Shortly after dusk on Election Day in 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as was his custom, greeted neighbors and friends from the balcony of his Hyde Park home. “As you know,” he said, “I don’t make predictions about elections. But this I can predict with certainty: The next president of the United States will be from Dutchess County.” FDR’s Republican opponent, New York Gov. Tom Dewey, was a resident of Pawling, in Dutchess’ southeast corner.
Not being nearly as clairvoyant as the 32nd president, I will predict only that next year’s local elections will produce almost all the same candidates as 2013. Almost the same results will ensue. Only about half the registered voters will show up at the polls.
What follows is a close reading of the tea leaves, chicken gizzards and buzzard bones. There’s also some serious guessing involved. Be warned. Not every prediction is entirely serious.
A matter of mood
Local Republicans are upbeat after taking back the state Senate and electing a judge in this heavily Democratic local judicial district. Lisa Fisher campaigned hard but benefited mightily from sharp divisions among Capital District Democrats.
On the state level, I am judging that Andrew Cuomo may be the most unpopular second-term governor in recent history. Cuomo lost a million votes off his 2010 plurality, capturing barely 53 percent of the vote against a weak, underfunded opponent. If the legislature views Cuomo as weak or ineffectual, there could be gridlock in Albany.
District Attorney Holley Carnright and County Executive Mike Hein will seek third terms. Neither, at this point, has an announced opponent, which in terms of fundraising — contested countywide races start at about $100,000 — is getting to be late in the game. Hein will enter the fray with at least $150,000 in the bank, Carnright with a smile and a warm handshake.
Republican Carnright and Democrat Hein will run on their respective records, while tweaking leftward. Carnright will not forsake his strict law-and-order stance, which most upstaters expect from district attorneys in any case, but will need to show empathy toward those concerned with perceived police excess. Hein runs as a Democrat but governs as a Republican. If he is to secure the Democratic nomination, tantamount to re-election, he’ll need to massage his party’s base — this Monday’s event heaping accolades upon Cuomo for the fracking ban looking like a good start. An early endorsement from the man-the-barricades Working Families Party would do wonders for the exec’s image.
There is also the distinct possibility in this amoral horse-trading business called politics that neither of these well-established incumbents will face a serious challenger either in a primary or in the general election. Hein ran without opposition in 2011.
Response to mid-winter fundraisers, designed by incumbents to scare off all but the most determined or well-heeled, should be an indicator of relative popularity.
Note: I erred in a recent column in locating Hein’s most recent fundraiser at Diamond Mills in Saugerties. Right town, wrong place. It was at the Lazy Swan.
The county legislature is currently 13-10 Democratic, owing to a couple of upsets in 2011. In Rochester, Democrat Lynn Archer surprised legislative chairman Terry Bernardo, while in Saugerties, Democrat Chris Allen outworked incumbent Republican Bob Aiello.
Legislators tend to be most vulnerable the second time around, but probably not this time. All politics being local in legislative elections, posturing over a newly “independent legislature” under Democratic control will undoubtedly fall on indifferent ears.
The ousting of incumbent supervisors in Ulster County towns is unusual, though occasionally it happens.