Hugh Reynolds: Political conflict at the gym

This clash of cultures, which took place at a local fitness center last month, is all too typical of the times. As witnessed by several, the story goes like this:

A regular entering the facility early on a Saturday morning spotted a friend working out across the way. He was sitting on a nearby rowing machine chatting when a woman neither knew confronted him.

“You shouldn’t be sitting on that machine when you’re not using it. Someone else could use it,” she said.

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Annoyed at the intrusion, the man replied, “As you can see, lady, the place is almost empty, and there are other [rowing] machines that are not being used.”

“You must be one of those people who voted for Trump,” the woman said.

Game on.

“As a matter of fact,” he said, “I did vote for the president, and do you want to know why?”

“I could not imagine,” the woman said.

“I voted for Donald Trump to shut up people like you!”

End of conversation.

The race for Hurley town supervisor to replace retiring Gary Bellows may produce a few similar exchanges as the candidates go door-to-door.

Republicans are fielding former assessor John Perry, owner and operator of a fitness shop in uptown Kingston (not the site of the above exchange).

Democrats are expected to nominate two-time candidate Tracy Kellogg, a former town supervisor in Woodstock, when they caucus on Aug. 13.

Despite their close proximity — Woodstock was part of Hurley under colonial rule — the two towns are as different as … Woodstock and Hurley.

Woodstock is hip, liberal, overwhelmingly Democrat, diverse. Hurley, which harks back to an ancient historic heritage, has an all-Republican town board.

Democrats broke that monopoly only once in the last decade; Mike Shultis, a candidate for town highway superintendent this year, served one term as town supervisor in 2006-07.

Fiscal conservatism runs deep in Hurley, where town officials take pride in being the third lowest-taxed town in the county. New ideas, debated endlessly in Woodstock, are often viewed with deep suspicion in Hurley. They might cost money.

 

Hurley hangs in the balance

Kellogg, 55, an Uptown Kingston lawyer, has lived in Hurley since 2001 and was twice a candidate against Bellows for town supervisor. Perry, 42, elected one of three town assessors in 2006, arrived in town in 2003. By Hurley standards, both of this year’s contestants are relative newcomers.

On paper, the seasoned and campaign-tested Kellogg might seem a clear favorite, but elections aren’t run on paper. Surging Democrats now outnumber Republicans by 439 enrollees, according to the county board of elections. Two years ago, Bellows beat Kellogg by 261 votes, but lost by only 52 on the major-party matchup. “The goal,” says Kellogg, “is to get Democrats to come out.” She had no such worries in Woodstock during her three terms, ending in 2000.

Independents hold the key to the vote. With 1,460 registrants, NOPs (Not of Party, officially) outnumber Republicans by about 15 percent. Given those stats, one wonders how Republicans manage to hold the entire town board. The NOPs must be a Republican-leaning lot.

Hurley residents will get a preview of coming attractions when Perry and Kellogg square off in an Independence Party primary next month.

I see the general election as a fairly level playing field. Kellogg is a tireless campaigner who has credibly contested an entrenched incumbent. Perry is a fresh face with a solid business background. Both candidates pledge to be something more than part-time.

There remains that Woodstock connection. In an attempt to make lemonade out of lemons, Kellogg points to the art colony’s inclusiveness, its willingness to embrace and debate new ideas (and people), its transparency. Hurley town government, she asserts, is a cloistered operation, hidebound, inward and predictable.

Perry’s campaign slogan, “A new energy for historic Hurley,” could be appropriate for either candidate.

 

Where’s Waldo?

Taking into account the cyclical nature of local politics, it’s hardly news that seven of the 23 incumbents in the Ulster County Legislature (five Democrats and two Republicans) will go unchallenged in the November elections. That’s a 30 percent uncontested rate, almost one of every three seats. Not good.

Incumbents see what they call their free rides as testimony to their excellent work rather than the weakness, apathy, disorganization or backroom horse-trading of the other side.

Voters, of course, are deprived of choice. Weak election turnouts under the once-heralded single-member system in place now for almost 10 years demonstrate that a strong majority of voters don’t much care who’s running — or not running — for these offices.

Party chairmen take different views of these political facts of life. Republican County Chairman Roger Rascoe is of the mind if you can’t beat ’em, don’t bother. Democratic County Chairman Frank Cardinale thinks that if you throw enough candidates against the wall some of them may stick.

My suggestion, which will be ignored when reapportionment rolls around in about four years, is to tailor the body to the demand. If six seats (more or less) go unchallenged every two years, reduce the number of legislators to no more than 17. That would cost the political class six jobs (worth $14,000 each), of course, but might produce a few more candidates running in larger, more competitive districts.

 

Here and there

Donald Trump being hardly a slave to consistency, his advice to upstate New Yorkers last week to move to where the jobs are contrasts sharply with his pledge for “more jobs” for Rochester during the primaries last year. Politicians pandering to the hopeless are by now an upstate tradition.

Hillary Clinton pledged to create 200,000 new jobs upstate during her first run for the Senate in 2000, but at least she didn’t tell anybody to pack their bags.

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I think people may be growing more amenable in public discourse. “If I agree with you,” my barber, Ralph the Razor, advised, “we’d both be wrong.” At least he’s thinking about it.

Recently installed Town of Ulster Democratic Chairman Marc Rider, director of county purchasing, seems bullish these days. Early buzz was that Dems would field only incumbent councilman Rocco Secreto. Not so, says Rider.

“I do anticipate running more candidates than just Rocco,” he wrote after an inquiry. “There is a lot of momentum in the Democratic Party. I would not be surprised to see the Democrats take back the supervisor position and a majority on the board.”

Methinks that rarified air on the sixth floor of the County Office Building may be getting to the new chairman.

For sure, Democrats will campaign against a four-year term for town Republican supervisor Jim Quigley. If the referendum passes, Quigley could be in position to run against Rider’s boss, County Executive Mike Hein, in 2019.

 

More bits and pieces

Conservative Party nominating petitions for county comptroller by would-be dragon slayer Jack Hayes of Gardiner, a former legislator and candidate for Assembly, were rejected by the county Board of Elections, which cited “fatal flaws.” Though BOE fatalities can include things as picayune as spelling, this rejection had to do with dates from his 2016 campaign for Assembly, a spokesperson said.

Jumpin’ Jack is on something of a downhill slide, it seems. Last year, Republicans messed up his nominating, leaving him hanging out there on the Conservative line. Now this. Future candidates take heed. These complications can easily be fatal.

Congressman John Faso sometimes grouses that the placard-waving rallies in front of his congressional district offices have been “orchestrated” by partisan Democrats. If so, so what?

There may be some faint truth to the complaint, though. Though there was no orchestra at last week’s weekly protest at Faso Broadway Kingston district office, a six-piece band of musicians from Rosendale did perform. Can the Boston Pops be far behind? Maybe even a Boston Tea Party?

Last week’s column referred to Alex Panagiotopoulos as the brains behind a marketing firm called Kingston Creative. Not so, protested Alex via email. His wife, Gabrielle Green, is the brains in the outfit, he said. Gabrielle “had the idea, filed all the paperwork, and convinced me to join her in starting a local marketing agency,” he wrote. “We’re even in the process of registering as a woman-owned business.”

Given that heads-up, I can only imagine Gabrielle’s reaction last week when she read that the agency was her hubby’s “brainchild.” I stand corrected.

There is one comment

  1. Dolores M Mcgoldrick

    After reading this article I I have come to some conclusions. If Perry’s looked at it’s a chance that the taxes won’t go up. If Kellogg is elected chances are taxes will go up. Whether or not either candidate will enact any meaningful zoning to protect and enhance the look of our historic Main Street remains to be seen. At this point Main Street has library two antique stores in a salvage yard at 67 main street not much to be proud of. One of the largest collections of privately owned Stone houses in country and hardly anymore outside of Ulster County knows that.

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