This year, the New Paltz Democrats are ending the tradition of caucusing to choose their candidates in favor of a primary, to be held September 12.
Caucuses are a grand political tradition, providing an intimate democratic experience. Candidates make their pitches to anyone who shows up. Votes are cast and tallied. Participation generally requires availability for two or three hours in an evening.
Local Democraic committee members feel that the caucus process disenfranchises voters. With Democratic registration outstripping all others in New Paltz, and most voters following the party line in November, they contend, town elections are decided by a few hundred voters with time on their hands.
Democrats registered in the town will vote at their usual polling places on September 12 any time from noon until 9 p.m. If that usual place is the New Paltz Middle School, however, changes may be needed to account for the ongoing construction there. According to Democratic county elections commissioner Ashley Dittus, it’s not clear whether work on the parking lot will be completed this month.
“We’re trying to get answer this week,” Dittus said. If the middle school cannot be used, Dittus said election officials were considering having those voters go to the high school or to Ulster Boces. No decision had been made as of press time. “It’s kind of a nightmare,” she conceded.
Democrats will be choosing a candidate for town supervisor and two councilmanic candidates.
Ballot order was determined last Tuesday morning. Dittus confirmed that the name of incumbent supervisor Neil Bettez would be listed on the ballot before the name of challenger Marty Irwin. The town-board candidates in order will be Daniel Torres, David Brownstein and Jennifer Ippolito.
How did the Democrats choose ballot order? “We pull bingo balls from a bag,” Dittus said.
The internal Democratic rifts that have been part of local politics for years will continue at the first-ever primary. Democratic Committee members endorsed Irwin, Torres and Ippilito, snubbing incumbent Bettez, who is running on a slate with Torres and Brownstein.
No Republican caucus has yet been scheduled. It can be held as late as the morning of September 19. Several candidates seeking the Green Party line were invalidated because they were not party members and didn’t take the proper legal steps to obtain that line. Celeste Tesoriero will retain her Green line for town justice, because the election rules for that position are different, according to Dittus.