Local candidates running on the Democratic line last November had a number of successes. Supervisor Greg Helsmoortel, the Democratic candidate aided by being cross-endorsed by Republicans and the Independence line, easily beat Conservative candidate Gaetana Ciarlante, outdistancing her 67% to 33%.
In the Town Council race, Fred Costello too had the Republican cross-endorsement, while he and Leeanne Thornton carried the Democratic and Independence banners. They trounced Republican Allyson Barbaria and Conservative Daniel Ellsworth.
With voters picking two candidates, Costello’s name was picked on 38% of the ballots, Thornton on 30%, Barbaria on 21%, and Ellsworth on 11%.
In the only contested Ulster County Legislature race of the three, Democrat with Republican and Independence cross-endorsement Chris Allen beat Angie Minew, 61% to 39%. Had that mountaintop incident not occurred, the margin might have been wider.
Republicans Dean Fabiano and Mary Wawro won uncontested races for the County Legislature. Democrat Douglas Myer won the uncontested Highway Superintendent position.
While Democrats won five of the local elections and Republicans two, there continues to be an ominous sign for Democrats when looking at their turnout.
While Democrats enjoy about a 300 voter enrollment edge over Republicans in Saugerties, they fall far behind in local elections when it comes to registered voter turnout. They do so poorly that registered Republicans actually turn out at the polls in greater numbers than registered Democrats do.
Why does that matter? Because political parties have to turn out their base in order to win close elections.
In 2015, though at an enrollment disadvantage, 140 more Republicans came out to vote than Democrats. 42% of Republicans came out to vote. Only 34% of Democrats did. That’s an 8% difference.
In 2013, the difference was 9%, with 56% of Republicans turning out and 47% of Democrats. 2011 saw a 10% difference, with 51% of Republicans turning out and 41% of Democrats.
The lower Democratic turnout may be attributed to a lack of enthusiasm by their voters. Why that enthusiasm lacks may be attributed to a host of reasons. But if Democrats ever figure out how to overcome it — local Republican fortunes will likely sink.
Bill Clinton Sees the Same Turnout Problem
The turnout problem for Democrats may go beyond the local level, especially in off-year elections. Ex-president Bill Clinton has often spoken on this subject, and as recently as 2014 told Democrats gathered at a convention “We have to be creative in how we reach people and how we get them to the polls.”
Voters Stayed Home in 2015
2015 only saw 33.7% of registered Saugerties voters go to the polls. That’s far below the 46% that came out in 2013 and 41% that came out in 2015.
However, the low turnout last year shouldn’t be surprising. Not when the major political parties endorse the same Supervisor candidate and other offices are either uncontested or cross-endorsements create outcomes obvious.
It wasn’t just the lack of competition locally that kept voters from driving to their polling place on Election Day. The DA and Family Court Judge county races were uncontested too.
Conservatives Not Enthused Last Year
With Conservatives running two of their own in 2015 for supervisor and town board, the conventional wisdom said Gaetana Ciarlante and Daniel Ellsworth would bring registered Conservatives out in droves.
That didn’t happen. In fact, turnout by Conservatives was lower than it had been in at least the two previous local elections.
Only 42% of the 422 registered Conservatives went to the polls last November. In 2013 54% showed up and in 2011, 48% did.
Poor turnout by registered Conservatives hurts Republican candidates that are crossed-endorsed by Conservatives.
Town Republican chairman Joe Roberti Jr. has started what he calls a “good government blog on issues impacting the town of Saugerties.” It started it in January. (saugertiesgoogoo.blogspot.com)
Roberti threw his hat in the ring for a town board seat last summer. When his caucus went a bit haywire, Roberti withdrew.
The blog may be a sign he’s considering another run at elective office.
With 19th district Congressman Chris Gibson holding to his self-imposed term limit and stepping down after this year, with a run for governor in 2018 a distinct possibility, candidates having been lining up to run for the open seat.
At last month’s Saugerties Republican Committee meeting, three oft-mentioned names for the congressional seat appeared.
Former assemblyman and 2002 State Comptroller as well as 2006 Governor candidate John Faso was there. So was businessman Andrew Heaney and current Assemblyman Peter Lopez.
There was some discussion among Saugerties Republicans to endorse one of the candidates, with Lopez the possible beneficiary. Luckily for the committee — they decided not to make an endorsement, at least not that night. Lopez announced days later he was withdrawing from the race.
On the Democratic side, its county chairmen have been rallying around Zephyr Teachout. Teachout’s main claim to fame is challenging Democrat Andrew Cuomo in his 2014 re-election bid by forcing him into a primary. Upstate Democrats supported Teachout over Cuomo in the primary.
In Saugerties, Democrats picked Teachout 72% to Cuomo’s 28%. President George Bush referred to his party’s 2006 congressional election losses as a “thumping.” “Thumping” would be too kind of a word to describe what happened to Cuomo in Saugerties. “Blowout” may be a better description.
Saugerties District-2 County Legislator Chris Allen is in a wait state for his recently postponed trial concerning that pre-Election Day Tannersville altercation. Allen proclaims his innocence in the assault charge.
As Allen looks forward to his day in court, the delay in getting to a verdict is apparently hampering his decision on whether to challenge George Amedore for his 46th district State Senate seat. The delay is giving Montgomery County Democrat resident Sara Niccoli an advantage in her possible run for Amedore’s seat.
Though Niccoli hasn’t officially announced her intention to run, the Palatine Supervisor has sent out a fundraising letter and so is ahead of Allen in raising the cash necessary to challenge the incumbent State Senator.
If Allen were to throw his hat in the ring, the current appeal political outsiders seem to have with voters could propel Allen to be a serious challenger for Amodore’s seat. We’ll see.