While Democrats nationally hunkered down for a rough slog on Election Night, Rosendale Democrats had reason to celebrate: For the first time in a long while, they managed to recapture a majority on the Town Board. Their candidate John Hughes defeated Republican/Conservative/Independence Party nominee Breanna Liggan by a 53-to-46-percent margin, garnering 1,126 votes to Liggan’s 989.
From the upbeat-but-anxious mood at Market Market where the Dems were gathered to await the election results, it was clear that party activists weren’t expecting to win in a cakewalk. Their opponent, the daughter of longtime Planning Board chair and Rosendale Street Festival organizer Billy Liggan, has been widely known around town since she was a baby, while Hughes is a relative latecomer by small-town standards, having moved to Ulster County in his 20s.
Something in Hughes’s campaign message must have struck a chord with Rosendale voters, though. The palpable tension in the room erupted into a roar of mixed jubilation and relief about 45 minutes after the polls closed, as Rosendale Democratic Committee chair John Schwartz burst through the door after monitoring the vote tally at the Recreation Center to announce that Hughes had prevailed: “We won! We won!”
Urged to deliver a victory speech, Hughes said that he had not prepared one, but started off with a joke worthy of a member of an award-winning kid-rock band, Dog on Fleas: “This fulfills my dream, which is to further my cause to turn Rosendale into a magical fairyland.” After the cheers and laughter died down, he adopted a more serious tone. “Humbly accepting your wishes and joining the Town Board along with Jen [Metzger] and Chris [Pryslopski] and the other progressives in the government, we can start to have a more sensible town government.”
Hughes deflected praise onto the Democratic Committee and his campaign subcommittee, saying, “I was an okay candidate, but the team was a fantastic team!” and thanking members individually. “Rosendale has an actual opportunity in our hands to become a model town, a town for the future, like we talk about sustainability and transition towns,” he added, describing his vision going forward. “There’s enough of a concentration of really creative people here to actually become a town that’ll make really great choices that are fun to do.”
“I’m happier today than I was when I won,” said Jen Metzger, who was elected to the Town Board one year ago. “For those of you who come to Town Board meetings, you know it’s been very difficult, because Chris [Pryslopski] and I really do face a wall. We try to get changes on the edges, but this is like a dream come true…There are just things that we have so wanted, and they have not been within reach because there’s been no incentive to compromise on the board. This is such a great day for Rosendale…It starts at the local level, at the community level…We model it here, and it spreads and spreads.”
“The Town of Rosendale, year after year, has a substantial voter turnout, and we’re getting to be known as a place where our citizens really show up. No matter who wins, that’s a win for our community,” said Kelleigh McKenzie, a member of Rosendale’s Zoning Board of Appeals. “People here really understand that their vote makes a difference. And they don’t just vote; they get involved — on both sides.”
Asked what strengths Hughes would bring to the Town Board, McKenzie said, “He has a really genuine appreciation of all people and an openness to a variety of perspectives. And his heart is in the right place. He really wants things to work for everybody, and I think that’s exactly what our town needs.”