Disappointed once by Barack Obama, Clark Bell, Woodstock’s former Republican assemblyman, says that in next Tuesday’s Republican primary he’s going with “the only adult in the room” — Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Bell, 82, a three-term assemblyman (1969-74), supported Obama in 2008. He calls frontrunner Donald Trump “a gadfly with no substance” who would be “a disaster” as president.
Local Republican leaders are by no means settled among their ballot choices for president at the April 19 primary: Trump of New York, Ted Cruz of Texas and Kasich.
Given the widespread interest in the race, Ulster GOP Chairman Roger Rascoe, a Trump supporter and one of his Hudson Valley coordinators, predicts “the highest turnout in New York history” among the county’s almost 27,600 enrolled Republicans.
Rascoe says Trump is “saying things other people are afraid to say,” but doesn’t always agree with his candidate. He expects Trump to “tone it down and become more presidential” as the contest heads to convention in Cleveland in July.
One thing the Trump phenomenon has done “is to scare the crap out of the establishment,” said Ulster Legislature Chairman Ken Ronk, a Kasich supporter. Ronk said he attended a Kasich rally in Long Island and came away “really impressed.”
“He has the tools to be a great president,” he said. “I’ve always been in favor of governors as presidents, given the executive experience. He’s done great things in Ohio, and he has legislative experience as a congressman.”
Ronk, 30, found the Republican debates disappointing, and counterproductive to building the party. “They were more like inquisitions,” he said. “Democrats spoke more to issues.”
Ulster County’s elections board reports that since the 2015 elections, 1,967 voters have enrolled as Democrats and 567 as Republicans. Overall, Democrats outnumber Republicans 39,769 to 27,580 in Ulster. Registrants who choose no party number 33,550, up 789 since last year.
The deadline for new enrollees to vote in the primaries was March 25 under state election law. Only those enrolled in their respective parties are eligible to vote.
Looking the candidates in the eye
State Sen. George Amedore says he isn’t taking sides, adding that “any Republican candidate is better than anybody on the other side.”
Amedore said after meeting Cruz at a private gathering of about a dozen Republican leaders in Scotia last week that he had been impressed. “He’s a brilliant guy. He really knows his stuff,” Amedore reported.
Like some others, Amedore took umbrage at Cruz’s disparaging remarks about New Yorkers. “Sometimes you say things you regret, like lumping all [big-spending liberal] New Yorkers together. That’s not the case. There are a lot of conservatives in New York.”
Amedore said he will attend rallies for Trump and Kasich in the capital region this week before deciding. “I want to look them in the eye. We have huge issues before us,” he said.
Assemblyman Pete Lopez said he was “looking at Cruz” but giving close consideration to Kasich, whom he too calls “the only grown-up in the room.”
Lopez, briefly a candidate for the Republican nomination for Congress in our 19th District, deplored what he termed the “disgraceful conduct” of the campaign, which he called a sideshow. “The real issue is to make our country sustainable, to find people who can heal division, not ramp up division,” he said.
Alex Danon, 31, president of Ulster County Young Republicans, compares Trump with Democrat Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
“I think he [Trump] has energized not only our party, but the country as a whole,” he said. “Bernie is doing the same thing, bringing people into the process that usually didn’t care before.”
Danon thinks Kasich would have the best chance to win the general election, but expects Trump, the front-runner, to be his party’s nominee. “I don’t think he [Trump] will be a very good president,” he added.
John Quigley, 23, an aide to Amedore and son of Ulster Town Supervisor Jim Quigley, expressed disappointment in the overall quality of the candidates. “If this is the best slate of candidates America can put forward,” he said, speaking of both parties, “then we may have failed ourselves.”