The GOP’s county exec gambit

There’s an old saying in politics that you can’t beat somebody with nobody. But suppose you don’t have anybody?

That’s the dilemma Ulster Republicans will face when they convene in postponed convention on June 9. They have no candidate for county executive, which is not news. What they will have, GOP sources swear, is a stand-in, somebody who can hold the fort in order to give the party another seven weeks or so to find a real candidate, if in fact one exists.

While it may leave delegates scratching their heads, there’s nothing illegal about what Republicans, in their hour of desperation, are attempting to do. Under election law, a party committee on vacancies, to be appointed on June 9, has the authority to select a candidate should the party nominee (the stand-in) vacate.

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But first, they need a nominee, one properly credentialed via the mandated petition process. The stand-in, variously identified as an old warhorse, retread or has-been but officially the nominee, will step down – that’s what stand-ins do – shortly after the July 16 deadline for submitting nominating petitions. The committee on vacancies has until July 26 to name a replacement.

As an added inducement, the replacement need not secure the 2500 signatures necessary for nomination, according to election law. That individual then has something on the order of 13 weeks to gather a campaign team, raise the $150,000 likely to be necessary for a viable campaign, and devise a plausible strategy to bump off presumably popular Democratic county exec Mike Hein.

Hein, who already has the campaign team in place – some suggest most work on the sixth floor of the county office building – the war chest and the bully pulpit also has the Independence Party nomination. In one of those whorendous political deals ( a word I just made up), slithery Independence Party chairman “kingmaker” Len Bernardo handed Hein his party nomination in exchange for who knows what. That’s why I called it whorendous, a nominee for one of those New-Age words that defines an egregiously self-serving political compact.

Though the methods of Republicans may be reprehensible in the eyes of some, their motives are less so.

This week we celebrated Memorial Day, which commemorates the sacrifices of our armed forces to preserve the freedoms too many of us take for granted, like the two-party system. Should the GOP fail in its long-shot stand-in maneuver, there will be no contest for county executive, no examination of the record, other than by Hein himself, no debates, no exchange of ideas, no choice. In a word, whorendous.

 

Executive notes

Should next week’s GOP convention contain a few mirth-makers, they might nominate former chairman Robin Yess for county executive. And why not? Yess, an Esopus resident, has run for county legislature and state assembly. She’s forthright and outspoken, one of the few public officials to take a stand on the future of Golden Hill. And if she breaks a few eggs along the way, so what? She’ll make it interesting.

There is a school of thought that says giving Hein a free ride keeps the executive on the sidelines, thereby enhancing the chances of other Republican candidates, like district attorney Holley Carnright. Another school suggests that by leaving the line blank party chiefs suppress the Republican vote, thus costing their candidates across the board. History suggests the latter is of more concern.

Dismissing speculation that he might be seeking higher office in the near future, Hein tells us he’s running for county executive, and that’s all. “We’ve done a lot, but there’s a lot more to do,” he told me. Surely, that statement should be printed on the back of every incumbent’s campaign card.

Translation: Congressman Maurice Hinchey, having endured a round of chemotherapy treatment for colon cancer, is feeling better, and in the words of county Democratic chairman Julian Schreibman “will finish his term.” Hein had been mentioned as the heir apparent should Hinchey resign this year.

I chatted with the congressman just prior to Kingston Veterans Association Memorial Day services in front of the city hall on Monday. He looked a bit wan, thinner, a double-breasted black blazer hanging on him. No, he didn’t plan to march, as usual, in Kingston’s two-mile parade, but had marched in Hurley that morning. He feels okay, he said.

 

Golden decisions

With the campaign season kicking in, a decision on the future of Golden Hill, pressure from the county executive wing notwithstanding, may come later than sooner.

There are two things county legislators fear for the most, their jobs and blank checks.

A decision on Golden Hill either way before Election Day could put numerous county legislature candidates in jeopardy. Better to wait until November when the long arm of the electorate can’t reach them for another two years.

The check’s in the mail comes in the form of state financing of the least onerous option, building a new $80-million facility on Golden Hill. There’s plenty of space on the other side of the hill where the old jail quietly falls into decay.

Infirmary construction financing is tied to state funding, which would come in the form of yearly reimbursements over perhaps 30 years through the Medicaid rate per patient. Those rates won’t be established until next fall, according to legislator Don Gregorius of Woodstock. Given the state’s finances, anything after that is a crapshoot.

Since the county would have to float the construction bonds upfront, legislators are wary to commit to the largest building project since the new jail.

Under the heading of signs of the times, pro-infirmary forces tell me some 2100 “save-our-home” lawn signs have been printed and placed around the county. These days it’s rare to turn a corner without seeing one. One of them wound up cheekily on the front lawn of county executive Hein’s house in Olde Hurley. An invasion of privacy for sure, it does suggest some people think they know who the driving force is behind privatization of Golden Hill.

Hugh Reynolds’ column appears weekly in the Saugerties Times. To get the best commentary on local politics delivered to your door each week, subscribe today to the print edition.

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