With last month’s nobody-seemed-to-care-much Democratic primary out of the way, Republican Chris Gibson and Democrat Julian Schreibman can start eying each other’s jugulars.
To say the 8 percent turnout for the Julian Schreibman-versus-Joel Tyner Democratic primary was disappointing is to give apathy a good name. But that’s history. Tyner, a five-term Dutchess legislator, will attempt to remain relevant — if he ever was — via a splinter group he formed called “The New Progressive Majority.” Wasn’t Maurice Hinchey progressive enough? Tyner can expect an audience from only a very small and but very vocal segment of the electorate, but not much else.
Owing to a new congressional district spread over all or parts of 11 counties, a steep learning curve looms ahead. Overall, the district, with around 700,000 people, has at present just under 421,000 registered voters. According to the state Board of Elections, Republicans outnumber Democrats 141,258 to 130,307. There are almost 110,000 non-enrolled voters, about a third of them in Ulster. Barack Obama carried what is now the 19th N.Y.C.D. by a 52-48 margin four years ago.
At first glance, the race appears a wash. If presidential campaign 2012 mirrors 2008, upwards of 10,000 new registrants will be recorded in the district before Election Day, with perhaps eight of 10 going Democratic. Clue: Republicans don’t register people.
Gibson’s edge — he’s already congressman for almost half the district — is in his minor-party endorsements. Gibson has the Independence Party nomination (24,401 registrants) and the Conservative Party one, with 10,339. And he is every inch the Republican/Conservative, with a bent toward independent action.
Schreibman has the Working Families Party, with 2,108 members district-wide and the Green Party, with 1,546. Working Families will draw organized labor votes, workers and cash, while the Greens will reinforce Schreibman’s environmental base. By those numbers, Gibson is an easy winner among minority-party voters.
While both candidates are currently working the barbecue-parade-county fair circuit, open warfare begins after Labor Day. From what I’ve seen — I’ve known Schreibman for years, and met Gibson only a few times — what we have here is a couple of tigers in the tank.
Gibson comes across as Mr. Nice Guy, but one does not rise from private in the Army to paratrooper battalion commander without brass. Think of “Band of Brothers.” Gibson displayed a hint of that combativeness when he pointedly slammed Schreibman’s “low turnout” on primary night.
Schreibman, in this his first campaign, is tougher than he looks, though he needs to work on basics like a warm handshake. His primary campaign gave us a better sense of the man, but his efforts to define Gibson as a Tea-Party rubberstamp sounded more like a Beltway one-slur-fits-all strategy than one tailored to the specific needs of this congressional district.
Where retiring Congressman Hinchey fits in as this campaign goes forward, if at all, remains to be seen. Hinchey’s primary-night declarations of what Schreibman believes in (in the congressman’s opinion) was Hinchey’s campaign platform for the last 10 elections. Schreibman needs to be exceedingly careful in how he manages the Hinchey element or risk the appearance of an echo.
If the election were held this month, Gibson has to be favored. But we have miles to go.
Gentlemen, start your engines. Joel Tyner, come back in 10 years and try it again.
God bless Saugerties. At a time where people are paying big bucks in homage to their retiring congressman, Friendly Saugerties is putting on a farewell blast for their hometown boy. Free. Nada. Come on down, free hotdogs, burgers, refreshments. The big party is scheduled for July 29 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Cantine Field.
The occasion will remind Hinchey old-timers of the early campaigns for state Assembly, where the skinny upstart from Saugerties charged five bucks for beer and hot dogs. They didn’t raise much money, but it generated a movement. It is altogether fitting that Hinchey’s near 40-year career is winding down in similar fashion to where it all started.