I’ll confess that New Paltz Town Supervisor Susan Zimet, who declared her candidacy for state Assembly against Kevin Cahill on Tuesday morning, baffles me. I can live with her machine-gun delivery, her tendency to complicate the simplest of things, the fact that when you ask her the time she’ll tell you how to make a watch. But it’s just hard sometimes to follow her logic.
For several months now, the buzz was that Zimet, who once aspired to the state Senate, would challenge nine-term incumbent Cahill in a Democratic primary.
On Monday, she put out a teaser press release that “an important announcement” would be forthcoming on Tuesday. Hoping at least for a heads-up, I asked Zimet at the Kingston mayor’s message on Monday night what she planned to announce some 15 hours later.
“It’s a surprise,” she responded, smiling.
“Surprise?” I said. “Let’s see if I can work through this. Everybody says you’re running for Assembly, so if it’s a surprise you must not be running. Right?”
She smiled an enigmatic smile. “It’s a surprise,’ she repeated.
So I was surprised, though hardly shocked, after reading an e-mail shortly after 8:15 a.m. the next day that Susan was in fact running. “It’s time for a change,” she said without mentioning the Democratic incumbent, Cahill.
Zimet may be surprised when Cahill, who treated her announcement as if it were a fly on his corned beef and cabbage, proves no pushover.
Riding a one-trick pony, the “Cahill sales-tax crisis,” won’t cut it. Cahill is already preparing to utilize the kind of baffling Cahillian logic he mastered years ago. He has some serious ‘splaining ahead, as even Democratic stalwarts are looking askance at the sales-tax maneuver he pulled off last June.
She’ll need to put together a campaign team fairly quickly if she hasn’t already. And it will have to be broad-based, meaning something more than her husband Steve Auerbach on the letterhead.
Zimet can depend on Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo and Ulster County Executive Mike Hein lampooning the incumbent. Whether the county exec will lend more than lip service to Zimet’s campaign — meaning a serious cash infusion, or at least the loan of a contributors’ list — remains to be seen.
The first test of Zimet’s strength will come at the unofficial Democratic county convention at the end of May. Cahill has been on a first-name basis with delegates for years. The loser will take his or her campaign “to the people.”
Unless the state Senate comes around to an Assembly-approved June 24 primary, state primaries will be held in early August. That will provide plenty of time for both sides to rally their bases. Turnout, I predict, will be abysmal. Advantage: Cahill.
Recall that Zimet announced for county executive against Hein in the spring of 2011, only to withdraw without explanation a few weeks later. I’m still baffled about that one.
At best, Zimet will ride a wave of anti-incumbent revulsion against Albany corruption to narrow victory. At worse, she won’t even beat this guy in her home town.
History was made at Kingston’s City Hall Monday night. Shayne Gallo’s third annual mayor’s message, delivered about three months late, ran on and on and on to a record-setting hour and 40 minutes. (An hour is considered an endurance test at these kinds of snooze fests.)
“It was a little long, wasn’t it?” Hizzoner said with a smile as an enthusiastic crowd of about 150 well-wishers, “stakeholders” and public officials rubbing their aching butts.
As usual, the mayor’s mother Nancy put things in perspective. “We could have used some cushions,” she grumbled, “but it was worth it.”
Gallo, approaching his 29th month in office, spoke from a pile of looseleaf notes. “I was up until 4 a.m. putting this together,” he said. He displayed intimate knowledge of virtually every aspect of city government and the community that supports it.
He repeatedly gave every indication of wanting to be around not just for an hour and 40 minutes, nor for just another 22 months, but for a long time. Having previously announced for a second term in 2015, Gallo spoke of projects reaching fruition in “five or six years,” presumably under his guidance.
Gallo the public speaker comes across quite differently than as he is perceived by critics, members of the Common Council and some media. The image of Gallo, at least on this occasion, was of a public official in charge, on top of things, a leader open to new ideas, conciliatory, receptive. That may have appeared a paradox in some quarters. “It is my job to hold a mirror up to the community, to determine collectively, what you want done to make this a model city,” he said.
Under the now-distant federal war on poverty, the phrase “model city” used to be a derogatory term, referring to godforsaken places where crime, poverty and hoplessness prevailed. Think of Newburgh. Under Gallo, the model city of Kingston becomes a place to emulate, a progressive town on the move, serving its citizens and attracting new residents and businesses. Kingston’s long, slow decline from over 29,000 residents in 1960 to about 23,000 now has been reversed, he told his audience. Happy times are here again, or soon will be.
Gallo talked of forming partnerships with the school district, the county, the federal government, business organizations, clergy, senior citizens and youth groups.
One partner he seems not to want and apparently doesn’t need is Assemblyman Cahill, whom Gallo went out of his way to repeatedly bash for the so-called “Cahill sales-tax crisis.”
Prior to Gallo’s address, Council Majority Leader Matt Dunn, a frequent target of mayoral ire, dismissed Gallo’s efforts as a press conference. I think Dunn was dead wrong on that account. This was a campaign speech, and well delivered.
Gallo’s lawyer-son Evan works for Cahill as a legislative aide, at about $50,000 a year. Imagine the conversations around the Gallo family dinner table.