Incumbents triumph in Saugerties: Allen, Helsmoortel, Costello and Thornton re-elected

Left-to-right: Highway Superintendent Doug Myer, Fred Costello, Leeanne Thornton, Greg Helsmoortel. (Photo by Klaus Gaebel)

Left-to-right: Highway Superintendent Doug Myer, Fred Costello, Leeanne Thornton, Greg Helsmoortel. (Photo by Klaus Gaebel)

The oft-cited anti-establishment mood of the electorate regarding the 2016 presidential race was nowhere to be seen in last week’s local elections, which saw incumbents unchallenged or re-elected by large margins.

Greg Helsmoortel won his eighth term as Saugerties town supervisor with 67 percent of the vote against opponent Gaetana Ciarlante’s 33 percent, according to unofficial general election results.


​Helsmoortel’s running mates also won handily— Fred Costello with 38 percent and Leeanne Thornton with 29 percent.​ All are Independence Party members supported by Democrats.

In the other big contest, incumbent District 2 Legislator Chris Allen defeated Angie Minew with 59 percent of the vote.

As with Helsmoortel and Costello, Allen carried the Democratic, Republican and Independence lines, while the only significant line carried by Ciarlante, Ellsworth and Minew was the Conservative line. The long odds may have been responsible for many voters staying home; over 30 percent fewer cast ballots than in the last local election in 2013.


Helsmoortel’s terms

Helsmoortel has said this would be his final term.

“I’m very happy,” he said. “I’m going to finish up my career as town supervisor on my terms.”

Other than the 2012-13 term, when he lost to Kelly Myers, Helsmoortel has held the office since 2000.

Helsmoortel said he won’t miss campaigning; he doesn’t like imposing on people at home by knocking on their doors, and hates robo-calls.

“I’m grateful for the support I’ve got over the years,” he said. “The majority of the time it’s been very, very good. I think people realize that my heart is in the job; no personal gain whatsoever.”

At that point he couldn’t help but return to a sore spot in this campaign— Ciarlante’s assertion that he, Costello and Bruno may have profited from distressed properties. (Helsmoortel is a realtor, Costello owns a number of properties and Bruno is a developer, most notably of Bishop’s Gate.)

He called the claim, “a desperate, foolish ploy on [Ciarlante’s] part” and lamented the loss of integrity in political campaigns over the years.

Helsmoortel was gladdened by Thornton’s win. Like other observers, he, Thornton and Costello — who appeared in advertisements together decked out in hardhats and reflective vests next to a backhoe under the heading “Getting the job done” and have served for more than a decade together — foresaw that the second Town Board seat would be a contest between Barbaria and her, each having two out of the four significant party lines.

Ciarlante could not be reached for this article.


Injury didn’t stop Thornton

For a while there, Leeanne Thornton said she was worried about her re-election chances because she hadn’t been able to do much door-to-door campaigning.

“I knocked on 1,600 doors for  my first campaign 12 years ago,” she said minutes after her victory was confirmed.

Thornton injured her knee earlier this year and was forced to wear a brace that drastically reduced her door-knocking abilities.

But her injury didn’t damage her chances of winning. She and her fellow incumbent board member, Fred Costello, pretty much swamped the competition. Costello received 2,784 votes while Thornton received 2,172. Republican challenger Allyson Barbaria garnered 1,516 votes and Dan Ellsworth, who ran as a Conservative, received 833 votes. (Absentee ballots have not yet been tallied.)

Both incumbents emphasized their belief that elections confirmed the public’s support not only of them as individuals but also as a “team” that included Republican board members Bill Schirmer and Jim Bruno.

Costello also referenced Ciarlante’s accusations, calling them “below the belt.”

“I don’t want to  dwell on it, but it was unfortunate,” Costello said Tuesday night.

Thornton also said she felt the board operated as a team, despite their various party differences.

“There really isn’t absence of partisanship,” she said. “We don’t always agree, but we’re a good team.”


A choice

“Well, the Republicans didn’t get out the vote, and the Democrats did; so those that voted deserve what they get, and those that didn’t vote get what they deserve,” said candidate Dan Ellsworth, summing up the election results.

Ellsworth, who is the secretary of the town’s Conservative Party, knew the odds were against him. He started late and had only that party’s line, stepping in after Republican Chairman Joe Roberti Jr. dropped out of the race. He said he was running to give voters a choice, and the fact that he earned nearly double the number of votes than there are registered Conservatives means there are some “dissatisfied people.”

“My campaign did what it needed to do,” he said. “It gave people a choice and I’m quite pleased with that… I sincerely thank everyone who voted for me.”

And to the winners:

“I wish them the best, good luck, and we’ll see you in two years or four years.”

Allyson Barbaria could not be reached for this article.


Allen holds on

Chris Allen, the Democratic incumbent for the county Legislature’s second district, said he believed “false allegations” against him contained in an anonymous mailer cost him between 300 and 500 votes among voters “who didn’t know me well.”

Nevertheless, Allen defeated opponent Angie Minew by a vote of 920-598.

Minew declined to comment following the election, saying in an email “I am boycotting the paper based on ethical standards and policy violations- so no comment!”

Allen, who is facing an assault charge stemming from an incident in September involving a Hunter-Tannersville schoolteacher, said he expected to be “totally vindicated” in court.

He called the effort to unseat him part of a “dirty campaign” that included the pilfering of at least 40 lawn signs.

-Additional reporting by Will Dendis