizes about her voting 94% of the time in line with Speaker Heastie does not show the whole picture.

A better statistic, she said, would be how many times she has voted in line with the Assembly Republican minority, in comparison with other Assembly Democrats.

“I don’t know what that number might be, but I vote with the needs of constituents,” she said.

Maury Thompson covered local government and politics for The Post-Star for 21 years before he retired in 2017. He continues to follow regional politics as a freelance writer.

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