Though bad losers almost always make for better copy than winners, there are limitations. Winners usually thank their parents, supporters and “all those little people,” and then promise to be diligent, competent and transparent. Bad losers say things like “the people got what they deserve.” Sometimes they just run and hide.
The baddest loser of all will go down in local history as Mayor Shayne Gallo of Kingston. It will be a long time indeed before Kingstonians ask their one-term mayor to come back.
Gallo suffered a decisive defeat on election night, going down by the unofficial count of 882 to 668. To put that in perspective, Gallo, as the incumbent mayor — but not his party’s choice at convention — polled 55 fewer votes in this primary than he did in the 2011 Democratic primary, which he had won by just seven votes. He had almost four years to build on that near-defeat. This year’s results indicated he’d made more enemies in the Democratic Party than friends.
The 882 votes Steve Noble polled bears reflection in light of overall campaign strategy. Recall, Noble’s team had said they had identified 900 Democrats they thought would either vote for their man or against Gallo. Assuming those 900 went to the booths last week, they were 98 percent right. It’s now clear that Gallo, who blamed everyone but himself for his defeat, had little idea what he was up against.
Elections are almost always about incumbents who, when challenged, usually win. Gallo made every effort to utilize the bully pulpit during the waning days of the campaign — in terms of media manipulation alone, he made the legendary Chuck Schumer look like an amateur.
Ironically, Gallo wasn’t that bad a mayor. Something of a visionary, he aggressively pursued his quality-of-life agenda. Had that been the whole story, he might not have been challenged at primary.
On election night Gallo, with that bunker mentality so often displayed during his soon-to-be-ended administration, had his own delusional ideas of why his campaign imploded. It was those nasty lying, ugly rumor-mongers on the other side, he said, people like former mayor Jim Sottile and former Common Council majority leader Tom Hoffay, Assemblyman Kevin Cahill and various and sundry “cronies.” He suspected others too numerous to mention hiding behind trees, lurking in dark corners, plotting. With the mayor’s denouement, one is reminded of the last scenes of 1941’s classic Citizen Kane. Dare I suggest Citizen Shayne? Rosebud?
He blamed the county Board of Elections for not getting the word out. “Some of my people didn’t even know there was a primary,” he said. “Some were told they didn’t have to vote in the primary, that the general election was all that mattered.”
Wasn’t that up to his campaign to get the word out, to rally supporters, I asked him. The question didn’t seem to register.
Undoubtedly, many Democrats didn’t like the mayor, but there was scant evidence that Noble ran the kind of negative campaign described by Gallo. Maybe in private he had some harsh words for the man who pilloried him as an incompetent bungler unfit to be mayor. Could Gallo, in some bizarre Freudian way, have been speaking of himself?
If anything, Noble was too much above-board, too much the gentleman in treating his opponent (and boss) with the deference and respect the office deserved. At times, Noble’s more zealous supporters, perhaps slugging it out behind the scenes, expressed frustration with this hands-off approach. On election night, in the flush of victory, at least one foot soldier berated a reporter for suggesting (in private) that Noble had run a flaccid campaign. That’s not exactly the word he had used, but the meaning is clear, and accurate. Based on a campaign of vague generalities, the best thing about Noble was that he wasn’t Gallo.
Gallo, being Gallo, couldn’t help but careen off the rails election night. First was his sore-loser declaration that he intended to suspend Noble for the kinds of charges he had leveled during the campaign. “I couldn’t do it before because we had a primary,” explained the litigious chief executive. Lawyers must have been dancing in the streets.
Last, and lasting, was the mayor’s call on the Almighty to save Kingston. Even the staunchest Gallo supporters could only shake their heads on that one.
In the end, the mayor made himself an embarrassment, almost a bad joke.
Going forward, Democrats will have to deal with an angry, vengeful lame duck in the mayor’s office and an undefined Republican opponent with a shopping cart of nominations. In the simmering embers of a vicious campaign there are some, including Gallo, who even believe Ron Polacco can overcome a better than two-to-one Democratic enrollment advantage in November.
But let us end on a positive note. Alderman-at-large candidate Jeanette Provenzano did only slightly better than Gallo in taking 45 percent of the vote against eternal incumbent Jim Noble, Steve Noble’s uncle. If Democrats were concerned about nepotism at city hall, it didn’t include the Noble family. Provenzano, who can be testy when provoked, handled her defeat in what might have been her last election with class. They don’t call her Jenny Pro for nothing.
It would appear the alleged sins of the father were visited upon the son as seven-term incumbent county legislator Rich Parete went down 165-112 against town Councilman Doug Adams in extremely light voting in Hurley-Marbletown District 18. Parete is the son of legislature Chairman John Parete of Olive and, like his father, a frequent critic of the Mike Hein administration. Young Parete had the foresight to secure the Republican nomination prior to the primary and will appear on the ballot in November.
In downtown Kingston’s District 7, Jennifer Schwartz Berky will be its next legislator after soundly defeating Gallo-man Brian Woltman, 312-156. There is no Republican candidate. It is noteworthy that Berky, supported by about 20 percent of registered Democrats, pulled more votes in her district than Parete-Adams combined in theirs. Legislative districts have about 4,700 registered voters, with about 35 percent enrolled Democrats on average. Democrats are the majority party in Ulster, outnumbering Republicans by about 10,000 enrollees.