The Eagle’s View: Turnout fueled Democrat town-board sweep in Saugerties

Registered Democrats turning out to vote in November 2017 lagged very slightly behind registered Republicans, 51 to 52 percent. But because of their expanding advantage in registered voters, more Democrats turned out to vote than Republicans on Election Day.

Saugerties Democrats outnumbered Republicans standing in line to vote in November by 352.

Democrats have historically lagged behind Republicans in getting their voters to the polls in off-year elections. In the 2015 local election, Democrats only turned out 34 percent of their voters while the Republicans got out 42 percent. That year 270 more Republicans voted than Democrats.

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Non-affiliated voters (NEs) and voters affiliated with minor parties, such as the Conservative Party and Independence Party, made up 43 percent of voters last year. Their participation often decides the winners and losers of elections.

John Schoonmaker was an upset winner to make the town-board election a sweep for Democrats. Fred Costello and Paul Andreassen scored easy wins. Although Schoonmaker had only the Democratic line against what most political observers considered two strong opponents, Vincent Altieri (Republican and Independence lines) and Don Tucker (Republican and Conservative lines), Schoonmaker was able to squeak out a 45-vote win.

Democrats were competitive in other contested races. Democratic county legislature challenger Michael MacIsaac finished only six votes behind incumbent Republican Mary Wawro. Democratic incumbent Chris Allen finished 141 votes behind challenger Joe Maloney, a close fight considering Maloney appeared on five lines as opposed to Allen’s two lines. A switch of 72 votes would have put Allen ahead.

No two numbers in the town’s election result may confirm the Democratic trend more than town clerk’s Lisa Stanley’s re-election. Stanley, the only registered Republican crossed-endorsed by the Democrats, received 2626 votes on the Democratic line and only 1724 votes on the Republican line.

Many Saugerties Democrats may have turned out in November because of Washington politics. Their turnout may change in future local elections as Washington politics changes.

Saugerties Republicans have a lot to worry about.

Lightning strikes MacIsaac twice

Current village board member Vincent Buono, who served as school board president in Saugerties in 2004, back then wanted to fill an open school-board position a secret ballot of the eight board members. The argument was that a secret ballot wouldn’t embarrass the losing candidates. Maybe some board members might have been reluctant to state their preference in front of the public.

Buono’s wish was granted by a majority of the board. Michael MacIsaac was appointed. He later ran and won a seat on his own.

Fast forward 14 years, and MacIsaac again submitted his resume for an open position.  This time it was for the town-board position that became vacant when Fred Costello was elevated to Saugerties supervisor. MacIsaac had been defeated in last November’s general election by a narrow six-vote margin in his race against incumbent county legislator Mary Wawro.

According to town records, after the inauguration of town officials on New Year’s Day, on a motion by Costello and seconded by Leeanne Thornton, MacIsaac’s name was put before the board for the open town-board position. Paul Andreassen and John Schoonmaker voted in the affirmative to make it a 4-0 vote for MacIsaac.

It’s assumed MacIsaac will submit his name at the Democratic caucus later this year for the 2018 election. He may be wise to look into his rear-view mirror in the following months to see whether any other Democrat may challenge him for the nomination.

Democratic voter turnout is often better in general elections than off-year, and will likely be so again this year when the congressional seat and governorship will be decided. If Democratic voters continue to be energized, that won’t bode well for a Republican seeking the town-board seat.

This is the first time since 1989 that there hasn’t been a Republican on the town board.

Back then Vernon Benjamin, Ron LeBlanc, Barbara O’Reilly, Mike Sommers, and Richard Marelli comprised the all-Democratic town board. Joan Feldmann had been a Democratic town board member, too, before accepting an appointment to the town clerk’s office.

That all-Democratic town board was short-lived. Roger Lindhurst, Marie Post and supervisor candidate George Terpening Sr. trounced the Democrats in the 1991 election to regain a majority.

Technically, the current town board is actually a board with an Independence Party-affiliated majority. Costello, Thornton and Andreassen are registered in the Independence Party, but won their seats with Democratic endorsement. Schoonmaker and MacIsaac are registered Democrats.

Republican leadership chatter

After the Republican candidates for town board were shut out in the November election, some Republicans are contending that a leadership change is needed. One name mentioned to lead the GOP committee is Melissa Jaeger, who currently serves as its vice-chairperson.

Change comes slow to political parties. We’ll see in the coming months whether the Republicans reorganize, ahead of the special 2018 election for the town-board seat.

Tucker’s dilemma

Three of the Tucker brothers have been in public service for a number of years.

Bruce Tucker served on the school board. Phil Tucker served a term on the town board until 2005 as a Democrat.  Don Tucker served about 14 years on the village board, along with non-consecutive terms on the school board. He ranks near the top, maybe at the top, in years of public service in Saugerties.

Don Tucker lost his school board seat in a re-election bid in 2015. He was unsuccessful in his pursuit of a town board seat a couple of months ago.

The Saugerties political landscape has dramatically changed since Tucker was first elected. The Republicans 30 years ago held a two-to-one registration advantage over the Democrats. There are now hundreds of more registered Democrats in the town than Republicans.

Don Tucker’s years of service on the school board may not have helped his recent run for the town board. On the school board, it’s likely at some point you’ll get teachers mad at you, or taxpayers, or both.

Will he run again? It may be too early to call this the end of the Tucker political era in Saugerties. But times do change.

Hinchey remembered

Maurice Hinchey’s passing brought back memories of what he meant to Democrats in a county that rarely saw Democrats victorious in elections when he first ran for office.

During those lean years for Democrats, Hinchey was always the bright star to young aspiring Democrats. And older ones, for that matter

First elected to the NYS Assembly in 1974 in what was then a Republican district, Hinchey had Watergate to thank for the victory. Many Republicans stayed away from the voting booth after the Nixon resignation.

Once elected, Hinchey gave rousing speeches to the party faithful. He often brought his inspired supporters to their feet.

After his first re-election to the Assembly, which he won overwhelmingly, Democratic candidates from all corners of Ulster County wanted their pictures taken with Hinchey.  They sought his endorsement and tried to use it to their election advantage in campaign advertisements and flyers.

When Hinchey won a congressional seat in 1992, allegiance from his Democratic supporters never wavered even when Washington kept him away more often from local political activities than Albany did.

No local Democrat officeholder inspired and rallied Democrats the way Hinchey was able to.

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