Hugh Reynolds: State Senate race shapes up

Hugh Reynolds.

Democratic state Senate candidate Cecilia Tkaczyk of Delanson in Schenectady County proved once again at last week’s Ulster Democratic convention that there is no substitute for preparation. She will be the Democratic candidate against well-financed Republican assemblyman and building contractor George Amedore in the new 46th district, which includes Woodstock, Saugerties, Hurley, Ulster, both town and city of Kingston, Marbletown, Esopus and Lloyd.

A virtual unknown three months ago, Tkaczyk (pronounced Kay-Zek) prowled Democratic town committees in Ulster County for months and wound up with almost 80 percent of the delegate vote against two opponents at last week’s party convention.

“We think Cecilia will be a strong candidate. We’re hoping to avoid a primary,” state Sen. Mike Genarias, chairman of the Democratic Senate campaign committee, said after the convention. Tom Dolan of Albany County, also a candidate, has secured his county’s nomination.


Tkaczyk grew up on a dairy farm near where she now lives. These days, she herds sheep and serves as president of the Duanesburg school board. Given that Amedore’s Assembly district has been left mostly intact within the new Senate district, the Democrats still have a narrow enrollment edge in the sprawling new district. Tkaczyk has to be considered an early underdog, but off her showing at the Ulster Democratic convention — Ulster is almost a third of the district — this dog might have some bite.

Party notes

After giving it serious consideration, county Legislator Rob Parete shelved his would-be candidacy to oppose Amedore the day before the convention. Nonetheless, he should have attended the convention if only to show solidarity for the winner.

Newbie county Dem Chairman Frank Cardinale pronounced himself satisfied with what was by most accounts a dismal turnout for his first convention. Based on the vote in the Ulster portion of the state Senate district (which holds more than half the county population), fewer than 40 percent of eligible delegates attended.

“This looks like a Republican convention,” mused one observer. Another disagreed.  “More like a [kitchen-table] Independence convention,” he said.

For the first time in recent memory, Republicans turned out as many delegates and guests for their convention a day later as the Democrats had. Republicans view that as a sign of resurgence in this presidential year.

Former party county chairman Mario Catalano was elected chairman emeritus, joining former chairman Pete Savago in the GOP hall of fame. Portraits are hung in Republican headquarters. “Maybe I should draw a mustache on Pete,” Catalano joked about his Napoleonic predecessor.

Democrats nominated Victor Work for another two-year term as elections commissioner beginning in January. Legislature approval is perfunctory. While former commissioner Kathy Mihm remains my personal favorite, Work is diligent, knowledgeable, accessible and a master stats-man. Good choice by Dems.

Ever the dutiful pol, Cardinale made excuses for no-shows County Executive Mike Hein and retiring Congressman Maurice Hinchey. Hein, he said had “a previous engagement.” More important than his party’s convention? Hinchey, Cardinale speculated, was simply worn out from all the testimonials he’s been honored at recently. Hinchey is recovering from cancer surgery.

Hinchey has been carrying Democrats for 40 years. What better place to recognize him in his walk year than at the party convention? Cardinale said a party testimonial to the retiring congressman would be held in the fall.

Getting to know you

Republican candidate Brian Maher — “It’s Mar, like Mars without the S,” he explained — hopped on his bike last March to traverse the 25 towns in seven counties in what he hopes will be his new Assembly district.

“Letting people know what it [the new district] is, is Job One,” the two-term Walden village mayor told me. No kidding? It took me nine years to figure out these legislative districts and now they’ve changed everything again. For more than 40 years the 101st Assembly District was centered in Ulster County, and now it’s spread over five counties the size of Rhode Island, with Ulster but an appendage. The new district includes the Ulster County towns of Wawarsing, Shawangunk, Denning and Hardenburgh. Maher, a 27-year-old jewelry salesman and sometimes substitute teacher, faces a stiff primary challenge from the very accomplished and most formidable incumbent Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney of New Hartford.

Elected to the lower house in 2010, Tenney, 51, is an attorney, former Assembly staffer, newspaper publisher and central New York TV personality. No wonder Maher got on his bike.