Candidate debates, as they’re commonly called, usually only decide an election when one of the candidates does something memorably stupid. But it’s good to see candidates in action, to watch how they perform under pressure, to note their mastery of factual detail. Lieutenant governor candidate Tim Wu, for instance, caught grief at a recent event for not knowing some of the minutiae of upstate New York.
In Ulster County, the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce has scheduled three candidate forums.
State Senate candidate Cecilia Tkaczyk will face arch-rival George Amedore on Sept. 23 at 7:45 a.m. at the chamber’s monthly breakfast at the Garden Lounge Restaurant in Kingston. Democrat Tkaczyk and Republican Amedore, you will remember, battled to an 18-vote recount finale, won by Tkaczyk two years ago.
The two seem to have developed a genuine dislike for each other. This is good for those who, like journalists, appreciate sparks. Amedore, the more emotional of the pair, is obviously stewing over blowing an election he should have won, being after all a three-term assemblyman running against an unknown goat farmer. The senator, though gracious almost to a fault, is nonetheless firm in her beliefs and not one to push around. Projection is for parallel monologues with few votes switching.
The showcase debate could well be Congressman Chris Gibson, 50, against millionaire challenger Sean Eldridge, 28, at the Miller School in Ulster at 7 p.m. on Oct. 6. Eldridge seems to have all the money in the world — already we’re being bombarded with slick flyers. Can he stand up to the (literally) battle-tested retired army officer now seeking his third term in office?
I’ll give the edge to Gibson, but the benefit of the doubt to Eldridge.
In what some are terming a ghost campaign, nine-term Assemblyman Kevin Cahill will face Republican opponent Kevin Roberts in debate at the Oct. 23 Chamber breakfast at the Garden Lounge.
Roberts, a backbench county legislator who rarely speaks at session, is an unknown quantity. As he probably appreciates by now, running in an Assembly district with 125,000 residents is far different than campaigning among 8,000 friends and neighbors in a county legislative district. Cahill has been around the district almost since Thomas Chambers and needs no introduction though, unlike Roberts, he will bring some baggage to the podium.
This could be the only chance Roberts gets to demonstrate he’s up to the job. Myriad other factors will determine how this one comes out.
Early reservations are advised for chamber breakfasts, since a minimum of 200 would turn out to watch paint dry.
For those running these events, I would offer the following unsolicited advice, sure to be ignored. Devote more time to questions and answers, as opposed to canned presentations, and keep the candidates on point. Few things are more annoying to an audience than to have a question directed at a candidate who responds with something like, “I’d like to follow up on the last question” and then (deliberately) ducks the one being asked. Also, I’d like to see audience participation encouraged, rather than repressed. Booing and hissing, and cheering and stomping add the kind of color we rarely see at staid candidate forums.
Though I don’t intend to take sides on the Dan Torres–Kevin Roberts (alleged) forgery controversy, I do think the accused may be in denial.
On or about August 17, New Paltz Councilman Torres, a Kevin Cahill aide, accused the Roberts campaign of the felony of forging of his signature on a nominating petition for the Stop Common Core Party.
I wasn’t able to reach Roberts for comment before our deadline, so I sent him a copy of the article. Roberts got back to me and said he would take “full responsibility” if the allegations were proven. He said the staff members who collected the signatures that August weekend denied forging any of them.
“Do you think Torres doesn’t recognize his own signature?” I asked him.
To which Roberts allowed that the paid staffers who collected the signatures, whom he referred to as “girls,” were “relatively young” and “politically naïve.”
One need not be a babe in the woods to understand that putting somebody else’s name on a legal document is a no-no. But Roberts might get a break from the authorities in pleading youthful ignorance.
On one allegation, that he himself witnessed signatures, Roberts was adamant. “If anyone is accusing me of a crime, they’d better be damned sure,” he said. “I will take strong civil action.” As a matter of election law, anyone who attests to witnessing a signature on a nominating petition that they did not actually witness — signing off at a later date — is guilty of a crime.
The investigation, which will have ramifications, is continuing.