Interesting is a loaded word, especially when applied to politics. And especially when tied to upcoming political caucuses such as those taking place in Olive this coming week. Local Democrats meet at the town meeting hall on Bostock Road at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, August 10, followed by Republicans on August 15.
In between, 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, August 12, will be an Olive Democrats-hosted Meet the Candidates get-together at Grant Avery Park in Shokan, also on Bostock Road.
On the surface all is well on a rare bipartisan level in this mountain town. All candidates are incumbents, barring any surprises at the upcoming caucuses. No one is facing a challenger from either party.
On the Democrats’ side will be supervisor Sylvia Rozzelle running for her third two year term after 35 years as town clerk; incumbent town clerk Dawn Giuditta seeking her second term in Rozzelle’s former position; Jim Sofranko, seeking a second term on the town council, and town justice Tim Cox, who’s been endorsed by both parties.
On the Republican’s side are incumbent councilman Scott Kelder seeking a second four year term, and incumbent highway supervisor Brian Burns, seeking his first full term after being appointed by the town board a couple of years ago and elected to a single year fill-in term last November on Republican, Conservative and Democratic lines. Plus Cox.
Rozzelle said this week that she was intending to nominate Burns for her party’s cross endorsement nod this Thursday, being that the guy’s been working for the town’s highway department since former town supervisor Berndt Leifeld hired him at the age of 16 as a highway department worker.
But that’s not where the term “interesting” comes in.
“It will be interesting. It’s already been interesting,” said Olive Democrats’ chair Mary Ann Shepard this week of the upcoming caucuses, with the specter of two primaries for a single county legislature seat lurking behind the scenes in an otherwise placid political season. “Invitations have gone out to both [county legislature] candidates on our side to the candidates event, and if they show up at the caucus they’ll be welcome, although there won’t be any forum for them to speak.”
Shepard was speaking of the county Dems’ candidate for the legislature Kathy Nolan of Shandaken, who, at the county Democratic Convention, far out-canvassed incumbent Democrat legislator John Parete, who owns the Boiceville Inn and served as Olive Democratic chairman for years. She said that as far as she’s been able to tell, Olive Democratic committee persons remain split between the two.
The incumbent Parete, who has caucused with county Republicans for much of his last term, and served as county chairman in a deal that allowed the GOP control of the legislature before that, is also facing a primary on the Republican ticket in September from former Denning councilman Cliff Faintych, who decided to force a face-off after his bid for the GOP line was rejected by Ulster Republican Party chair Roger Rascoe, who said Parete’s loyalty to his party deserved support.
Jobs to finish
As for the current election’s lack of any challenges, or real races beyond the upcoming primaries in September, and however the ballots in Olive look come November, Rozzelle sort of summed things up when she noted how, on a local level, “it comes down to who does a good job. All I care about is that there’s nobody trying to pull Washington politics onto our level. What we do is about bridges and parks, roof repairs and other infrastructure matters.”
She said she was running again because there were jobs she wanted to see finished. And she supported elections over appointments because “it’s better to have someone serving 5000 people instead of just five.”
As for the upcoming Meet the Candidates event, which Shepard noted was “all about community, and free” and hence open to everyone in Olive, of all political stripes, Rozzelle came forth with one of her iconic quips.
“All I know is that I have to be there,” said the longterm Olive political survivor. “And show up with cole slaw.”