Hugh Reynolds: Elliott Auerbach, you will be opposed

Hugh Reynolds.

Hugh Reynolds.

And then there was Linda McDonough, last-minute volunteer on the Republican ticket for county comptroller for the suddenly departed Jim Quigley. McDonough, 56, of Lake Katrine will face many of the challenges Quigley perceived, but will be without Quigley’s deep pockets and without the gravitas he brought as a reformist town supervisor.

This will be McDonough’s second appearance on stage. She just missed in 2010 after being defeated for the comptroller’s position by Fawn Tantillo at the Republican nominating convention. Tantillo went on to lose to incumbent Democrat Elliott Auerbach by some 5,000 votes.

McDonough said running for comptroller was “not even on my radar” until she heard late last week that Quigley was pulling out. “I thought about it a lot on Thursday [a day before the deadline for a committee on vacancies to name a replacement],” she said, “and then I got in touch with Republicans, Independence and Conservative party leaders and told them I would run.”

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Talk about the Perils of Pauline. Her designating paperwork was filed with the board of elections at 3 p.m. last Friday, just two hours before deadline.

McDonough understands she has a lot of work to do and precious little time with which to do it, but says she’s qualified and energized. “I really think I have a very good chance of winning this race,” she said.

Though she’s not a CPA like Quigley, she says her decades in the accounting business, public and private, equip her to handle the duties the office of comptroller demands. For the record, Auerbach, who ran a hardware store with his father in Ellenville before being elected village mayor, had no formal training in accounting before taking office in January 2009.  Five years of on-the-job training has to count for something.

Though undoubtedly a very long shot, McDonough will offer voters a choice. There will be a discussion of issues, refreshing in these days of brokered nominations and backroom deals. That too counts for something.

Quigley’s motives for quitting bear examination. A week after confirming his candidacy, he suddenly decided he could not go on, for health reasons. Left unsaid was that there were recent deaths in his family that might have given him perspective. He had gained 40 or 50 pounds during a five-year career in the lists, he said, and his blood pressure was going off the charts. “I started to look like a basketball,” he said, thereby giving every fat-ass politician an easy excuse for quitting.

Winning has a way of ameliorating blood pressure, but for Quigley the deck was stacked. And he knew it. Quigley, with that Warbucks bankroll from a successful career in Gotham real-estate investment, does not go into anything without a clear understanding of the odds.

The polls he commissioned last spring indicated incumbent Auerbach might be vulnerable. Surprisingly after almost five years in office, biweekly press releases and endless campaigning, a lack of name recognition seemed his political Achilles heel. Quigley’s campaign would have been that Auerbach growls like a watchdog, but doesn’t bite. A Republican watchdog in a Democratic house would be just what the doctor ordered.

Then came the conventions. Suddenly it didn’t matter. The key was when Democrats endorsed Republicans Nina Postupack for clerk and Family Court Judge Marianne Mizel for reelection. Neither candidate had an announced opponent, but the Dems didn’t have to endorse them. The ever-suspicious Quigley suspected political chicanery. The cozy relationship developing between (“I love everybody!”) Postupack and Auerbach only confirmed his suspicions that the political establishment had ganged up on him. Quigley understood that he would have been entirely on his own on the ballot in November with Democrat, Democrat, Democrat (Auerbach, Postupack, Mizel) across the top followed by Postupack and Mizel and Lonesome Jim on the (next) Republican line.

Now McDonough faces the same situation.

Quigley’s legacy

Then there was that offer he said he couldn’t refuse from the private sector, what with his reputation for making other people big bucks.

There will be consequences. Absent what would have been a hotly contested race at the top of the ticket, voters will be less likely to turn out, giving majority Democrats more of an edge. Republicans will now be harder pressed to retain their 12-11 majority in the county legislature. Close town races could turn.

Quigley will serve out his term as town supervisor in Ulster, which primarily means producing a balanced budget that holds the line on taxes. His legacy, he hopes, will be that he came into office four years ago with a million-dollar deficit and God willing will leave with a six-figure surplus.

Given his fiscal wizardry and organizational acumen, this guy really sounded like a comptroller. Some Republican leaders in the town had hoped that Quigley, after abandoning his quest for comptroller, might agree to another two years at town hall. But that wasn’t in the cards.

He’s 57. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Jim Quigley. Assuming he can pad his probably comfortable retirement plan with a few more lucrative years in the private sector and that he reduces that Spalding behind his belt to perhaps only the size of a soccer ball, he could be back in three or four years.

Town Republican Chairman Jim Maloney says he’s not interested in the top spot “yet,” but that he has several prospects. Democrats, something of an endangered species in Ulster, may see an opening on the all-Republican town board. Maybe former supervisor Nick Woerner, a Democrat now seeking nomination for alderman in the Kingston, will move back to the town. Deadline for nominating caucuses is Sept. 17.

Mountain music

There hasn’t been a real good Democratic contest in Olive since young Berndt (Bert) Leifeld took his party nomination for town board 38 years ago. Or was it 35?

“Either way, it was too long,” said the soon-to-be ex-supervisor, 75, who served 10 terms in the top spot.

A legend in the town, Leifeld, certainly one of the longest serving supervisors in county history, was given a rousing sendoff by Olive Democrats last week at caucus, if not an awful lot of respect. Every candidate Leifeld endorsed was steamrolled by town clerk Sylvia Rozzelle, the party’s choice to succeed the incumbent.

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For openers, Rozzelle, town clerk for 31 years, crushed Councilman Bruce LaMonda, himself a town official with two decades of service. Leifeld said he wasn’t surprised by the 145-56 vote. “There’s an old saying in town politics that you never run against the town clerk. They deal with people every day,” he said.

Rozzelle, who may come to be known as Queen Sylvia of the Mountains, was gracious in victory. “We’re all friends and neighbors here,” she said. “I didn’t have a problem with Bert nominating Bruce. They’re friends, too.”

The queen, an amiable woman of sturdy stock whose hugs rival those of bears in the nearby woods, did take mild umbrage over reports that at 63 she’s some kind of computer illiterate. “We wouldn’t have been nominated for those state awards for record management [in the clerk’s office] if we didn’t use computers,” she said. “We rely heavily on computers.”

She said she bought a home computer only a year ago, “because I didn’t have time for that.”

Perhaps her grassroots campaign for the nomination gave a mistaken impression. “I didn’t send a single e-mail asking for support,” she said. “I find that kind of impersonal. I did it the old-fashioned way, door to door, phone calls, talking to people, eye-to-eye contact. I wrote 78 personal note cards.” She doesn’t use Facebook, either. “Haven’t got the time,” she said, what with tending to her five-acre farm and 91-year-old father. Rozzelle was widowed 20 years ago.