The Eagle’s View: Saugerties town races almost set

Candidates selected to represent the town of Saugerties Democratic Party in the fall general election are — from the left — John Schoonmaker, Doug Myer, Paul Andreassen, Lisa Stanley, Fred Costello, Jr.

The town supervisor’s race

Back in December 2015, after Fred Costello won another four-year term on the town board back in December 2015, I asked him if he was interested in running for supervisor two years from then. He shrugged his shoulders, indicating he really hadn’t seriously thought about it.

When a politician says no to such questions, I told him, it usually means maybe. A maybe can mean a yes. I noted that Costello hadn’t said yes. He didn’t say no, either.


Months later I again broached the subject with Costello. Costello this time was negative about a run because of fellow board member Jim Bruno’s well-known interest in the position.

Last week Fred Costello accepted the Democratic nomination for town supervisor. I wasn’t surprised. No one should have been.

There aren’t any rules in politics. In the end the personal relationship between Bruno and Costello on the town board didn’t stop them from running against each other.

Costello doesn’t risk his seat on the town board by running for supervisor. He might lose some pride, but he’s in the middle of a four-year town board term.

Bruno is in the fourth year of his council term. He’s giving up his seat on the town board to run for supervisor. Lose, and he’s out of office.

The two candidates often drive to meetings together. Oh, to be a fly on the car roof now.

James Bruno

Paul Andreassen gave way to Costello for the Democratic nod for supervisor. Andreassen will instead run for one of the two four-year town-board positions up for grabs, one of which is currently held by Bruno.

The second town council position had been expected to go to village trustee Jeannine Mayer, who had interviewed for the position with the Saugerties Democratic Committee’s nominating committee and won its endorsement. About four days before she was to become the official Democratic candidate at caucus, Mayer had second thoughts and notified the committee she wasn’t running.

Democrats then nominated a virtual unknown, John Schoonmaker, one of a number of candidates interviewed by their nominating committee.

The Republicans too have more than two candidates interested in the town council positions.

Joe Roberti, Jr., Don Tucker and Vincent Altieri all sought the Republican committee recommendation. The committee decided not to endorse any of them. Committee members will circulate petitions for all three and let Republican voters decide their board candidates in a September primary. Each candidate has to get upwards of 160 petition signatures to appear on the September primary ballot.

Tucker was a registered Conservative who a few years back switched his enrollment to Republican. Some insiders speculated at that time that Tucker’s switch signaled his desire eventually to secure a future Republican endorsement.

Some committee members have grumbled that Altieri, a captain and 30-plus-year member of the Ulster County sheriff’s department, is being shortchanged because some of his petitions aren’t being circulated.

Tucker, a former village trustee and school board member, and Roberti, a former Ulster County legislator and current Saugerties Republican Committee chairman, appear to be teaming up. Tucker values Roberti’s ability to deliver Tucker votes in a Republican primary. What Roberti gets by supporting Tucker is a likely Conservative Party caucus recommendation. One hand washes the other.

In a June blog post, Roberti listed the highest paid Ulster County employees. Lo and behold, Vincent Altieri’s name appeared on Roberti’s short list. Roberti’s blog doesn’t give a reason for the posting or his perceived significance of the list of salaries. He didn’t have to.

Tucker and Conservative Party chairman George Heidcamp have had a love-hate relationship through the years. Roberti and Heidcamp have had their share of differences, culminated by their supporting different supervisor candidates in 2013.

As often happens in politics, past wars are laid aside when it’s beneficial to current political interests and aspirations.


Other town races

Incumbent highway superintendent Doug Myer again received the Democratic nod at the recent caucus. Myer originally ran as a Republican, but after a falling out with his party ran on the Democratic line. More recently he’s been cross-endorsed by Republicans.

Some Republicans this time around thought they had found their own candidate to run against Myer. But the committee picked Myer.

Receiver of taxes Julie Dunn appears headed to another November election victory with party endorsements.

Republican town clerk Lisa Stanley received the Democratic cross-endorsement last week, as she has in recent elections. There was a surprising development leading up to the caucus vote, however. The possibility was raised that current supervisor Greg Helsmoortel, who had decided two years ago not to seek re-election this year, might run for Stanley’s clerk position on the Democratic line. Having his name in ads and on the ballot might have helped other Democrats on the line, the pols figured.

By caucus time, that pipe dream had evaporated.

Republican town justice Dan Lamb wasn’t cross-endorsed by Democrats at their June caucus. Lamb supporters need not fret, though. The Democrats didn’t put up a candidate to run against him.


Why Lamb wasn’t cross-endorsed this time around is a mystery. Maybe it was just out of respect to Democratic Committee chairman Lanny Walter, who lost to Lamb decisively in the justice race last time around, 71 percent to 29 percent.

Joe Roberti Jr. and Don Tucker

Republicans go the primary route

Town Republicans, apparently at the urging of chairman Joe Roberti, Jr., are going the primary route this fall in selecting their candidates. The Democrats remain committed to caucuses.

Democrats selected their town candidates June 27, while Republicans have to wait until the September 12 primary results to see who’s officially on their line.

That leaves Conservatives in a bit of a quandary, since they probably won’t hold their caucus until September, after seeing the outcome of the Republican primary.

Why did Saugerties Republicans switch to a primary method of selecting town candidates rather than go the caucus route again? It may have to do with the results of the Republican caucus two years ago, where the leadership’s applecart was embarrassingly overturned by some party elders.

Chairman Roberti had a slate of candidates in mind going into the 2015 caucus, including himself for a town seat. When Greg Helsmoortel was selected as their cross-endorsed supervisor candidate, and Fred Costello accomplished the same for a town council seat, Republicans were in disarray.

At the Republican caucus two years before, Roberti came under some criticism for the way he ran that caucus. Not having to deal with a caucus this year lets him concentrate on his own race.

A primary should attract a higher number of voters than a caucus would. It’s easier for a chairman to get his people out to the polls to vote in a relatively short time, rather than sit and stand at a caucus that can go on for hours. Too many people walk out in the middle of caucuses. Candidates at caucuses hate seeing their supporters leave before their vote.

With Democrats having their slate of candidates picked, and Republicans having to wait another two months, Democrats are seemingly in an advantageous position. They can start organizing and putting together their campaign brochures and ads. The Republicans will be concentrating instead on Republican candidates challenging each other leading up to the September primary.

There’s also always the possibility a surprise Republican candidate may enter the fray by collecting enough petition signatures.

Then there’s recovery time from bruises. Caucuses and primaries yield winners and losers. The candidates and their supporters feel the aches and pains of a primary battle. A caucus held in the summer allows some time to heal those bruises before the fall election campaign, and to kiss and make up. A September primary provides less time to do so.

I’ll take a look at the Saugerties races for county legislature in an upcoming column. For the first time in years, all the incumbents will have challengers.