You can’t make this stuff up. Widely publicized relatively minor but highly visible legal problems probably cost two Democratic county legislators their seats in Tuesday’s election. According to incomplete returns, the loss of those two seats cancelled out other Democratic gains, enabling the Republicans to retain control of the Ulster County Legislature. If the results hold up after the absentee votes are counted, the GOP won’t even need the support of veteran legislator John Parete (1038), who appears to have kept his seat running as an independent candidate representing the northwestern part of the county in a tight three-way race with Democratic nominee Kathy Nolan (1018) and Republican Cliff Faintych (748).
In 2015, Saugerties legislator Chris Allen went to court on a misdemeanor charge in connection with an alleged assault and harassment of a Greene County teacher in front of her students shortly before his reelection. A few weeks ago, a dramatic video cam of Kingston legislator Jennifer Schwartz Berky pleading with a Town of Ulster police officer in order to avoid a ticket went viral. Both incidents featured them identifying themselves as county legislators.
No more. In unofficial returns Tuesday night, Allen had lost his seat to challenger Joe Maloney, 1186-1101. Despite a public apology, Berky lost her district, which has a very large Democratic enrollment, to opponent Brian Woltman, running on the Republican ticket, by a decisive 1030-811.
Otherwise, the Democrats did pretty well at the county-legislature level this year. Running as a Democrat in Esopus-Rosendale, former Republican county legislator Laura Petit comfortably defeated political veteran Ira Weiner by 1281-1119. Former Democratic legislator Lynn Archer took back a Rochester seat back by handily beating Ronald Lapp, 1382-1232. Newcomer Julius Collins retained a contested Warwarsing district for the Democrats over Cassie Spoor, 787-453, in unofficial results. And former Saugerties school board member Michael MacIsaac lost by only 34 votes to incumbent Mary Wawro, 1138-1104. That result could change when absentee ballots are counted beginning Wednesday, November 15.
All politics continues to be local. The tightest town race was for Hurley town supervisor, where when the dust settled Republican candidate for town supervisor John Perry emerged with an unofficial 1104 votes against Democrats Tracy Kellogg’s 1102. If someone who had voted for Perry had decided to support Kellogg instead, we’d have had a dead heat. Watch closely the absentee ballot count, where, as of November 8, there are 99 to be opened.
In Esopus, Shannon Harris led the Democrats to a town-board majority by defeating county legislator Carl Belfiglio, who had stepped down to run for town office, by 1488-1399. In the closely watched supervisor’s race in Marbletown, incumbent Mike Warren came up short against Rich Parete, 1158-976. Marlborough may soon have a Democratic town board, with Al Lanzetta easily retaining his job despite a challenge from ex-supervisor Tom Coupart, 1282-884. In Rochester, Mike Baden easily defeated Independence Party chair Len Bernardo, 1365-900, in the race for town supervisor. In Wawarsing, GOP standard-bearer Terry Houck (1247) became supervisor in a three-way race with Al Perry (771) and Leonard Distel (446). Finally, the race in Saugerties between two members of the town board ended with a solid win for Democrat Fred Costello over Republican Jim Bruno, 3254-2131; for town board, Democrats Paul Andreassen (4056) was top vote-getter, while Democrat John Schoonmaker (2175) edged out veteran Republican Don Tucker (2133) for the other seat, with Vince Altieri trailing at 1968, though there are still more than 300 absentees to be counted.
In the race for the local multi-county Supreme Court judgeship, local attorney Julian Schreibman came out of Ulster County on election night with a 7000-vote margin over Colonie town justice Peter Crummey. In the entire judicial district, he was a safe 9000 votes ahead with the results from almost 90 percent of the voting districts counted.
With the continuing immigration into Ulster County of downstate Democrats, the once-dominant Republicans have surrendered political control in one municipality after another. Much of the southern part of the county remains in their control, however. But Ulster County is changing, its purple tinge becoming a little bluer every year.
Donald Trump wasn’t much of a help to the GOP in upstate New York this year, and he probably won’t be next year. His conclusion that former NRC chair Ed Gillespie lost the governorship in Virginia because he didn’t sufficiently embrace Trumpism probably wouldn’t fly in Ulster County, either.