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St. Lawrence County Democrats mourn the loss of former Assemblyman K. Daniel Haley

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WADDINGTON - St. Lawrence County Democrats had their grief doubled Saturday as news of the death of K. Daniel Haley, 83, of Waddington circulated.

Mr. Haley, Waddington, was the first Democratic assemblyman to be elected from the 110th District, serving from 1970 to 1976.

His death on Friday followed that of Walter V. Basmajian, who was St. Lawrence County chairman during Mr. Haley’s electoral success and worked with him on his campaigns.

“It is shocking. I just attended Walter’s funeral,” St. Lawrence County Democratic Chairman Mark J. Bellardini said. “We just buried one of the biggest icons in the Democratic Party; now we’re going to turn around and bury a man who was the first Democratic assembly person up here.”

Today, local Democratic leaders credit both men with proving that their party could win elections in Northern New York.

“That was a trailblazing victory. It paved the way for many more,” said June F. O’Neill, former state Democratic Committee chairwoman. “It proved that even then, when we were extraordinarily outnumbered, that a Democrat could win, that people would look beyond the labels.”

Mr. Haley graduated from Madrid High School in 1945 as valedictorian, going on to graduate from Harvard University in 1949.

In 1968, after stints in the Air Force and the U.S. Foreign Service, he returned to the north country and ran unsuccessfully for Congress. Two years later, he found electoral success in a run for the state Assembly, a campaign run largely by Mr. Basmajian, Mrs. O’Neill said.

“Walter was largely credited as being the architect for Dan’s victory,” she said. “Walter brought this old van. It was plastered with Dan Haley campaign signs and he duct-taped a bullhorn on top of it, campaigning for Dan. It was a real bootstrap because we didn’t have any money, but they proved it was possible.”

During his time in the Assembly, Mr. Haley became a proponent for energy independence and championed progressive causes.

“We’re talking 38, 39, 40 years ago and this guy was looking at things that we need to put in place right now because people are losing their homes due to property taxes. Dan saw that stuff back then; that is what amazes me,” Mr. Bellardini said. “Some of the things he pulled for are coming to truth today.”

Today, St. Lawrence County Democrats acknowledge that Mr. Haley’s positions were ahead of his time.

“I think what really put him into office was his vision,” Mr. Bellardini said. “People realized that we needed to have sight far beyond what we are doing now, that we need to think about the future we’re creating.”

Mr. Haley is credited with sponsoring the legislation that created the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the New York State School Tax Relief, or STAR, program.

He also was one of the first in the state to recognize the need for alternative energy sources, Mrs. O’Neill said.

“He was talking about wind and solar and wood chips, and a fair number of people looked at him like he had three heads because he was so ahead of all that,” she said.

In 2007, the St. Lawrence County Democratic Committee gave Mr. Haley the Silas Wright Award, its highest honor.

“I’m so happy today that we did that. If anybody deserved that award, it was Dan Haley,” Mr. Bellardini said. “He was very happy to know the Democrats really appreciated his work and his doings.”

Since August 2007, Mr. Haley had been a resident of the Highland Nursing Home, Massena.

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