It seemed as though all the elements were in place, Cahill as villain, Roberts as accuser. Cahill set the stage last year, said his detractors, by holding up sales-tax extension for two months, thus, again according to detractors, chief among them county executive Mike Hein, costing the county some $5.2 million in revenue. When Cahill made his willingness to move sales-tax legislation through the state legislature, a transfer of almost $5 million a year, conditional on county safety-net takeover and elections expenses from the towns, his critics accused him of hubris, just short of abuse of office.
Roberts, for his part, was after almost five years in the county legislature pretty much a blank slate. Having made few enemies, he carried only light baggage. He is by any fair definition a pro-Hein Republican, potentially a useful proxy in Hein’s war against the evil Cahill.
Would this Assembly contest be a referendum on the so-called Hein-Cahill sales-tax crisis? Some, among them numerous Democrats, thought Cahill had seriously wounded himself in the process, and that Hein had enhanced his chances for running without opposition in 2015.
It was not to be. With the under-funded Roberts mounting only token opposition, all that speculation went out the window. It would appear that reports of Cahill’s political demise were premature.
Cahill’s demolition of challenger Sue Zimet at party convention in June demonstrated his strength among main-line Democrats. Zimet was then challenged off of the primary ballot and has now turned her attention to mold at the town offices in New Paltz, dog parks and out-of-town developers hosing taxpayers on a student housing project. Otherwise she might still be creating anti-Cahill headlines.
Behind the scenes, Cahill’s foes must have been frustrated as the assemblyman sailed merrily along, campaign coffers brimming with cash, his campaign augmented by pots of state gold to distribute where it would do him the most good. Penniless Roberts thought himself fortunate to approach six figures in campaign support, said to be the absolute minimum for a credible run for state legislature.
Last week Cahill wowed Woodstockers with a $250,000 state grant toward renovation of the town Community Center. At the same time, Roberts, in contrast, might have been munching on a two-fifty hotdog somewhere in hometown Modena.
Roberts who at least made the obligatory picnics and chicken dinners, will lose. Should he achieve a 40 percent high tide, he can at least claim a moral victory.
Cahill, a politician to his bones, will be back to Job One, figuring out some way to oust his arch-enemy from office. He says he’s been trolling for prospects, but so far, no bites. In truth, Hein, who campaigns tirelessly, will be as formidable for reelection as was Cahill.
I cannot depart this subject without throwing a bone — more of a chicken wing, really — to a former antagonist much mellowed with age.
We last saw former Republican assemblyman H. Clark Bell (1969-74) of Woodstock as an unlikely advocate of Barack Obama in 2008. Alas, that romance between diehard conservative and liberal did not last.