Hugh Reynolds: Indepen-dance party

Len Bernardo. (Photo by Dan Barton)

Len Bernardo. (Photo by Dan Barton)

Ulster County Independence Party Chairman Len Bernardo, relatively quiet this campaign season, was nonetheless crowing this week about winning eight of nine opportunity-to-ballot (OTB) contests, where “outsiders” challenged party-designated Independence candidates.

Here, some perspective is in order. Under the OTB system, only the nominated candidate’s name appears on the ballot. All other names have to be written in, and that’s a tall order.

The flip side of that coin is that nine of Bernardo’s hand-picked candidates — out of more than 30 — were challenged. It would appear that the major parties are growing weary of this kitchen-cabinet brand of time-consuming political opportunism.


County GOP Chairman Roger Rascoe held a press conference in Kingston on Monday to bemoan yet another attention-sucking Independence Party flap. He accused Wawarsing highway superintendent candidate Len Distel, a Democrat, of petition irregularities in last month’s primary. The district attorney, quite properly, kicked this can up the road to Albany, where it will die somewhere in the state attorney general’s circular file.

If these are the kinds of issues occupying Roscoe’s attention a month before the election, his party is in worse shape that previously surmised.

Kingston Republican legislative candidate John Quigley is feeling bullish after winning the Independence Party nomination from Democrat Dave Donaldson last week. Quigley prevailed 17-16 when absentee ballots were opened in state Supreme Court. Oddly enough, the last ballot opened, with Quigley clinging to a one-vote lead, had both Quigley’s and Donaldson’s names on it. It was ruled invalid.

Quigley believes the Independence line could be worth several hundred votes in the general election. “I think it means 300 or 400 votes in November and I think that makes me viable,” Quigley said of the extra line. (For the record, 147 votes were cast on the Independence line in 2011 in that legislative district.)

Quigley will also appear as a Conservative. Donaldson, a nine-term incumbent, will carry the Working Families banner, which pulled almost twice as many votes as the Indies two years ago.

Elsewhere, Democrats Lynn Johnson and Jeremy Blaber tied 6-6 for the Independence nomination in Kingston’s Ninth Ward. Republican candidate Deb Brown got four.

Bernardo said his committee will now take a pass. “We didn’t endorse anybody in the primary. We’re just going to leave this one alone,” he said. Advantage Johnson. Blaber, who seems to have disappeared after losing the Democratic primary to Johnson, had no hope of beating anybody as the Independence candidate. Brown, with the Independence nomination, might have better attracted independent or Democratic voters in the heavily Democratic ward, votes she badly needs to win.

Stick to the story

Having covered 14 installments of Kingston’s Hidden Treasures lectures, where well-researched presenters made a serious effort to get the history right, I found it disconcerting to see promoters of the bi-annual burning of Kingston taking great liberties with the known truth. I know it’s all in fun, but really, children are watching.

For instance, they staged a photo of a patriot crossing swords with a British invader on the shores of the Rondout Creek. Good stuff for the papers, but detailed accounts of the 1777 British invasion — primarily Col. George Pratt’s 1860 history — indicate not a shot was fired on either side in an unopposed operation that lasted only about two hours. In fact, the state capital at that critical time was almost entirely undefended. Residents, perhaps sensing that discretion really was the better part of valor, fled as the British approached.

At the rate history is being twisted, the next installment may feature the British being thrown back into the creek by battalions of well-armed patriots lead by Gen. Mike Hein on a white horse. This ain’t the Woodstock Film Festival, folks.

Some humor is attached to these events. It’s appreciated.

This year, a British “military court” summoned Mayor Shayne Gallo to mock trial at the former Schneller Gardens on Crown Street, where 236 years ago British troops had burned every building in sight. As Gallo explained while attending the annual “burning” ball at City Hall Saturday night, “Someone [among dozens of spectators] yelled out that I should be thrown in the [Washington Avenue] sinkhole as punishment. I’d agree if they’d throw in [arch-critic] Tom Hoffay with me. That should stop it up.”

Life isn’t easy for the mayor these days. He arrived at the city hall Saturday night to discover one of the “British” re-enactors had taken his clearly marked mayoral parking space. At least they didn’t torch his car.

So long, J.J.

Ulster County government budget director J.J. Hanson quietly retired last Friday, headed to parts unknown “out of state” in the private sector. But his farewell address, delivered by executive press release for publication on the slowest news day of the week (Saturday), sure sounded a lot like County Executive Mike Hein talking about himself. In the release, Hanson, who was not available to media, called Hein “one of the few bright and shining stars in New York government, a true innovator and an incredible leader.” For those who study Hein-speak like I do, the dead giveaway was the word “incredible.” Back in the day some four years ago when Hein and I were actually speaking to each other, I suggested the newly-minted executive guard against typecasting himself with self-serving repetition. I think he said something like, “That was incredibly good advice.”