On Thursday, July 30, some 200 registered Democrats caucused at the Gardiner Town Hall to choose Democratic Party nominees for Election Day 2015. All of the candidates endorsed by the Gardiner Democratic Committee (GDC) carried the nominations by wide margins, including incumbents Carl Zatz, Warren Wiegand, Bruce Blatchly and Brian Stiscia. Also nominated for the Town Board seat currently held by Mike Reynolds was a familiar face around local government: Laura Walls, who served one term as Gardiner town supervisor from 2000 to 2002.
Glenn McNitt opened the packed meeting, introducing Mike Kruglinski as chair of the caucus, his brother Tom Kruglinski as sergeant-at-arms and Barbara Sides as secretary. Mike Kruglinski, who is also chair of the GDC, began proceedings with a testimonial to a longtime Democratic activist and public servant conspicuously missing from the caucus for the first time in many decades: Dr. David Straus, who died in June after a brief illness. Calling Straus his political mentor and the “conscience” of the GDC, Kruglinski praised the former Zoning Board of Appeals chair and longtime member of Gardiner’s Environmental and Open Space Commissions for his willingness to share his “wide-ranging experience and knowledge.”
“David believed in kindness, civility and courtesy,” said Kruglinski, adding that he hoped that these values would be reflected in the tenor of the caucus. Speakers “will not be permitted to disparage other candidates,” he warned. And indeed, although a couple of people managed to sneak in no-names-mentioned snipes, the caucus for the most part avoided the heated rhetoric that has characterized some recent Town Board meetings, despite the fact that tensions have recently run high between the town supervisor and Reynolds, whose reelection bid was not endorsed by the GDC.
“Over the past 12 years, I’ve seen this town grow and thrive, and I credit Carl Zatz for that,” said Michele Tomasicchio as she nominated the incumbent supervisor for an additional term of office. “He’s a really good manager,” added Yvonne Allenson as she seconded Zatz’s nomination.
But the candidacies for the supervisor and Town Board positions did not go uncontested. Eileen Majestic Ingram nominated her sister-in-law, Marybeth Majestic, for town supervisor, and Deborah Duryea seconded. When her time came to speak, Majestic cited a list of volunteer work that she has done for the town, including involvement in the Gardiner Historical Society, the Fire District’s annual 5K race and Gardiner Day. “Good government is open government that shares information,” she said.
“I don’t really have a résumé to build,” said Zatz, “I have a track record…that I’m proud of…. I just hope we continue doing the good work that we’ve been doing over 12 years.” After both candidates spoke, Dems lined up to cast their ballots, then the tellers carried them into the “counting room” to tally them up. Zatz received 93 votes, Majestic 35.
For the first Town Board opening, Diane Reynolds stood up to nominate her husband Mike Reynolds to contest incumbent Warren Wiegand; Kay Kotarski seconded. Zatz nominated Wiegand for reelection and David Stern seconded. After the votes were cast and counted, Wiegand carried the day with 76 votes to Reynolds’ 35.
For the second opening on the Town Board — the seat currently held by Reynolds — Evelyn Schneider nominated Walls and incumbent councilman David Dukler seconded. Tanya Marquette then stood up to nominate Bruna Rondinelli to run against Walls, and McNitt seconded. Although Walls ended up trouncing her in a vote of 81 to 9, Rondinelli’s heartfelt speech recounting her struggles to overcome the challenges of being an immigrant to America generated some sympathetic buzz in the room. The real estate broker has never held local office, but might prove to be a new face that will bear watching on the Gardiner political scene.
Endorsements of the incumbent candidates for town justice and highway superintendent, Bruce Blatchly and Brian Stiscia, met with no opposition, so no votes were necessary. Lindsay Simonson nominated Blatchly and Mary Haden seconded. Karen Schneck nominated Stiscia and Leonard Tantillo seconded.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” said the beaming victor Wiegand after the caucus adjourned. “It’s democracy in action.”