Four-term Democratic Councilman Fred Costello Jr. scored a massive win over his fellow town board member, friend — and, according to his vanquished foe, distant cousin — Republican Jimmy Bruno 3,254-2,131 for town supervisor.
“I feel like a cat on a hot tin roof tonight,” said Bruno before election results began rolling into the Board of Elections website. “If I lose, I’m out — if Freddy loses, he has two more years [on the town council]. We both said we didn’t want [this race] to affect [our friendship], but it is. When I wake up tomorrow morning, it’ll be over, [but] some stuff has been said that is hard to forget.”
With a veritable grand slam of 4,056 votes, Democrat Paul Andreassen garnered the most support in the town council race, followed by 26-year-old Democrat John Schoonmaker with 2,175 votes.
“I’m pretty even-keeled about it,” said Andreassen before the polling results were made available on the big screen at the Democratic Party’s election night festivities at Sue’s Restaurant. “If I lose, I probably [won’t] run again. I’m not nervous, as odd as that sounds. [Campaigning] has been a learning experience — it’s my first time running for anything, and I got to see how difficult it is. I respect everyone at this thing.”
Should his victory stand the test of the absentee ballots, Schoonmaker will be the youngest local councilman that anyone can remember. Of the 12,729 eligible voters in Saugerties, 5,530 cast votes; 510 absentee ballots were issued in Saugerties; so far, 332 have been received by the Ulster County Board of Elections, making definitive results of the Districts 1 and 2 races, along with the status of Schoonmaker’s 42-vote lead on Republican Donald Tucker, unknown until the ballots are counted on November 15.
“I am very proud; over-proud,” said Schoonmaker’s mother, in shock and in attendance at the festivities along with his brother. “I can’t believe it … he’s a good kid.”
Republican Vincent Altieri brought up the rear with 1,968 votes. When a supporter urged him to run again in a future term via a Facebook comment, he simply responded with “Nope.”; he told another supporter that was optimistic for a future run, “I’m done.”
“I’m surprised [and] excited to follow through on the things I want in Saugerties. I didn’t think I’d be here finishing second — I didn’t expect it,” beamed Schoonmaker of the win, an arm around his mother and a glass of beer in hand. He said he intends to start holding weekly office hours before his term begins next year, and intends to spearhead a group to engage Saugerties youths in local politics: “Maybe next time around it might not be so crazy if a young person runs — maybe there will be more of us.”
“I had a dirty campaign run against me,” said District 2 incumbent Chris Allen of his 1,186-1,101 loss to competitor Joe Maloney. “Unfortunately, there was some disloyalty among the Democratic Committee that we’re going to take care of. Unfortunately, people buy into lies. Look at Orson Welles — when [War of the Worlds was broadcast on the radio], people were jumping out of their windows, so people should not feel so bad about buying into the lies that were told about a hard-working public servant and having it influence their vote. I worked as hard as you can as a legislator and on my campaign, and I always told the truth. Hopefully the absentee ballots will [come out in my favor].”
Despite winning the long, contentious race for his legislative seat, Maloney was somber in light of his fellow Republicans’ losses. “It’s bittersweet,” said Maloney. “You’re in a room full of people who aren’t feeling so good.”
Of the 200 absentee ballots issued to voters in District 2, only 56 belong to registered Democrats; 26 were filed by voters with no party affiliation.
In an even closer race, incumbent Mary Wawro eked out a win with a 1,138-1,104 split over Democratic foe Mike MacIsaac. Of the 92 absentee ballots that have been issued, only 44 are in the hands of registered Democrats.
“At this point, I just want it to be over,” said MacIsaac, who had reportedly packed his palm cards into the bag he usually took canvassing before recalling that elections were that day. “I’ve been saying from day one that I think it’ll be 100 votes either way. I think it’ll be a close race.”
“I think I’m done,” said Bruno as the friends and family of the GOP candidates quietly filed out of Village Pizza. “I want to spend more time with my family, my grandkids.”
Bruno says that, in the wake of his loss, he will devote even more effort to erecting the array of Christmas decorations on his property.
“You feel for them — I would love to see them all win,” said uncontested District 3 Republican incumbent Dean Fabiano, who was seen cradling a bottle of a liquid he said was water earlier in the night. “Saugerties isn’t like it was years ago. I think a lot, too, [that] the anti-Donald Trump thing has energized the Democratic base.”
“I’m walking on air,” said Costello. “I had no expectations going in — we tried to keep a positive and clean campaign. I’m happy for me and for the people who helped. We still have some work to do [during the remainder of the year on the town board]. [Outgoing supervisor] Greg [Helsmoortel] has always made moving Saugerties forward a priority and I think that in our time left as the board we will do exactly that.”
When asked what he will accomplish first after assuming his new position, Costello gave this answer: “We have an ambitious agenda — I really want to prioritize what we want to do, focus on those things and focus in.”
Now that he will be town supervisor, Costello’s seat on the town board must be filled for the final two years of that term. As town supervisor, Costello will be in the position to name his own successor.