With all 163 election districts reporting, Democrat Mike Hein had an unofficial lead of 4,462 votes (54.9 percent) over Republican challenger Terry Bernardo (42.2 percent) in the race for county executive. Green Party candidate Hunter Downie trailed with 960 votes.
Excluding the still uncounted absentee ballots, Hein had 19,201 votes to Bernardo’s 14,739.
Voting was light at about 40 percent but typical of off-year (non-presidential or non-state) elections.
Hein, also the Working Families Party candidate, was seeking a third term. Elected in 2008, he defeated Bernardo’s husband Len by over 12,000 votes. He was unopposed for reelection in 2011.
“I am incredibly humbled to have received such a remarkable level of support from the voters for my re-election,” said Hein. “I am so thankful to all of those who stood together and made this victory possible, including my volunteers and supporters from all political parties, my friends and allies in labor, the great Ulster County Democratic Committee, and especially my family and friends. We started seven years ago with clear goals: place people before politics, reject the divisive politics that keep us apart, and focus on getting the job done. “I’m looking forward to continuing our work moving Ulster County forward.”
Bernardo, who entered the race in June, was endorsed by the Conservative, Independence and Reform parties. Her husband is chairman of the Independence Party. She was elected to two terms in the county legislature, the last in 2012-13 as its first woman chairman.
She and her husband operate the Skate Time 209 roller rink in Accord.
Hein, a former bank branch manager, entered county government in 2003 as a deputy treasurer. He was appointed county administrator in mid-2006, a position he held at his election as the county’s first executive.
“There goes Congress,” predicted legislature Minority Leader Ken Ronk at a Republican gathering in Kingston Tuesday night, referring to speculation that Hein would run for the to-be-vacated 19th Congressional District seat next year. “He needed at least 60 percent to be considered a serious candidate.”
Hein has repeatedly refused to speculate on his political future. Neither has he committed to a full four-term. Term of office is four years, beginning January 1, at an annual salary of $133,572.
Ronk’s party apparently did not pick up the two seats it needed to upend a 13-10 Democratic advantage in the county legislature. The final unofficial tally for the legislature was 12-11 Democrat if you count Richard Parete of Marbletown as a Democrat. Parete is an enrolled Democrat who ran as a Republican.
In other races, Republican District Attorney Holley Carnright and Democratic Family Court judge Anthony McGinty were re-elected without opposition.
Incumbents cruise in Saugerties
Greg Helsmoortel won his eighth term as Saugerties town supervisor with 67 percent of the vote against opponent Gaetana Ciarlante’s 33 percent, according to unofficial general election results.
Helsmoortel’s running mates also won handily — Fred Costello with 38 percent and Leeanne Thornton with 29 percent. All are Independence Party members supported by Democrats. Opponents Allyson Barbaria and Dan Ellsworth received 21 and 11 percent, respectively.
Helsmoortel has said this would be his final term.
In the other big contest, incumbent District 2 Legislator Chris Allen defeated Angie Minew with 59 percent of the vote.
As with Helsmoortel and Costello, Allen carried the Democratic, Republican and Independence lines, while the only significant line carried by Ciarlante, Ellsworth and Minew was the Conservative line. The long odds may have been responsible for many voters staying home; over 30 percent fewer cast ballots than in the last local election in 2013.
Ballot goof confuses Woodstock town board race
The Democrats won it all in Woodstock, with voters choosing Jeremy Wilber for supervisor and Jay Wenk and Laura Ricci for town board, though a ballot printing snafu may cast a cloud over those victories.
Incumbent Wilber trounced Republican challenger Nancy Schauffler 1,062-334, according to unofficial results election night. Deputy Supervisor Laura Ricci was elected to her first term as a voting member of the town board and garnered the highest number of votes of the four candidates vying for two seats with 761, followed by incumbent Wenk with 703.
Councilman Ken Panza, who lost the Democratic primary and ran as a Republican, fell short in his re-election bid, getting 641 votes, followed by Republican Janine Fallon-Mower with 622 votes.
But the talk at both camps was the unfortunate ballot misprint that went undetected by the Ulster County Board of Elections. Instructions on the top of the ballot directed voters to choose only one candidate when there were two open seats. The incorrect ballots were given to voters when polls opened at 6 a.m. until Deputy Clerk Lynn Sehwerert noticed the error when casting her votes at around 7:30 a.m. Board of Elections commissioners Vic Work and Tom Turco raced to Woodstock to instruct poll workers to explain the error to voters and the commissioners posted signs informing voters they could cast two ballots for town board.
“Somehow it got past our proofing,” said Democratic Elections Commissioner Vic Work. “The machine is taking two votes and all the inspectors are telling all the voters to vote for two. The sample ballot has been written over in red, vote for two. There’s one on each table where the ballot masters are and on the wall.”
Work said there’s “no way to tell” how many voters may have cast ballots before the error was discovered. This year, the town clerk’s office didn’t receive early sample ballots as in the past, perhaps resulting in another missed opportunity to catch the error.
As far as what happens next, “Any election can be challenged. But I would wait until we get finished with the absentees,” Work said. The absentee ballots had the correct instructions, he said.
Despite assurances from the Board of Elections, candidates remained concerned.
“The top priority is for the voters of Woodstock’s will to be honored in this race,” said Ricci, who thinks the ballots may have been rushed after a back-and-forth discussion over whether the Women’s Equality Party line should be included.
Panza, who finished 62 votes behind Wenk for the second seat on the board said that the Republicans are kind of in wait-and-see mode and that he hasn’t decided if he’s going to challenge the results. “We haven’t made any decision about that but I think it’s unlikely,” he said. “The results aren’t that close. There’s a 60 vote difference and it’s hard to see how the screw up would have made that much difference. It was discovered at 7:30 a.m. by the deputy town clerk. I voted by about 8:10 and was told about it. People I called who voted later in the day all said they’d been told they could vote for two. If you look at the numbers of who voted then (before the mistake was discovered) it’s pretty small. From what I can see it wasn’t that big of a deal, don’t think it would change the overall results.”
With additional reporting from Will Dendis and Nick Henderson.