Hugh Reynolds: Seats change, but not the bottom lime

For what it’s worth, the unofficial returns indicate Republicans will (barely) hold their majority in the county legislature, regardless of which caucus John Parete of Olive chooses to rest his ailing left shoulder. With absentee ballots to be counted, Republicans hold a 12-10 advantage, with or without Parete.

Some seats changed hands, but not the bottom line.

Correct me if I’m right, as former Kingston alderman Bob Senor used to say, but I don’t recall a county legislator winning election absent a major-party endorsement. Parete did it in Olive-Shandaken on the Conservative and Independence lines against Democrat Kathy Nolan and Republican Cliff Faintych. I’m not sure who Faintych hurt more with his 748 votes (27 percent). Parete is winning by only 20.

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In Kingston, Democrat Jennifer Schwartz Berky went down by 225 votes to newcomer Republican Brian Woltman. Woltman on election night preferred to talk policy, relegating the viral Berky police tape to a mere incident. I don’t know if many would agree, but Woltman did put on a spirited campaign.

Berky’s lawyers fought tooth and nail to suppress the police dash cam until after election, but consider this: What if they had succeeded and people who voted for her saw it after the election? It was a tough break for Berky, all right, but a self-inflicted wound.

Republican Heidi Haynes, an 11th-hour fill-in for exiting Rich Parete, didn’t need a dash-cam to run down Democrat Doug Adams. With only a 40-day window to campaign, Haynes came out with a 154-vote win. “I didn’t have time to lose momentum,” she said.

Democrat Lynn Archer turned the tables on Republican Ron Lapp in Rochester, after Lapp unseated her in 2015, but by only 50 votes. Is a re-rematch in the offing?

Converted Democrat Laura Petit gave her new party a foothold in Esopus with a solid win over Republican Ira Weiner. I thought that one might go down to single digits; she won by 162.

Republicans named Maloney prevailed in adjoining districts in Saugerties and Ulster, one a nail-biter, the other closer than expected.

Republican Joe Maloney, employing an old Chris Allen tactic — grab as many lines as you can — defeated two-term Democrat Allen by 85 votes in Saugerties. Jim Maloney pulled out all the stops in the Town of Ulster to fend off newcomer Democrat Laura Hartmann by 216 votes. Truth be known, Hartmann and her eager allies were more interested in next year’s race for Congress than county legislature.

I don’t pay much attention to non-contested races, as they’re rather too much like one hand clapping, but Woodstock gave freshman Jonathan Heppner a rousing send-back. With over 2,300 votes, Heppner got the most votes of all the legislature races in the county. He’s not yet 30.

What does it all mean? There will be seven new faces (Archer and Petit are back) in the 23-member legislature next year, an unusually large infusion. Will new talent make a difference, perhaps making the legislature more relevant? I think not, but we’ll see.

Supreme Court:

Did Republican Pete Crummey write off Ulster County as a lost cause? More votes were in the Capital District, whence he hails. Democratic opponent Julian Schreibman certainly played the hometown boy (save the seat for Ulster, etc.), but not too loudly. All voters want hometown judges.

Given that he didn’t seem to be running very hard, Schreibman’s unofficial 10,000-vote victory surprised some. Maybe it was his laidback persona, good temperament for a judge, or just that overwhelming Democratic enrollment advantage.

I omitted an important duty under the state Supreme Court’s jurisdiction in a pre-election write-up: decisions on local assessments. Think Hudson Valley Mall. They’re talking tens of millions, and that, folks, is a lot of Quik Cheks.

And speaking of Ulster, voters gave Republican Supervisor Jim Quigley III, running unopposed, a solid vote of confidence twice, first by almost 2,400 votes for reelection, the second by approving a four-year supervisor’s term by some 600 votes.

Miller time

One of the bigger distractions in this year’s local elections, other than the Berky business, was the hassle in Gardiner over U.S. Postal Service employee Kathy Miller’s status to run for county legislature. The 1939 federal Hatch Act was enacted to “prevent pernicious political activities” by federal employees. It forbids those employees, or those employed by agencies funded by the federal government, to seek public office. I find that a violation of one of our most basic rights, as did justice William Douglas in a 1973 Supreme Court minority dissent, to wit: “It is no concern of government what an employee does with his or her spare time.”

The majority ruled that Hatch “achieved a delicate balance between fair and effective government and the First Amendment rights of individual employees.” Nah.

Presidents Jimmy Carter and George Bush 1 vetoed bills to abolish Hatch. President Barack Obama signed a bill that made some modifications, but still prohibited the running for office.

Republicans in Gardiner thought they had a shot at unseating incumbent Tracey Bartels after she stumbled across the finish line two years ago. Miller, a fire chief in the town, had a shot at unseating the non-enrolled progressive, but it all went down the hatch.

Around the towns

They say all politics is local, and it doesn’t get any more local than in Saugerties, where Republican Jim Bruno and Democrat Fred Costello ran for supervisor. Given the supposed pick ’em nature of this contest, some saw a close race. Not so. Costello buried Bruno by over 1,100 votes. With tart-tongued town GOP Chairman Joe Roberti muzzled, name-calling and finger-pointing so typical of Saugerties elections were kept to a minimum this year. I never thought I’d write this, but town Conservative Chairman George Heidcamp added gravitas to the conversation.

Townsfolk we’ve consulted felt good about both candidates, better, obviously, about Costello.  Perhaps the winner could enlist the loser in his upcoming administration.

In Esopus, I’d like to have a buck for every lawn sign, especially those jumbo jobs for Democrat Shannon Harris for supervisor. Seems to have worked. Newcomer Harris prevailed by almost 90 votes.

Republican Carl Belfiglio gave up a fairly safe seat in the county legislature. He found his opponent entirely too cozy with retiring Democrat Supervisor Diane McCord, what with closed-door briefings, but there’s no law against that. As to how much each side spent on what may be the county’s most expensive town race, nobody’s filing anything yet. We’ll keep sniffing.

Marbletown didn’t get the fire training center it was hoping for. It did get an unexpectedly competitive race for town supervisor. Though seven-term county legislator Rich Parete had both major party lines with Conservative and Independence endorsement, incumbent Mike Warren still thought he had a chance. Warren’s Working Families line was so far down-ballot that Marbletonians could vote with their toes. Parete prevailed by less than 200 votes, testimony to grass roots over party politics.

Parete, pressing the flesh at the High Falls firehouse breakfast last Sunday, appeared confident, but you never know. “If I lose this one,” he said between mouthfuls of scrambled eggs, “I’m gonna have a big ‘L’ tattooed on my forehead.”

People don’t talk a lot of politics at these affairs, even with Election Day only hours away. It’s more about meeting old friends, welcoming newcomers, passing babies around.

In Hurley, newcomer Republican John Perry faced off against two-time loser Democrat Tracy Kellogg in what turned out to be an almost dead heat. Perry called it 50-50 a few weeks ago, and boy was he close. Unofficial returns showed the Republican with a two-vote margin. Ninety-nine absentees (46-36 Democrat) may decide that one. Perry, who runs a fitness business down the street from our Stockade offices, insists he’s no Trump Republican. North of Dixie, is anybody?

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In Rochester, Len Bernardo’s comeback tour ran afoul of Democrat Mike Baden by over 400 votes. Independence party Chairman Bernardo busied himself with brokering elections all over the county after losing a race for county executive in 2008. Rochester will be well-served by the solid, well-grounded Baden.

Campaign sign for Rosendale Democrats required careful scrutiny by drive-by motorists. The most prominent read in large letters “Working Rosendale” with a tiny “for” squeezed in before the town’s name, followed by a list of worthies. Whoops. Are these people really “working Rosendale”? We’ll see.

Reminds older residents of the legendary Rosendale town judge Wilfred “Wil” Doolittle’s signs, “Wil Doolittle for town justice.” Doolittle and several colleagues got caught up in one of those periodic ticket-fixing sweeps years ago, a topic of serious discussion around bars and diners. “Why” asked a bemused observer sipping beer at The Well on Main Street in Rosendale, “would anybody vote for somebody who wouldn’t fix a ticket?”

Con-con

Bad enough that the proposition to hold a state constitutional convention was buried on the back of the ballot. The wording, however simple, was contrived toward an even deeper hole. Ulster rejected the measure by almost 6-1. Amazing. Voters were asked to vote on holding a constitutional convention, not a state constitutional convention, with the full knowledge of drafters, no doubt, that many people would conclude they were voting to change the federal constitution.

Opponents, and they were legion, should save those Vote No! lawn signs for the next opportunity to vote for a constitutional convention, in 2037. Assuming New York hasn’t gone bankrupt before then, the issues will be pretty much the same.

Onward, stormily

The phrase “perfect storm” usually refers to some kind of disaster, as did the movie.  A new word should perhaps be coined for not-so-disastrous events, but I can’t think of one.  Take the Town of Ulster’s 3 percent increase in its tax levy for next year. “It’s the perfect storm,” explained Supervisor Jim Quigley III, in response to an angry taxpayer at a public hearing on the budget a few weeks ago. “When you have a declining tax base, like we do, the tax levy has to increase.”

Quigley offered more specifics in the 2018 budget approved this week. Having to reduce the Hudson Valley Mall’s assessment from $50 million to $8 million this year cost the town six percent of its tax base, he said.

The hope, left unsaid, is that the new Georgia-based owners can restore the once-booming mall to something approaching its glory days. If they can, the tax base will increase.

But hope, as they say, is not a plan.

There is one comment

  1. Steven L Fornal

    Regarding the Town of Rochester election: Len Bernardo received the LEAST amount of votes of any other candidate on the Independence line. I hope he considers what that might mean.

    Also, perhaps he should reconsider his election strategy of spewing untruths, gossip and use of innuendo and guilt by association. How about telling the people what you plan to do, Len rather than troll for votes amidst puddles of disgruntlement? And, maybe attending meetings so you know what the hell you’re talking about would help.

    The Town of Rochester will be well served, indeed with the new Town Board, Highway Superintendent and Town Supervisor. When it comes to town government, Mike Baden is one of the most informed people I’ve ever met.

    A shout out to the Dem teams that worked their butts off for this victory. Kudos!!

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