In September, when he thought his opponent had bested him in the Independence Party primary, county legislator Bob Aiello promised “November would be different.” Unfortunately for him, he was right.
A week later after the absentee ballots were counted, Aiello had won. This time, challenger Chris Allen leads 1,226-951, a margin of 275. With only 174 absentee ballots having been distributed (114 were returned as of Monday), it’s all over.
The result has ramifications beyond Saugerties: It is the final seat needed to return the County Legislature to Democratic control. The party controlled the legislature from 2006-09 after decades of Republican dominance.
The result surprised many, but not Allen, who has been predicting victory for months. “I knew from day one,” he said. “There were only four people who believed me: Mike Hein, Elisa Ball, and two other [Saugerties] Republicans who will go unnamed. Everyone else classified me as a long-shot.”
How’d he do it? The consensus is hard work. Allen canvassed District II intensely.
“I have never seen a candidate work harder,” said Democratic Chair Mike Harkavy. “It was phenomenal the way he worked and he was everywhere. He knocked on every door and it paid off for him.”
Aiello was surprised at the result.
“I’m not upset,” he said. “I’m looking at the numbers and it doesn’t make sense.”
Aiello said possible fatigue with a long-term incumbent and Allen’s constant campaigning could have played a part. He said he heard from many supporters in the district that Allen had visited their homes two or three times, continuing to solicit their votes despite their avowed support for Aiello.
But he feels the major factor wasn’t his opponent, but lack of support from his party.
“I’m looking at it this way, from this perspective: This wasn’t really a victory for Chris Allen,” he said. “This was a victory for certain segments of the Republican leadership.”
Aiello said that he received no money from the party for advertisements or signs, unlike other candidates, and wasn’t informed of events like the Col. Donlon Town Hall dedication.
If he’d had the money for the campaign, he could have spread the word about the work he’s done on the legislature, particularly regarding economic development and Lyme disease. Without it, the (relatively) young challenger was able to portray him as disengaged, citing attendance records from several years ago when he was battling cancer. (He has since had good attendance.)
Aiello admitted it “doesn’t make sense” for the local GOP to want him to lose, but theorized it was based on his maverick ways. “It’s been that way with me for years,” he said. “I’ve been an independent thinking guy.”
Though some races are still too close to call, the key role Allen played in tipping the balance should yield the freshman legislator some influence in the new legislature. “Being the guy that made everything happen it puts me in a good position to help out the constituents of Saugerties,” he said.