For all that it followed the same general script, the differences between the Democratic and Republican caucuses in New Paltz were unmistakable. Where well over 100 Democrats sweltered for three hours on Tuesday night, September 8 when several contested races were decided by voting, 22 registered Republicans attended the Saturday afternoon GOP caucus, which was held in the air-conditioned community center and featured ballot voting for candidates. Democratic officials tried to amend the rules of their caucus at the last minute to require candidates to disclose their party affiliations, an attempt which only failed when party parliamentarian Hector Rodriguez was instructed on the nuances of Robert’s Rules of Order; county Republican chairman Roger Rascoe oversaw a caucus which not only was free of hiccups, but punctuated with explanations regarding the procedures by which caucuses are run. And while the Democrats’ rule change was offered in response to concerns that attendees might vote for someone without knowing if they were registered in the party, it’s now commonplace for non-Republicans to seek the GOP nod: four years ago, two Democrats squabbled over the Republican nomination for supervisor, and no party members stepped up to run for town office this year. At least two of four candidates chosen were once Republicans. The party slate will now be Bob Gabrielli for supervisor, incumbents Rosanna Mazzaccari for town clerk and Chris Marx for highway superintendent, and Ray Lunati for one of the two open town council seats. No one will run on the Republican line for town justice this year.
A former chairman of the Shawangunk Republican Committee, Rascoe introduced himself by speaking of how he had grown up in poverty before serving in Vietnam, working as a police officer at SUNY New Paltz and then in the corrections system before obtaining his college degree in counseling at New Paltz. While he was briefly the counselor for the serial killer who called himself “Son of Sam,” Rascoe mostly worked with children, and said that all children in the correctional system are victims. “This conservative wants early intervention,” he said, to prevent such consequences for the young.
Terry Bernardo, the party’s candidate for county executive, was enthused by the number of people in attendance. “Thank you for being Republican in a town that isn’t Republican,” she said. Acknowledging that she had entered the race late in the season, she explained that she was motivated by plans to rip up historic railroad tracks to complete the county’s system of walking trails, and because it became clear that no one else would be challenging incumbent Mike Hein. She said that Hein’s recent press release announcing money for federated sportsmen was motivated by having an opponent in the race, and she made a promise regarding how she would do things differently if elected: “You will not see my face on the Board of Elections page” online, she said; that space would be reserved for images of the election commissioners Tom Turco and Vic Work.
Rascoe opened nominations in the order they will appear on the ballot, beginning with town supervisor. The county chairman, running the caucus because the town committee presently lacks the resources, served as chief cook and bottle-washer: he signed in party members, verified registration and meticulously filled in the names of every person who nominated a candidate. At one point, when a nomination was seconded by someone who had arrived after the proceedings began, he stopped to check the enrollment list to make sure she was, in fact, registered Republican. His confidence in the procedures was markedly different than is the norm during these events, which state law allows as an alternative to primaries in towns of less than 100,000 people.
Gabrielli, who recently retired from a long career in state government which, according to Rascoe, was the reason the candidate eventually abandoned party enrollment after being both Democrat and Republican, was nominated as an alternative for people “tired of career politicians and political correctness” by Theresa Boscott.
During his acceptance remarks, Gabrielli emphasized an interest in fair play and civility, and drew upon his time on the New Paltz police force to explain his empathy for victims and ability to connect with people. “My opponent’s a scientist,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot more than you can looking through a microscope.” A longtime real estate broker, he said he values being able to make deals because it’s an eminently fair process, even if both sides have to accept less than what was hoped for. That life experience shows that he is not “sequestered in an ivory tower,” he added, before concluding, “civility is my underlying goal.”
Mazzaccari was not present to accept her nomination, but Marx was. He thanked those in attendance, and spoke briefly of how he is also overseeing the buildings and grounds department, and has recently started sharing services with the school district. “Working with everyone is my goal,” he said.
Lunati, who fell short of being nominated by his fellow Democrats, found a warmer welcome among the Republicans, who also endorsed his prior run for the board in 2011, when he was a member of the party. He spoke of the many town meetings he has attended over the years, and hit upon a number of issues important to him, including baseball fields, the flood plain development restrictions, plans to create a water district on Plains Road, and building a new town hall. He described the modular buildings town employees relocated to in order to avoid black mold as a “nice facility,” but “not home” for the staff. He promised to be respectful of all opinions offered during public comment or brought to him personally.