Assemblyman Kevin Cahill staffer and New Paltz Town Councilman Dan Torres returned from a brief trip last month to discover to his dismay that he had “signed” a nominating petition for Cahill Assembly opponent Kevin Roberts.
“At first I thought it was some kind of joke,” Torres told me when I finally caught up with the rumor on Labor Day. The Cahill campaign, which carefully peruses its opponent’s nominating petitions — ask Susan Zimet about that — discovered the red flag. Torres, a former New Paltz Times writer, is calling it forgery, and that’s no joke. In fact, it’s a felony, punishable by being forced to listen to one of Cahill’s speeches.
But seriously. According to Torres — calls to Roberts have not yet been returned — on the weekend of Aug. 16-17 persons circulating petitions on the Stop Common Core Party line canvassed the New Paltz Gardens apartment complex where the councilman and his new wife live. The new party line was created by Rob Astorino, the Republican candidate for governor, in an effort to cash in on widespread opposition to the state’s new Common Core curriculum. Candidates for state legislature can join the cause by circulating petitions with their names and Astorino’s on them.
Canvassers had the names and addresses of registered voters when they knocked on doors that weekend. “I think what they did was list the names of people on petitions who weren’t home,” speculated Torres. “I’m no handwriting expert, but some of the signatures on the petition with my name on it looked similar.”
Torres said he filed a formal complaint with the New Paltz police on Tuesday. As an alleged felony, it will be forwarded to the district attorney for consideration. Traditionally, districts attorney in Ulster County have steered clear of what some have called “political issues.” But a felony charge might require closer scrutiny.
I can’t say what Roberts’ response might be. Perhaps he might apologize for overzealous hired help who obviously didn’t know Dan Torres from the man in the moon.
Torres, sounding perhaps a bit more righteous than this episode might merit, is a rising star in his party. A 24-year-old town board member and a former member of the New Paltz school board, he is now the alleged victim of Republican chicanery. For a young Democrat with a future, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Cahill, having taken the position that he has nothing to do with his campaign or it with him, had no comment other than to say, “This is a criminal matter.”
For Roberts, who already has billboards scattered around the district, this provides an embarrassing start, perhaps worse, to a longshot quest.
There go the judges
In a way, it’s too bad the state legislature didn’t create three new Family Court judgeships for Ulster County last June instead of one. That way, all three uniquely qualified candidates running in the Democratic primary on Tuesday could order black robes and gavels for a January inaugural.
Alas, while John Beisel, Kevin Bryant and Gilda Riccardi have stepped up, only one can step forward. And lacing up her sneakers for that short, hard sprint to the general election is formidable Republican candidate Keri Savona, she with a barrel of money and what appears to be the solid backing of her party.
This may seem obvious, but elections are decided by the people who actually vote. In most primaries, that means between 10 and 15 percent of eligible voters, usually people who have voted in the previous primary. That means the candidates and their supporters contacting party regulars, spouses, friends and relatives, people who pay attention, read the papers, tweet, talk to each other, watch the opposition, and donate to candidates. Among Ulster Democrats, that will be a fairly shallow pool, perhaps 4,000 voters on Tuesday, maybe 4,500, split more or less evenly.
Sixteen hundred votes could be the magic number, or not much more. Sounds easy. It’s not.
There are divisions within divisions. Race (Bryant is African-American), ethnicity (Riccardi is Puerto Rican on her mother’s side) and gender may be factors. Will more women vote for Riccardi? Will Beisel and Bryant split the male vote?
Locality could be a factor. Will Bryant and Beisel split Kingston’s vote, while Riccardi romps in Saugerties?
Beisel is clearly the most qualified based on judicial experience, but Riccardi as court attorney, has been on the front lines. She also has the best lawn signs, but perhaps not enough. Bryant, with decades of practice in lower criminal court, offers a distinctly different profile. For those looking for change or reform, this shapes up as a contest between insiders and outsiders, past and future.
Where are the party’s big hitters? It’s one thing for party leadership to wimp out, but luminaries like Mike Hein, Kevin Cahill, Shayne Gallo and Elliott Auerbach are rarely found on the sidelines. Though judicial races are relatively apolitical, it never hurts to have a friend at court.
Cahill is said to favor Bryant, but is distantly related to Beisel. Native Kingstonians are almost always related by marriage or blood, as many a newcomer has learned to his or her chagrin. Hein, a Democrat, appointed Savona to her present post upon the recommendation of the Social Services commissioner, whom he also appointed. But we’re not talking about the general election yet.
Auerbach walked Bryant around Ellenville’s jam-packed blueberry festival (pun intended) this summer. “He’s a pretty good campaigner,” said Auerbach of his charge. “It’s a lot easier when somebody takes you around,” said the candidate.