Saugerties continues its gradual transition from a town where the Republicans almost always won local elections to a town where the Democrats increasingly win. The shift in the past five and a half years has been slow but steady. The odds are that it will continue.
County enrollment figures show the major parties moving in opposite directions. The Saugerties Democrats had 3,969 active voters on Nov. 20, 2017, up 423 voters from April 1, 2012. The recent figures showed 3,270 active Saugerties Republican enrollees, down 268 in the past five and a half years.
Saugerties voters not enrolled in any party still outnumber those enrolled in any single party. There were 4,146 such enrollees among the 12,729 Saugerties enrollees in November, a little bit less than a third of the electorate. There are 117 more non-enrolled than five and a half years ago.
The Saugerties political landscape also presently includes four significant so-called minor parties. In the Nov. 20 count, the Independence Party had 785 Saugerties enrollees. The Conservatives had 410 enrollees, the Working Families Party 72, and the Greens 65.
The minor parties often perform above their enrollment weight. In this year’s race for town supervisor, Fred Costello Jr. added 362 votes on the Working Families line and 415 on the Independence line to his 2,680 on the Democratic line. His total was 3,457. Meanwhile, his opponent, Jimmy Bruno, tallied 1,695 votes on the Republican line, 531 on the Conservative line and 73 on the local Reform line for his grand total of 2,299 votes.
From a political perspective, it was John Schoonmaker’s successful last-minute campaign for a town board seat solely on the Democratic line that garnered the most attention. Paul Andreassen (Democratic, Conservative and Independence lines), Don Tucker (Republican and Conservative), Vince Altieri (Republican, Independence and Reform) and Schoonmaker (Democrat) contended in a four-way race for two town board positions.
With 4,302 votes, Andreassen ran well ahead of the others, with 2,799 votes on the Democratic line, 983 on the Conservative line, and 520 on the Independence line. Running on a single line, Schoonmaker edged out Tucker by 42 votes and Altieri by 199 in an unexpected victory showing the growing Democratic electoral strength.
The victory of three Saugerties Republican candidates had a lot to do with the success of the GOP in retaining control of the Ulster County Legislature in the upcoming two years. It used to be that a Saugerties Democrat could only win if he or she had minor-party lines. Increasingly, it’s the Republicans who find themselves in that predicament.
In the northern and western Saugerties election districts, incumbent Mary Wawro survived by the skin of her political teeth, beating Democrat Michael MacIsaac by only six votes out of 2,367 cast. In a Democrat-versus-Republican contest, MacIsaac would have won by a thumping 1,178 to 753. But Wawro had the benefit of 272 votes on the Conservative line and 159 on the Independence line.
The village-and-environs legislative district held by Chris Allen changed hands this year, with Allen going down to defeat at the hands of Republican Joe Maloney by a vote of 1,325 to 1,184. Allen got 177 of his votes on the Working Families line. Maloney supplemented his unimpressive 821 votes on the Republican line with 220 Conservatives, 214 Independence adherents, 42 Greens and 28 on the homemade Women’s Equality Party line.
GOP incumbent Dean Fabiano was unopposed in his two southeast Saugerties voting districts, plus three in the Town of Ulster. He ended up with 964 Republican votes, 282 Independence votes and 213 Conservative tallies — more than enough to give him 1,459 votes against no opponent.
Which way will the tide carry Saugerties politics in 2019?