The Town of Ulster’s Republican caucus last week saw Supervisor James E. Quigley, III, move one step closer to keeping his seat for a third two-year term. Republicans also chose first-time candidate Andrew Stavropoulos and incumbent Councilman John Morrow to fill out the party slate in November. Both town GOPers and Democrats passed on re-nominating incumbent Cris Hendrick, a registered Conservative who ran on the Republican and Conservative lines back in 2009.
Meanwhile, town Democrats on Monday night also endorsed Quigley. “It wasn’t unanimous, but it was certainly a majority,” said party caucus chairman Mark Trott of the approximately 65 Democrats who attended the nominating meeting at Russell Brott senior center on Monday night.
Quigley, who defeated Democrat incumbent Nick Woerner four years ago, ran without opposition in 2011. He announced earlier this year that he would not seek a third term, but changed his mind. Woerner, who lost a Democratic primary for alderman in Kingston’s Fourth Ward, did not attend the caucus.
Democrats also put forth former councilman Rocco Secreto and newcomer Justin Meyer for the two town council seats on the ballot in November. Secreto tallied 30 votes, Meyer 27 and Hendricks 7.
Democratic stalwart Brian Cahill, a former county legislator, said his party’s caucus was the largest turnout in years, “even with 10 Republicans here.”
“We need to stand behind the man who will have two very challenging years,” said former legislator Mike Berardi in nominating Quigley at the Democratic caucus.
At the GOP caucus, Stavropoulos earned 98 votes from the 125 caucus attendees, while Morrow picked up 82. Robert Crane, a former councilman, received 31 votes. Hendrick earned just 20.
Hendrick, who chairs the town’s Conservative Party, will be on the Conservative line in November. Quigley said he wasn’t surprised to see she didn’t fare as well with Republicans as she did four years ago.
“No, I was not surprised to see that there was an active competition for the two seats,” Quigley said. “It was the Republican caucus and Ms. Hendrick was a registered Conservative. So, in the instance where you have interested Republicans, it has been the history of the Republican membership in the town to support Republicans. And that is actually what happened at the Democratic caucus, where she finished third in a field of three.”
No ‘minion thinking’
But Hendrick said she thought it was less about party lines than it was what she represents on the town board.
“It’s not a party line thing, it’s more about me and the rest of the board and our differences,” she said. “I believe in progress, and they basically want someone that’s going to come in and say, ‘Aye,’ and not do anything. And I don’t always say ‘Aye.’ I try to really get involved, and that’s not what they want. And since I haven’t really fallen in line with that kind of thinking, what I call ‘minion thinking,’ I’ve fallen out of grace with my supervisor and basically the rest of the board.”
Hendrick added that she received pressure from the Republicans to toe the line in endorsing candidates as Conservative party chair.
“They were trying to blackmail me into blindly endorsing new candidates for this election and they’ll guarantee my seat,” she said. “And I said no. I will not do that. I have a party, and I have people who have a right to their vote. Because I wasn’t willing to sell out my party, and because I’m not willing to turn up and say ‘Aye’ at a meeting, I knew they had the hatchet out for me.”
Quigley cited a number of financial issues facing the town, including an increase in Safety Net welfare program costs. (The county is phasing in a three-year takeover of Safety Net costs, assuming one-third of the bill in 2013, two-thirds in 2014 and the whole thing in 2015.) New developments like the in-progress work on Bread Alone and Mid-Hudson Medical Group facilities are vital to the town’s fiscal future, he added. But Hendrick said she believed civic beautification projects, like the successful planting of 24 trees as an Arbor Day project, are an important piece of the puzzle, not just for business, but also the people who work for them.
“We need to enhance our town on all levels,” Hendrick said. “One of the things they were not happy with is that I think we need to enhance our parks, and we can do that by fundraisers. That’s the kind of thing that’s going to bring in business, where people can see that it’s a nice town. It’s not just the business, but also for the employees as well, and they want a nice community. If the community offers a building it’s not going to bring companies here.”
Hendrick added that, inspired by other local communities, she’s tried to broach the subject of a festival that would bring all the different corners of the town together. She said her ideas fell on deaf ears.
“We need to put our town on the map,” Hendrick said. “You look at Saugerties, and the reason Saugerties is as successful as it is isn’t just because of business, but because of what they’ve done in the community. I tried to do a festival in our town and they wouldn’t let me do it.”
Quigley said that Hendrick’s efforts have been misplaced given the issues with which the town currently contends.
“The town is faced with serious financial problems caused by Safety Net expenses; decreasing real estate tax assessments, which impact our revenue; and labor contracts that unfairly burden the town,” he said. “In four years, Ms. Hendrick has focused on planting trees and taking care of the dogs. She is totally out of touch with the seriousness of the problems facing the Town of Ulster.”
Wise in the mix?
The Conservative caucus, held before Quigley’s decision a week ago to run for office again, led to the endorsement of Don Wise as supervisor. Whether Wise remains on the ballot in November is uncertain.
“We had a conversation and I’d asked him to go to the Board of Elections to file a declination,” Quigley said. “At the present time, I am not clear that he has done that.”
On Wednesday, just before the Kingston Times went to press, the Ulster County Board of Elections claimed that they had not yet received a declination notice from Wise, but that he had until Friday, Sept. 20 to file one.
As for Hendrick, she said she is still hoping to win in November, though she’s not overly optimistic about her chances.
“People come and they vote their line, and that’s pretty much it,” she said. “I hope people will come out and vote for me. But I’d like to see progress, so if someone else can come in and make progress in a positive way I would support that. I care more about the town than about my seat.”
Hugh Reynolds contributed to this report.
Slideshow image: Voters line up at the Town of Ulster Democratic caucus Monday, Sept. 16. (Photo: Phyllis McCabe)