With local chairman George Heidcamp at the helm, the Saugerties Conservative caucus made its candidate choices for November’s town and county races last Thursday, September 14. After months of hemming, hawing, vetting and maneuvering, the Conservative caucus gave its support to James Bruno for town supervisor and Donald Tucker and Paul Andreassen for the two vacant town board seats.
“The reason that the Conservative Committee exists is to get inside the candidate’s head and determine whether they are truly a conservative,” said Heidcamp, “When we had our caucus the other night, I made it very clear that this is all about the conservative values and not about personalities.”
The process leading up to the caucus vote endorsements was a long and meticulous. In the months leading up to the primaries, candidates seeking the party’s backing had to go through a process of interviews. They were asked to sign a contract promising to adhere to conservative values laid out by the New York State Conservative Party.
“Certain political parties have certain values and principles. The bottom line is that we are looking for someone to carry our conservative voice in local government,” said Heidcamp. “We’re really looking for a candidate that will say ‘no, enough is enough.’ This spending is out of control.”
The committee’s tenuous relationship with councilman and Democratic candidate for town supervisor Fred Costello has been longstanding. According to Heidcamp, Costello had initially sought the party’s endorsement in the election cycle of 2003, when he was registered as a Republican. In 2007, Costello had received and later returned the Conservative endorsement — according to Heidcamp, at the behest of Democratic Committee chairman Lanny Walter. In 2011, Costello once again sought the endorsement but refused to sign the accompanying loyalty oath.
As the last drop that made the cup of dissatisfaction for the candidate run over, Costello voted against a resolution advocated by the Conservatives to oppose governor Andrew Cuomo’s Safe Act in 2015. The party opposed the toughest assault weapon ban in the country and the higher penalties for criminals using illegal guns. The Conservatives’ position on this Second Amendment issue brought them support from local sportsmen’s groups, which proved helpful in the Conservative caucus this year.
“Two hours before the board convened [in 2015], an email [was] sent to three board members backed by the Democratic Committee, signed by Lanny Walter,” alleges Heidcamp, who has since obtained these correspondences. “[Walter told them, in part, that] ‘I urge you to table this resolution and allow it to die on the table.’ ”
In contrast, Republican supervisor candidate Jim Bruno has maintained a friendly and very close relationship with the party throughout his involvement in Saugerties politics.
“Out of all the candidates we have endorsed, one particular candidate stands out that has continuous contact with us and come to us to see how we felt about issues — Jimmy Bruno,” said Heidcamp. “He’s the only one in the 26 years I’ve been chairman [who has done so].”
Before the members of the committee voted for their pick for supervisor, Heidcamp was sure to remind the group of Costello’s transgressions. He received nine votes to Bruno’s 41.
For the Conservatives, Don Tucker was an obvious choice. “I have firsthand knowledge about how Donald Tucker operates. We were on the police force together and worked together on the school board. He hates spending wasteful money,” said Heidcamp.
Paul Andreassen’s virtues were slightly different, but to Heidcamp compelling. “[Likewise] I’ve known Paul for many years — me and him worked on a lot of cases together [when he was Saugerties’ building inspector]. He’s a gentleman, he’s law-abiding, he likes to do things that are right. He’s honest and straightforward. and I think he would be an asset to the town if elected.” Andreassen is also a Democratic candidate for town board.
Though a well-liked solid citizen, Vincent Altieri, the other Republican nominee for town council and head of a department in the county sheriff’s office, got only a handful of votes at the Conservative caucus.
“When we endorse people, we let them go govern. We don’t call them or tell them how to vote, but we monitor their voting record,” said Heidcamp after the caucus. “From this point on, it’s campaign time for the candidates. I did my job.”
Conservatives also chose to support town clerk Lisa Stanley, highway superintendent Doug Myer and town justice Daniel Lamb, all running unopposed. They also support Joseph Maloney for Ulster County legislature in District 2, where he will also run on the Republican line against Democratic incumbent Chris Allen; and incumbent Mary Wawro, also on the Republican line, in District 1, who will oppose Democrat Michael MacIsaac.