Republicans look to ‘Restore Kingston Pride’

Vince Rua. (photo by Phyllis McCabe)

Back in January, Kingston City Hall played host to a raucous public hearing as the Common Council debated a resolution to codify the Kingston Police Department’s longstanding unwritten policy of not inquiring about immigration status during routine interactions with the public. The resolution, proposed by city religious leaders and pushed by Mayor Steve Noble, thrust the city into the nationwide debate on “sanctuary cities” prompted by Donald Trump’s call for mass deportation of undocumented immigrants.

As a few hundred supporters of the resolution, many from out of town, marched into the council chambers chanting, “Love, not hate, makes America great!” a smaller group sat stone-faced wearing bright red hats provided by Kingston Republican Committee Chairman Joe Ingarra reading “Make Kingston Great Again.” In the crowd that night was Vincent Rua, a 64-year-old Kingston native who had recently returned to the city after a career in corporate accounting and operating a chain of menswear stores.

“I was like, ‘Wow what is going on here’” recalls Rua of the 6-3 vote to pass the resolution. “I spoke to people I knew and they said, ‘Well, that’s Kingston, a very liberal city where nothing gets done.’”


In response, Rua, a Kingston GOP committeeman, came up with the tag line “Restore Kingston Pride.” On the city committee, Rua started a “Restore Kingston Pride panel that recruited a slate of candidates to run in November’s elections for Common Council and three county legislative seats representing Kingston. The candidates themselves come from across the political spectrum, including registered Democrats and Independence Party members, as well as non-affiliated voters. But they share a core message: Fiscal conservatism, wariness about tax breaks for developers and skepticism about plans to build more low-income housing in Kingston.

“Restore Kingston Pride is a movement that looks to highlight the fiscal responsibility of our elected officials as well as many other issues,” wrote three-term Alderwoman Deborah Brown (R-Ward 9) in an emailed statement. “By supporting Restore Kingston Pride you are supporting qualified public servants who are eager to serve their neighbors, not the special interest of ‘connected’ individuals.”

While Rua and others play up the movement’s non-partisan nature, Restore Kingston Pride has emerged as a potentially potent conservative counterweight to Mayor Steve Noble’s progressive “One Kingston” agenda. Hatched in the midst of the sanctuary city debate, Restore Kingston Pride gained strength on the coattails of another hot-button issue, the proposal by housing nonprofit RUPCO to convert the county-owned former city alms house on Flatbush Avenue into supportive low-income housing.

Rua said under Noble’s leadership the city’s identity had been hijacked by “a small vocal minority,” while elected officials had done nothing to slow the growth of low income housing in a community which, he believes, has already taken on more than its fair share.

“I feel that gradually the governance of the City of Kingston is leading us away from prosperity and wealth to being a run-down city,” said Rua.

What happened in Ward 7?

The potential strength of the backlash against both Noble and the RUPCO project was on display in Restore Kingston Pride’s first electoral victory in the Sept. 12 primary election. In Ward 7, where incumbent Maryann Mills is not seeking a third term in office, Democrat Bryant Drew Andrews faced what should have been an easy path to the nomination. His opponent, Kingston City School District teacher Patrick O’Reilly, was competing as a write-in “opportunity to ballot” candidate for both the Democratic and Republican ballot lines. Despite being the only name on the Democratic primary ballot, Andrews, who spoke in favor of the alms house plan, lost to O’Reilly, who opposed it, 71-92. O’Reilly also secured the Republican line with 47 votes. In November, O’Reilly will appear on both major party lines as well as the Conservative and Independence Party lines. Andrews will appear on just one, representing the Working Families Party.

Ingarra said O’Reilly’s victory primary as a write-in against a candidate with backing from a party committee might be a first in Kingston political history.

Restore Kingston Pride made another strong showing in Ward 5 where Teryl Mickens, running a write-in campaign for the Democratic Party line against Council Majority Leader Bill Carey, garnered 30 votes to Carey’s 52.

The Kingston Republican Committee, which has long struggled to fill committee seats and field strong — or in some cases, any — candidates is showing other signs of strength. Ingarra said the committee had added about 10 new members over the past year. Committee members do much of the on-the ground campaigning and serve as a recruiting pool for candidates.

In fundraising, meanwhile, the GOP committee has seen a major surge. State records show that the committee raised $13,567 in the first half of 2017, compared to just $3,000 in 2015 during the run-up to the last round of council elections. The money has already been put to use, including $750 spent on “social media engagement” to support Mickens, O’Reilly and other Restore Kingston Pride candidates. By contrast, the Kingston Democratic Committee raised just over $4,000 in the same period.

“It’s definitely a more energized committee than has been for awhile,” said Ingarra. “We’re hopeful we can take back the council.”

There are 6 comments

  1. Ponckhockie Pundit

    I always thought the “sanctuary city” votes were unnecessary overreactions to Trump. They never involved changing a policy, but reaffirmed long-standing practice of not asking about something, half out of laziness (it’s enough paperwork just to process for local charges). So I’m not surprised about this. Also seriously how big is RUPCO? Unless they’re being over-covered, it seems like they’re the only ones who have built or renovated anything in Kingston for the last 10 years (other than the school and county gov’t).

    This reaction makes sense. However, on its own it won’t lead to anything. Less affordable housing in Kingston? Maybe fewer projects but you can’t do anything about depressed properties full of section 8 tenants. Fiscal conservatism? Meaningless, especially as there doesnt seem to be any critique regarding Dem spending. Less tax breaks for developers? Well, considering nothing has been developed in Kingston in recent memory, this also will have no discernible effect, since it’s removing an incentive for an activity that has not been happening.

  2. JamaicaonHudson

    Restore Kingston Pride is such an odd name. It implies that most Kingstonians aren’t proud of where they live. Hate to break it to those of this (newly-formed) party, but most people like it here. In addition, in Kingston, registered Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans. And the current administration (on both the local and county-level) has been fairly successful in bringing both new businesses and money to the city. While I understand the folks up on Nimby Hill disliked RUPCO’s Almshouse, writing in a candidate (even one that wins) isn’t going to deter whatever plans are in the pipes…

    Unfortunately, Restore Kingston Pride seems to be a pity-party for disgruntled residents who weren’t invited to the gentrification party…

  3. Villager

    Kemp made the papers for running an non-2% b n b tax, for being a rupco guy, and for being the chair of the new waltz affordable housing committee. What do you want

  4. William F. Boyd

    Dissolve the city’s charter and become a village. Villages get the most grants from the feds, the state and county tax breaks. And like villages, cities belong to the conference of mayors, so you can have one like you do now along with parking meters and fire department control. The thing about a village is that you can have an entire state university inside it with all those humans who need shelter, food and drink for years each and not a single independent auditor to check the books. If thetown of new waltz could lose two million dollars without anybody looking imagine what the village has gained or lost.

  5. Neil Millens

    The lying disease that we all witnessed in the 2016 national election has trickled down to the local level. Now here in 2017, I see the local Republican and Conservative politicians and candidates lying with impunity; without any care for the facts. These aren’t little embellishments or exaggerations; they lie about what their opponents have said, what they have done, what votes were about, about people’s character…lies which are blatant and sometimes vicious. Lies meant to distort and inflame, rather than educate. Sadly they are aided in their lying by the local media (Kingston Times, Daily Freeman, etc.), which treat the lies like just another perspective, rather than the outright fiction they are. The name for this is false equivalency. The national media (including the so called main stream liberal media – CNN, NY Times, etc.) were attacked during the last election for such false equivalencies, and rightly so. They held back from calling a lie a lie until far into the presidential campaign. They initially treated truth and lie as simply two valid opinions, and relied on the concept of journalistic neutrality to justify their failure to call out Trump’s lies. By their inaction they condoned and enabled the false narratives which helped shape the election. But here’s the thing – the national media had gotten it wrong. Yes, journalism is supposed to be neutral, but neutral when it comes to parties, not when it comes to the truth. Journalism is supposed to be on the side of truth regardless of party. So if a Democrat lies, they are to call him or her out. If a Republican lies, they are supposed to call him or her out. That is neutrality.

    And our local media, at least from my perspective, are guilty of that same abdication of duty. They have let local Republican and Conservative politicians lie unchecked. The lies have been fast and furious. For example, lets just examine the Common Council vote to re-zone the Alms House property. Republicans and Conservatives repeatedly and blatantly lied and mislead the public (citizens of Kingston) in several ways about the Alms House vote which was before the Kingston Common Council.

    – Republicans and Conservatives have claimed the vote was to approve the RUPCO proposal. That was a lie. By law, the vote was limited to the sole issue of whether to re-zone the Alms House property from single to multi-family. It was not a vote on approving RUPCO”s proposed development of the land. This is fact – not opinion.

    – Republicans and Conservatives have stated that the Democrats voting in favor of the re-zoning were against helping Kingston economically and were costing the City tax revenue. That is a lie. The only way the property can be developed and tax revenue generated from it is if the zoning was changed from single family to multi-family. This is fact – not opinion.

    – Republicans and Conservatives have stated that the City is now being sued because of the Democrats who voted to approve the re-zoning. That is a lie. The City is being sued because of public comments against RUPCO’s low income housing proposal that were allegedly made by those who voted against the re-zoning, not because of those who voted for the re-zoning. It is illegal to discriminate in housing practices. Voting against re-zoning because it would lead to low income housing is such an illegal act. This is fact – not opinion.

    The Republicans and Conservatives (including Jim Rodden, Pat O’Reilly, Vince Rua, Brian Woltman) didn’t want to educate voters, they wanted to inflame and scare them. Jim Rodden was on the Zoning Board of Appeals, so he knew that the Council vote had nothing to do with approving RUPCO’s proposal, but he still spread misinformation about what the vote meant.

    Here are more facts.

    – The property is owned by Ulster County. The City of Kingston has no say as to whom the County sells the property.

    – if the Council voted against the re-zoning when the prospective owner was RUPCO, but approved re-zoning later when the County had another developer with a hotel or luxury apartment proposal, that would expose the City to liability based on discrimination. Accordingly. the vote on the re-zoning had to be distinct from any decision about what developer was involved and how the property would be developed.

    – When the vote was before the Common Council, the Council members had a duty to protect the City from litigation and to do what was in the best interests of the City. Those who voted for the re-zoning served the best interests of this City. Those who did not and made discriminatory comments are responsible for why the City is being sued. Those Republican and Conservative candidates and politicians who have misrepresented these points were irresponsible in either not understanding the issues involved or intentionally misrepresenting the facts because they put party before City.

    I hope these points are clear…Repubs and Conservatives are stirring the pot with fear, not facts. And this hasn’t been limited to just the Alms House vote, but also

    – lies about Kingston’s Sanctuary City status,
    – Jim Rodden’s campaign is entirely built on lies
    – ridiculous and baseless Republican and Conservative lies about Democratic candidates including Jeffrey V. Morell for Alderman Ward 1l and Jennifer Schwartz Berky for the Ulster County legislature.

    For those of you who are old-time Kingston Republicans and Conservatives, you should be embarrassed by what the current leaders of your parties are doing. They aren’t supporting your traditional values. They are destroying them. And they are putting forth candidates who don’t embody your values – but people who will do and say anything to get elected.
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