Reynolds: The rise of ‘Meteor Mike’

This just in. A $1,000-a-plate fundraising dinner in Manhattan for County Executive Mike Hein sponsored by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer was cancelled at the last minute on Monday. Hein said Schumer was working in Washington on FEMA aid for the area.

Hein already has access to the media, most of which repeat his messages verbatim, and no opponent to challenge him. With some $110,000 in his campaign coffers (according to campaign spending reports on file with the state Board of Elections), why did he need to conduct a thousand-dollar-a-plate fundraiser? “It is very important to get our message out,” he replied.

I asked somebody who knows of these things. “A hundred grand doesn’t go very far in the big time,” he replied.

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From my little corner of the world, I had thought the county executive, with a salary second only to a congressman’s and power to dream for, was already in the big time.

Hein’s has been a meteoric rise, a curious cliché since meteors usually fall.

Think about it. A former bank branch manager in Kingston, sponsored by former county treasurer Lew Kirschner, Hein came into county government as a deputy treasurer. As a Republican (then) he was acceptable to the (then) Republican majority in the legislature.

When the legislature turned Democrat in 2005, Hein switched parties and was shortly appointed county administrator.

A year later, voters approved a new charter which provided for an elected county executive. Hein declared, raised more than $150,000, and won easily. He is unopposed for reelection to a four-year term this year.

He walks with governors, has United States senators raising money for him, and is unchallenged at home. The self-described “Esopus farm boy” has come a long way in the past eight years.

Pundits will make what they will of this thousand-dollar-dinner deal. One thing is certain. Mike Hein is a comer.

Drying off

Hard-hit Phoenicia looks better on the surface after Irene left creek water five feet deep on its main street almost a month ago, leaving even the bears bewildered. Phoenicia is nothing if not resilient. Business is returning.

Local ire, like floodwaters, seems to have receded over Assemblyman Kevin Cahill’s rhetorical suggestion that, given the periodic flooding of the hamlet, it should maybe be relocated to safer ground. Imagine the 10-foot frontiersman, the symbol of Phoenicia, standing in a vacant meadow off Route 28 relocated like one of the lost hamlets of reservoir-displaced Olive somewhere west of the Route 375 junction?

In dismissing Cahill’s thought, Phoenicians blame their problems not on nature’s occasional calamities but on a recalcitrant DEC that refuses to allow even minimal remediation of boulder- and debris-clogged creeks. Fish have feelings, too, apparently. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, something of an activist, cleared the way for dredging with an executive order.

New Kingston?

After the British burned Kingston in 1777, patentee Johannes Hardenburgh offered free land in Delaware County to victims of the worst disaster to hit the town until urban renewal. Only a handful of folks took advantage, the locale being a savage wilderness at the western edge of the Onteora Trail. The crossroads community they founded, called New Kingston, was (and is) a sad collection of hovels dominated by a church and a circa-1790s Federalist colonial on a hill similar to the Johnston House at Wall and Main streets in Kingston.

It is unlikely that those who ran unsuccessfully on a “new Kingston” platform on Sept. 13 will be relocating upland. Fact is, after losing by excruciatingly thin margins, Democrat Hayes Clement (eight votes shy) and Republican Andi Turco-Levin (11 votes shy) must wait four long years for another crack at the mayor’s office.

There were some expensive lessons in this primary. Correct me if I’m right, as alderman Bob Senor likes to say, but mayoral primaries are extremely rare in Kingston. That both major-party nominees were challenged is virtually unheard of, outside of Woodstock.

Clement and Turco-Levin were beaten by Shayne Gallo and Ron Polacco respectively, two hustling candidates who simply worked the system better than they did. This was unexpected in part because Clement and Turco-Levin were their party’s nominees in June — and by substantial margins. Successful challengers Democrat Gallo and Republican Polacco had no recourse but to recruit allies and pound the streets. More about Rich Cahill Jr., the third man in the Republican primary, later. Did I mention Jean Jacobs? Why? She drew only 17 votes out of almost 1,000 cast.

But I digress.

The new-Kingston movement made a statement. More than that, its challenges to the status quo just missed. Something like 49.5 percent of those voting opted for change. Want evidence of linear politics in Kingston? The first (T.R) Gallo-(Jim) Sottile ticket in 1993 was succeeded by the Sottile-(Jim) Noble team in 2003. It morphed into the new Gallo-Noble ticket this year.

Will the losing candidates and their supporters stay involved? I hope so.

Monday morning

Most politicians find it better to lose by landslides than by say 10 votes (Turco-Levin) or seven (Clement). In the former case, it’s all she wrote. In the latter, the possibilities remain endless.

Some wonder whether it would have made a ten-vote difference if alderman-at-large Republican nominee Joe Marchetti had run with Turco-Levin during the primary rather than remaining officially neutral. You’ll recall that Turco-Levin encouraged and recruited the loquacious painting contractor, now a man in search of a compatible running mate.

I don’t think Cahill’s 96 votes (on election night) cost Andi the election. Cahill and Polacco are from the same ward. Without Cahill, a former alderman, in the race, Polacco might have increased his margin.

Cahill doesn’t believe his remaining in the running on the Conservative line will have any effect on the general election, where Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one. I don’t disagree, but it sure sounds like sour grapes.

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Everyone knew Polacco was “working hard,” but few appreciated how smart he was running. The second-term alderman carried absentee ballots door to door and in several cases, I’m told, literally filled them out for voters (which is perfectly legal). The result was when 106 absentees were opened; Polacco took three out of four, and the election.

Here and there

Former Kingston county legislator Frank Dart, advocating for Golden Hill at last week’s legislature meeting, said he left (defeated for re-election in 2009) “with tears in my eyes, but I’ve been smiling ever since.”

“So are we,” muttered legislator Rob Parete to seatmate Brian Shapiro.

“And they give these people pencils?” Elections lawyer Andy Zweben commenting on another dumb-ass mistake on an absentee ballot at Monday’s board of elections count. Memo to Mr. Z: some of those dumb-asses get elected.

Born-again Woodstock pol Jeremy Wilber could afford to be magnanimous after losing the Republican nomination for supervisor to long-shot Lorin Rose at last week’s party convention. Running as a Republican in the Art Colony is tantamount to manning the parapets at the Alamo.

I reported, in an otherwise accurate piece on Jim Sottile’s retirement party, that the mayor’s wife Mary Beth is a teacher at Onteora school district. Not so. She’s a teacher in the Rondout district.

There is one comment

  1. delawaredan

    RE: New Kingston hovels. Just before the economic ‘freedoms’ we were given by the Bush administration, the most one of our hovels sold for was $1,200,000.00. Granted, it is worth less than that now.
    Just trying to be accurate.

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