Hugh Reynolds: Calling Mister Roberts

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Kevin Roberts, seen here in a photo from his contracting business’ website,

How will a virtually unknown Republican county legislator fare against nine-term incumbent Assemblyman Kevin Cahill in the November elections, if Cahill first defeats New Paltz Town Supervisor Susan Zimet in the Sept. 9 Democratic primary? GOP nominee Kevin Roberts would be faced with quickly establishing name recognition outside his Plattekill district and then challenging a battle-tested incumbent in a solidly Democratic Assembly district.

Cahill will not be sitting on the curb watching this parade go by. Having sprinkled millions of dollars of what used to be called pork around the district, Cahill will pound the public purse with impunity.


Going for Roberts, or any Cahill opponent, is the perception, pervasive in county government circles, that perhaps the incumbent has been around too long and grown too big for his britches. Offsetting that, I think to a decisive degree, is the prospect of trading in a senior majority party member with the keys to the vault for a back-bench freshman in a downtrodden and perpetual minority.

For evidence of how that might work, I give readers two words: John Guerin. The most recent credible candidate to make a serious challenge since Guerin beat Cahill in 1994 was Peter Rooney in 2010. Remember the cowboy with the “sign-the-truck” campaign and the (legal) fireworks stash that blew up near his Ulster Park home? Cahill claims Boom-Boom Rooney spent upwards of $400,000 of his own money on that campaign and covered his brand new Ford F150 with signatures. (Rooney said it was closer to $125,000). He still didn’t get within 5,000 votes of the crafty Cahill four years ago.

I’m not saying Roberts’ cause is hopeless, only that it will be difficult. I admire him for stepping up.

Sheriff on high

It came as no shock when the county Republicans nominated Democrat Paul VanBlarcum for a third term at their convention last week. Apparently, they could find no politically motivated sergeants lurking in the bowels of the sheriff’s department.

Lifelong Democrat VanBlarcum, looking slightly uncomfortable at a GOP convention, nonetheless left them laughing.

After being nominated by party Vice Chairman Kevin Costello of Rosendale, whom he trounced in 2006 to win his first term, VanBlarcum, in that aw-shucks country-boy (Shandaken) way of his, said he didn’t make much distinction between the Republican and Democratic parties. As hackles rose among some stalwarts, the Goober quickly added, to loud laughs, “As a matter of fact, my favorite is the Marijuana Reform Party.”

He was kidding, of course. By the way, the sheriff is a leader in local law enforcement’s attempt to get a grip on the rising heroin epidemic.

Being cross-endorsed doesn’t mean the sheriff will take a pass on Campaign ’14. Lurking in the background is a not-very-well disguised plot by the county executive to sharply downsize or eliminate the sheriff’s road patrol. The sheriff needs solid returns in November from both parties to keep those cars on the road. The latest incident of possible deputy misbehavior — other than a recent rash of cracked-up prowl cars — did not bolster the sheriff’s cause.

Since no one mentioned it at convention, I chased the nominee to the lobby as he was leaving. Was he prepared to identify the mystery deputy who shot up a potentially dangerous 21-year-old motorist he had chased down in Hurley last month?

“Not at this time,” the sheriff replied brusquely, begging off for an awards banquet where he was guest speaker.

Trying an old ploy, I pleaded, “But just about everyone knows who it is by now.”

“If everybody thinks they know who it is, let ’em print it,” he said. “It’s not coming from me.”

The case is being handled by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, which to date has steadfastly refused to identify the deputy.

George II

State Senate candidate George Amedore seemed more subdued and less cocksure the second time around. Losing can do that. Two years ago Amedore, a Republican assemblyman from Rotterdam in Montgomery County, marched in with the nomination in his pocket, courtesy of Majority Leader Dean Skelos and the power brokers who reapportioned Albany’s upper house.

Amedore foolishly frittered away an early lead by all but ignoring Ulster County, a third of the district. Political unknown Cecilia Tkaczyk of Duanesburg (north of Albany) caught him at the wire by just 18 votes. She carried Ulster by over 8,000.