Dems welcome Myer, the latest GOP defector

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Pot holes may not, as the old Saugerties political adage goes, be Democrat or Republican, but the office of highway superintendent is. The July 9 Democratic Caucus witnessed the latest chapter in what’s been the most interesting nomination battle of the year, with incumbent Doug Myer once again facing Ray Mayone. Myer lost the GOP nod to Mayone last month. Myer and supporters said the Republicans had attempted to influence Myer’s hiring decisions, and snubbed him when he didn’t comply. Myer said he’d filed the paperwork to leave the GOP, “something I should have done a long time ago.” Democrats have embraced past defectors Greg Helsmoortel, Leeanne Thornton and Fred Costello, who also alluded to attempts by the GOP head honchos to influence their votes, and decided to grant Myer asylum too. He defeated Mayone, who spoke at the caucus as a Republican, 97-64.The biggest long shot of the night of the night was conservative activist Gaetana Ciarlante’s challenge to former six-term supervisor Greg Helsmoortel. Ciarlante, who came very close last month to knocking out incumbent Kelly Myers for the Republican nomination from the right, did not, as Myer had, modify her message for the Democrats. The surprise that flashed across the faces of audience members when her name was put forward was replaced by some measure of admiration by the end of her speech — all would agree Ciarlante had chutzpah. Helsmoortel, all but anointed the nominee six months ago, cruised to the win, 96-25.

Ciarlante, who campaigned heavily for the GOP nod, still has another chance to get on the ballot when the Conservative Party holds its caucus at a future date, yet to be announced.

A third Republican took a shot at grabbing the Democratic line item from a longtime party member. Dan Lamb, who has been town justice for almost 20 years, challenged Democrat Lanny Walter, but came away empty-handed, losing 91 to 72. Walter, an attorney, said he decided to run for town justice, “because nobody owns an elective office.”


In the most hotly contested race of the evening, three candidates sought two Town Board seats; incumbent Bruce Leighton, a registered Independence Party member, and two Democrats, Marjorie Block and Krista Barringer. For this crowd, Leighton and Block were the familiar faces, thanks to Leighton’s incumbency and Block’s omnipresence in town activities as head of tourism and the historical society. They won handily, with 107 and 98 votes, but Barringer, a deputy clerk with the Ulster County Legislature and a former assistant to state Senator John Bonacic, made a strong case for new blood and geographic diversity (she was the only candidate from either party residing in West Saugerties). She garnered 31 votes.

Two registered Republicans who fared better than their fellow party members were Lisa Stanley, who received the nod for town clerk, and Suzi Filak for receiver of taxes. Neither was opposed.

The general election will be held Nov. 5. In addition to town races, all three county Legislature seats are up for election.

(All photos by Will Dendis)