Who took over the Saugerties GOP?


The political spin started right after Republicans chose Greg Helsmoortel (I) as their supervisor candidate over Gaetana Ciarlante (C).

Comments were made that the “Democrats took over the Republican Party” and that the Republican caucus was “hijacked.” The first was uttered by Ciarlante. The latter said by Conservative Party Secretary Dan Ellsworth. Neither is true.

In her first run for supervisor two years ago, Ciarlante went to the Republican and Democratic caucuses seeking their endorsement. After losing the Republican caucus to Kelly Myers who was seeking re-election, and the Democratic caucus to Greg Helsmoortel who was hoping to reclaim his position, Ciarlante went to the Conservatives and won their endorsement.


Ciarlante went to the Conservative caucus and successfully denied Kelly Myers that line. It wound up that Ciarlante cost Myers the election in November 2013. Ciarlante was a spoiler in that race, not a candidate that had a serious chance to upset two popular major party candidates that had previously proven their electability.

While a letter writer wondered out loud how Helsmoortel could now represent Democratic and Republicans viewpoints, Ciarlante tried the same thing in 2013. Only she failed to convince caucus attendees of either major political party she was their best choice.

This isn’t the first time Helsmoortel has been endorsed by the two major political parties. The same happened in 2003.

It’s hypocritical for Conservative leaders this year to criticize some Republicans for not picking “one of their own” (meaning Ciarlante) — while two years ago when Republicans did exactly that, by picking Myers (R) at their caucus, Ciarlante didn’t throw in the towel and went to the Conservative caucus for their endorsement.

Many Republicans felt after the supervisor vote at their caucus last month that by choosing Helsmoortel over Ciarlante they actually took back their party.

Here’s why: The traditional role of the Liberal (now almost defunct) and the Conservative Party in New York has been to influence the positions of the two major parties on a variety of issues. That means the Liberal Party wants Democrats to stay left-leaning and Conservatives want Republicans to stay right leaning — thereby avoiding the tendencies of candidates and office holders from major political parties to move to the middle of the political spectrum.

In Saugerties, with George Heidcamp at the helm of the Conservative Party, the Conservative caucus was held before the Republican caucus this summer. The Conservative leadership wanted to go beyond influencing candidates on positions. They wanted Republicans to back the Conservative Party choices for supervisor and Town Council.

Republicans worried that Conservatives might be setting precedence for future caucuses by the tail wagging the dog.

The Conservative leadership in 2013 showed how they could wield their power. They basically said to Republicans: Don’t go with our Conservative candidate (Ciarlante) and pick your own Republican candidate (Myers) — and you likely lose the general election. That’s what happened in November.

Before the Heidcamp era, when Dorothy Dederick was chairwoman of the Saugerties Conservative Party, she did her utmost to ensure November Republican election victories by pushing Republican candidates at the Conservative caucus against their Democratic opponents.

Under Heidcamp — the outcome of defeating the Democratic candidate wasn’t the main goal of Conservatives in 2013. He helped deny Myers the Conservative line, knowing by doing so he in effect was electing Helsmoortel supervisor.

Heidcamp created the Helsmoortel phenomenon at the Republican caucus earlier this month. His personal vendetta against Kelly Myers two years ago is the reason Helsmoortel won that election, and why Helsmoortel is going to be declared the winner before polls open this November.


Confusing letter

It’s not unusual for candidates seeking election to write self-serving letters-to-the-editor months before Election Day.

But County Legislature candidate Angie Minew’s letter published in these pages in the Aug. 13 issue left me confused, puzzled and at one point, wondering what she meant.

In Minew’s last paragraph she talked about Saugerties needing “a better morale coupled with a positive environment” and furthermore needing a “family core to attract and maintain families like yours and mine.”

I’m curious what she’s talking about by making those statements.

Traditionally, a family core is defined as a nuclear family that has two parents of opposite sexes with children living in the same residence.

According to the last Federal Census, taken in 2010, Saugerties had 8,163 households of which there were 1,486 families (or 18.2 percent of the total) consisting of a husband and wife with their own children under 18 years of age.

Where does that leave everyone else — the other 82 percent of the households that have a different family makeup in Saugerties? Angie?

Minew mentioned Lyme disease, cancer needing a cure, premature births, autism, AIDS, and the high price of prescription medications.

I wasn’t sure of her point, even after she said, “Hear me out – what about our day-to-day? Yes of course people suffer with the above mentioned issues daily – I’m not trying to belittle that in any way. I’m thinking on a local level. Where is the concern there?”

Minew then went on to list a litany of, well, complaints? She said “Encouraging tourism is great but what impact is it having on Saugerties? If I take my family of five out to eat it is easily over $100.” Again, the point is what?

She said, “We have approximately seven foreclosures in my little neighborhood. What does that say about our local economy? What does that say about taxes? What does that say about a balanced budget?”

I don’t have any idea what “balanced budget” she’s talking about. But I will offer an opinion what foreclosures say about our local economy and taxes. Which is — maybe almost nothing at all!


Foreclosures can result from a family’s finances suffering due to death, divorce, and high unexpected medical expenses. Those aren’t directly due to the economy and taxes. Foreclosures can also happen when confronted with job loss.

But the foreclosure crises many homeowners suffered around the country years ago, and still do, was largely created when some people realized that due to the decreased value of their homes, they owed more on their mortgage than they could sell their house for. In some of those cases homeowners decided to abandon their house rather than fulfill their financial obligations to the bank.

People have plenty of reasons why they’ll sell their homes – not the least of which is because they can’t find decent-paying jobs here and because property taxes are too high, especially for income levels in our area.

Each decade New York loses congressional seats because those seats are based on population, and the New York State population growth rate has been much smaller than many southern and western states. Some of those other states have seen larger growth because of people moving; some because they have larger immigrant populations.

What to do about the local economy? Minew suggests “we need more politicians to invest in you and I.” Then she offers what’s necessary is “less government control around every corner.”

Which is it?


The ballot box

In the town election this year, three of the races have already been decided. The supervisor has the backing of both major parties and one of the two town council races has the same situation. The superintendent of highways has the backing of Democrats and Republicans too.

In the three County Legislature races, one candidate is unopposed, and in a second race the Republican, who faces a primary challenge, has been endorsed by Democrats too.

Cross-endorsements aren’t the prerogative of any one party. Democrats and Republicans both want them.

Candidates often would rather ensure their own election through cross-endorsements than take the chance of getting elected by voters picking and choosing.

Although candidates love spouting their belief and faith in Democracy, their political survival triumphs over giving people a choice.


Saugerties firsts for Bernardo

County Executive Michael Hein is being challenged by Republican, Conservative, and Independence Party candidate Terry Bernardo. She spoke briefly at the Republican Caucus this month and mentioned a number of firsts that Saugerties provided.

Among those firsts were that former supervisor Kelly Myers along with her husband Will held a fundraiser in their home to support Bernardo’s campaign, her first fundraiser. The Saugerties Republican Committee was the first committee to donate to her campaign.

To finish first on Election Day, Bernardo has a long way to go to in raising campaign funds. According to a published report in early July, Hein had $280,000 in his coffers, while Bernardo had $2,000.


Playing games

The “Game of Life,” commonly known as “Life,” was a board game from Milton Bradley that was invented 150 years ago and saw different versions created over the decades since the 1960s. The board game took a player from school to retirement and the many experiences of life along the way.

Board games have been replaced by video games where the good guys and bad guys come in different forms, shapes and sizes, often with the objective of maiming and mutilating opponents. Some might say a modern-day version of “Life.”

The summer’s flyer Saugerties school district officials sent to mailboxes last month proclaimed in a bolded front page heading that “The Game Has Finally Begun” for the 236 seniors of the 2015 graduating class.

The snippet was apparently taken from a graduating student’s speech to fellow classmates.

For adults who have struggled in life, the last thing they probably wanted to hear during commencement exercises was that this generation is falling into the trap of considering life a game to be played — a world where the superficial often wins out, where deception prevails over substance, where power and money has more influence than a good idea.

People are tired of the games life presents. The games played by politicians. The games played by co-workers. The games played by companies, merchants and service providers. The games played by employers and bosses. Even the games played within families.

Imagine how much more uplifting the flyer’s heading would have been if it were able to say “Saugerties Class of 2015 Vows to Stop Playing the Games.”

Klaus Gaebel’s column appears monthly, with additional special dispatches during the election season.