Hugh Reynolds: Schreibman’s win a mixed blessing?

Every politician hopes for a big win in heavy voting, though they’ll all take a one-vote margin. In that sense, Julian Schreibman’s landslide victory over challenger Joel Tyner in Tuesday’s Democratic primary was a mixed blessing.

Schreibman prevailed by close to three-to-two in unofficial results, but district-wide the race managed to bring out less than 10 percent of enrolled Democrats.

Schreibman will need to do about five times better than that among democrats, plus plenty of independent voters to catch Congressman Chris Gibson in the fall.

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Both Democratic candidates worked hard to get out the vote. Tyner had been targeting Gibson since last summer, long before new lines for the 19th Congressional District were drawn. Tyner was and is a resident of Gibson’s congressional districts old and new. Schreibman of Stone Ridge jumped in right after incumbent Maurice Hinchey announced his retirement in January and worked tirelessly to get his name out in the eleven counties he sought to represent. He was not well known.

I don’t think it was a case of the few who just didn’t turn on to these guys, but rather the many who just didn’t care. That kind of lethargy is hard to kickstart. Schreibman now has only about 130 days to get this bandwagon rolling.

Schreibman’s strategy has been clear from the start. He will position himself as the progressive champion of the rural middle class and characterize his opponent as a right-wing Tea Party fanatic who sold out to special interests.

That even Schreibman has some doubts about this approach was evident in conflicting statement at his headquarters Tuesday night. At one point, Schreibman said that “Gibson may be a nice guy but his votes are out of step with our middle-class community.” A few sentences later he warned of a “tidal wave of cash from special interests” creating a nice-guy image for Gibson.

It was left unsaid that Schreibman, quite naturally, will himself be tapping other special interests — unions, teachers, environmentalists — for cash.

With more than four months to go, it’s way too early to pick winners. Suffice to say that Schreibman seems after the Democratic primary the obvious underdog.

Closed circuit

Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach talked about “big thinking” and “returning us to greatness” during an upbeat speech before the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce in Kingston last week. Ironically, the comptroller, the man who adds up the plusses and minuses at the end of the day, was nowhere in the loop when one of the bigger ideas in county/city/school government was rolled out the same week by County Exec Mike Hein.

The bean-counter-in-chief was hardly the only one.

Legislature Chairwoman Terry Bernardo said she found out about Hein’s plan to coordinate county, school and city operations in order to establish a county college campus in Kingston the day Hein announced it. Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo, after reflexively signing on, said a high-ranking member of the county administration had told him of it only the day before. On reflection, Gallo said he had serious concerns about traffic, access and neighborhood issues atSophieFinnSchool inKingston, where the county executive proposes to establish anUlsterCountyCommunity College adjunct campus.

Four entities were involved. Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress, the Newburgh-based planning organization, had previously issued a study on the reuse of abandoned school buildings in the region. With the student population down more than 16 percent over the past four years, Kingston schools Superintendent Paul Padalino has proposed closing three more elementary schools, Community college President Don Katt and college trustees were on board. Finally, the county executive initiated the proposal. Hein also plans to close several obsolete county facilities by consolidating their activities in what is now the Business Resource Center on Ulster Avenue.

On the surface, which is all we have at this point, the plan deals with a number of pressing problems. The planners, meeting for months in strict secrecy, did not include some other principal players. Verily it is said, nothing enrages a politician more than to be left out of the loop on matters vital to his or her constituents.

As witnessed from several such previous rollouts, this is standard operating procedure in the Hein administration. The public will find out what’s on the executive’s agenda when he’s good and ready to announce it. By design, a certain degree of momentum will already have been established. While this strategy may not guarantee implementation, it tends to rule out the consideration of meaningful alternatives.

But the controversy invariably continues. Hein is about to discover that once he steps outside that glass building he rules on Fair and Main streets into areas like public education and municipal government coordination, he will need allies who can trust him to keep them informed before the press release hits the fan.

Circling back

To the surprise of some, weekly newspapers have deadlines. A few late call-backs missed last week’s editions.

Congressional primary candidate Joel Tyner got back 27 hours after I called him about that unpleasantness with his former campaign treasurer, Misha Fredericks of New Paltz.

Fredericks, a Green Party member, issued a letter to the editor a week before the primary citing various discrepancies in Tyner’s accounts which she said she was unable to reconcile. She told me she wasn’t about to submit reports to the Federal Election Commission that didn’t add up. Thus, the resignation. But why the public release of this soiled laundry when it would hurt the most?

Fredericks said she was so appalled by her candidate’s “horrendous” performance when she attended the debate between Tyner and Julian Schreibman at New Paltz on June 18 that she decided to go public with her letter. Tyner, who doesn’t mince words, called her a liar.

Interesting, as Artie Johnson might say, was that at about the same time Tyner’s campaign treasurer was dropping her bomb, Maurice Hinchey endorsed Schreibman.

Coincidence?

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