Woodstock resident H. Clark Bell, who served as a Republican in the New York State Assembly for six years (1969-1974, when he was defeated by Maurice Hinchey), is seeking to rejoin the legislature by asking for write-in votes as a Libertarian candidate. His petition to get his name on the ballot was thrown out, he said, due to the efforts of Democratic incumbent Kevin Cahill and Republican challenger Kevin Roberts.
“It’s safe to say our next assemblyman will be named Kevin,” said Bell, who was hoping that being on the ballot would enable him to publicize his views in debates with the other candidates. “I’m angry at the government. It doesn’t get anything done. It has deteriorated in recent years, and I wanted to speak out.”
The 80-year-old Bell, a former trial attorney, said he served as a delegate to the state constitutional convention in 1966 and helped to rewrite the state constitution, which was rejected by voters. “We tried to have the system of constitutional conventions abolished,” he explained. “They’re run by county chairmen. We got nowhere. The legislature is controlled by professional politicians.” Later he served as staff attorney for Nelson Rockefeller.
“New York is the highest-taxed state in the Union,” Bell declared. “I’d like to restrict some of the rules and regulations that make this state non-competitive for jobs for young people. The economy is a big issue. As an all-progressive Rockefeller person, I support abortion and gay rights, all of those issues. In the last part of my career, I ran as a Republican and a Liberal, until the Liberal Party was abolished. Now you’re going back to the 60 s and 70s.” Bell was a vocal supporter of presidential candidate Barack Obama back in 2008, but has since been disillusioned by the president’s performance.
In recent years, Bell has frequently written letters to the editor of Woodstock Times, expressing opinions that drew the attention of the Libertarian party. “They nominated me as their candidate for 103rd Assembly District,” he said. “I’ve been attacked from the left and the right. Cahill and Roberts brought a petition with the Board of Elections in Albany to have me thrown off the ballot for insufficient signatures. They disqualified signatures on my petition. As a legislator, I used to write a lot of election law, and I know that Albany calls the shots. You get a Democratic lawyer and judge to show cause, and they’ll listen and throw you off.”
Kevin Roberts, currently serving as an Ulster County legislator from Plattekill, said Bell had only 275 valid signatures on a petition that required 1500. Roberts was alerted by attorneys from the Albany Republican Assembly Committee, who told him they planned to contest Bell’s petition. “I have nothing personal against him,” said Roberts, who persisted in calling Bell “Mr. Clark” and added, “The effort made on his behalf wasn’t good enough. But our team and Mr. Clark probably share a lot of the same views. I invite him to join our campaign instead of trying to launch a third party.”
Bell pointed out, “I don’t need a job as assemblyman, but I sure would like to have some of the existing politicians exposed for their records. To do that, you need status — you need to get elected.”
As for why he’s running despite having no chance of winning, he said, “If you can develop a base, there’s always another year. You’ve got to read the tea leaves here. I don’t think Cuomo is going to win by any 64 percent like his father did. He’ll be lucky if pulls 52 percent. Then you get a fallout factor. When the head of the ticket sinks, other people on that line also sink.”
Bell contacted all the Libertarian party members in the assembly district and said he received assurances from many of them that they would write him in. On Election Day, he advises voters to go to Column 8 on the ballot, a column shared by the Libertarians and the Stop Common Core Party, and write in his name on the assemblyperson line.