In 1931 bandleader/crooner Rudy Vallée starred in Musical Justice, a short film in which a live-action Betty Boop (played by Mae Questel) is put on trial for having “broken every law of music.” If Rosendale’s Democrats can get out the vote this coming Election Day, that town may find itself in the unusual position of having a real-life musical justice. At their caucus at the Recreation Center on August 26, Rosendale Dems narrowly gave the nod for their candidate to replace retiring town justice Bob Vosper to Charlie Kniceley — a man better-known in these parts as a top-shelf bass player than as a legal eagle or a politician.
Familiar to many Rosendalers as a longtime co-organizer of the Rosendale Street Festival as well as for his busy schedule of gigs — many of them fundraisers — with the leading lights of the region’s jazz and rock scenes, Kniceley drew 59 votes to 53 for recently retired Town of Rosendale highway superintendent Carl Hornbeck and 19 for former court clerk Lisa Dockery. “The Democratic Party embodies the best of what we have to offer,” said Ken Walsh in his nominating speech for Kniceley. “Charlie is a close representation and reflection of our best qualities.”
Incumbent town councilman John Hughes, who also happens to play bass in the kiddie rock band Dog on Fleas, jokingly called himself “a bit of a Charlie wannabe” as he seconded Kniceley’s nomination. When the time came to vote for two of the three contenders for the two Town Board slots that will be opening up at the end of this year — his own and Republican Bob Ryan’s — Hughes led the pack with 117 votes to Stacy Lipari’s 80; Zoning Board of Appeals member Frank Klepeis finished out of the money with 53.
Hughes has only served one year on the Town Board, having won a special election to fill out the remainder of Bob Gallagher’s term when Gallagher replaced Hornbeck as highway superintendent. His colleague on the council, Jen Metzger, called Hughes “a very quick study,” noting that he had proven especially valuable in being “the only one on the board with a background in building and contracting work.” In her enthusiasm Metzger exceeded the three-minute time limit for a nominating speech, playfully dodging her husband, Rosendale Democratic Committee chair John Schwartz, as he tried to cut her off. “Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to tell my wife to be quiet,” Schwartz joked to the audience.
Lipari, the second Democratic Town Board nominee, is another political newcomer who has become a familiar face around Main Street, especially since opening the Creative Co-Op in the Canaltown Alley space behind the Big Cheese. “Stacy talks to people,” said Rosendale Theatre director Ann Citron in nominating Lipari. “Stacy has a lot of ideas…Lots of people have ideas, but Stacy follows through. She’s very hard-working.” A former educator who had already received the Working Families Party nomination, Lipari emphasized her collaborative outreach in setting up the shared community space. “My focus will be to invite all residents and business owners to work together for Rosendale,” she said. “I want to build connections between youth, adults and seniors.”
The identity of the Democratic candidate for the biggest prize up for grabs in Rosendale in November, the post of town supervisor, came as no surprise to anyone: Incumbent Jeanne Walsh was nominated by Joe Havranek and designated the candidate by the Democratic Committee without anyone else challenging her for the party nod. But one outcome of the caucus was entirely unexpected: Though the Dems had not planned to put forth a nominee to contest GOP incumbent Bob Gallagher for another term heading up the Rosendale Highway Department, they ended up cross-endorsing him. James Mihm stepped forward to recommend that he be nominated, and Gallagher’s wife Marge, pointedly identifying herself as a registered Democrat, seconded. Caucusing party members were given the option of voting to endorse Gallagher or no candidate, and the incumbent won the majority of the vote.
Rosendale prides itself on being the Festival Town; will it go on to become the town whose governmental bottom line is anchored by not one but two bass players? Check back in November to find out!