Hugh Reynolds: Democrats’ Super Sunday

A six-pack of Democratic congressional candidates bashing Republicans on Super Bowl Sunday? What were they thinking?

Plans for the first of what will probably be several such forums were announced by the Woodstock Democratic Committee several weeks ago. Initially, it was feared the forum might take place the evening of the Big Game. Thankfully, it’s been scheduled from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the sacred day at the Woodstock Community Center. It is designed to end some two hours prior to the New England-versus-Philadelphia kickoff. Thank heaven for small favors.

Woodstock Times editor Brian Hollander, firm, fair and knowledgeable, will moderate.

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The problem for the six-pack was that most of them declared almost a year ago during that period of shock and awe after Trump took office. During a year of vicious, divisive presidential politics, few other than the candidates seemed passionately interested in congressional campaigns. Getting attention, much less traction, made for a long, lonesome 2017 for the men who would unseat incumbent Republican John Faso of Kinderhook.

Two of the original eight dropped out along the way. Steven Brisee of Orange County ran afoul of the law. Sue Sullivan of southern Ulster, with a war chest of just $66,358, apparently realized the futility of being a serious contender while trying to hold down a full-time job.

I thought Sullivan would have matched up well against a field of guys. I still hear grumbles about why no woman has entered the fray. It’s late, but maybe not too late.

Candidates hoping to ride a “blue-state wave” to victory might give pause to timely advice from Dutchess Democrat Elisa Sumner. Sumner, an old hand, says she sees “no evidence” of such a tide, urging candidates in a Northern Dutchess News interview “not to rely on that to get elected.”

Woodstock, an epicenter of progressive politics, is as good a place as any to kick off the 2018 campaign. There is a whole lot of district out there to be conquered.

The money trail

Let’s for a moment follow the money to date, there being little else to distinguish the candidates from each other.

The latest cumulative totals on file with the Federal Elections Commission for the fourth quarter of last year show Antonio Delgado of Rhinebeck leading the pack with $1,053,989.11. Eleven cents? Was that Pat Courtney’s contribution? She’s big for Delgado.

Brian Flynn of Greene County, after loaning his campaign $500,000, is a close second at $1,044,650. Flynn tells people he’s making progress, having (finally) raised more money from contributors than he initially loaned himself.

Faso takes third place with $893,266. Faso’s boodle is noteworthy. A challenger (particularly an unknown) usually needs to raise twice that of an incumbent to be viable.

Placing a distant fourth was Patrick Ryan, formerly of Kingston and now living in Gardiner, with just under $590,000.

Spending reports due at the end of the month will show some upward movement, but it may be that some of these candidates have already squeezed the low-hanging fruit. Gareth Rhodes of Esopus, for instance, touted his reaching the $450,000 threshold, but only added $45,000 to his total last quarter.

Perhaps some pundits make too much of the money chase. Even pundits, like stopped watches, can be right twice a day. Absent the rare deep-pocket wanna-be, the ability to raise money demonstrates organization, energy and shamelessness, i.e., the willingness to beg virtual strangers for donations. These are qualities that attract real money, the Beltway millions it takes these days to run for Congress.

I don’t know whether the Woodstock forum will much move the needle, but somebody has to pop out of that crowd of candidates, and soon. As pundits might say, the clock is ticking.

Back to the future

The county Supervisor and Mayors’ Association met for the first time this year last week at the Olympic Diner outside of Kingston. What with busted pipes and phantom fuel deliveries, about half the association’s 24 members turned out to elect Ulster’s Jim Quigley their new president/chairman.

Something of a debating society where supervisors bitch and moan about common concerns, the association under an activist like Quigley could become something of a collective influence in county affairs.

Overworked, underpaid town supervisors tend to parochial concerns, leaving county government in the hands of their elected legislators. Legislators keep their distance. Only a handful bother to attend town board meetings, though most — except for New Paltz, I’m told –— make themselves available when called.

The association, under former chairman Carl Chipman, retired supervisor of Rochester (and with Quigley pulling levers in the background), was instrumental in the county’s takeover of Safety Net and election costs. But mostly, supervisors mind their own business. Some say they don’t want to get involved in “politics.” Imagine that.

That will change, I predict, with Quigley at the helm. A united, forceful, relevant supervisor’s association could get the county legislature to pay more attention. As these things are measured, that could represent progress.

Down the road, decisions on reapportionment are not all that distant, a county study committee having been formed last year. Might that committee, with pressure from an emerging supervisor’s association, consider the unthinkable: a return to the old board of supervisors as the county’s legislature? Unlikely, but politics is, after all, the realm of the possible.

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One-track minds

Just when we thought the long-running controversy over rails and trails had been put to bed, we find steam rising in the west.

With the county proceeding briskly to remove tracks along the neglected old railroad for a walking/biking trail around the Ashokan Reservoir comes word of an eleventh-hour challenge from a Phoenicia-based group called U&D Railway Revitalization Corp. Formed in mid-2016 as a non-profit around the time the county’s lease with the Catskill Mountain Railroad (CMRR) expired, the U&D seeks to halt trail construction via the federal government. “These are new people,” says CMRR’s Ernie Hunt.

U&D (for Ulster & Delaware) spokesman Larry Roth claims the county violated federal railroad rules by failing to petition the Surface Transportation Board to formally abandon the Ashokan tracks before beginning work on the trail this month. County officials, proceeding full steam, had no comment, citing a lawsuit in progress.

Roth says this is no lawsuit — yet — but an attempt to have the feds enforce their own rules. The county’s apparent failure to comply, he says, could result in a stop-work order, or even require the county to replace the tracks it has torn up. Ouch.

The feds, just back from a brief work stoppage, did not return calls.

Here and there

Sifting through a dozen applicants, Wiltwyck Golf Club’s new owners rather quickly named a club professional this week. Florida’s boyish-looking Luke Burbach, a seasoned pro at 26, will take over next month. But can he fix Rich Croce’s slice or Marc Luksberg’s shanks? That the club, a sinking ship only a month ago, attracted this many pros, bodes well.

Congratulations to former Kingston alderman and county legislator John “Jack” Finch on the occasion of his 90th birthday this week. A retired school principal and former Ulster County Community College trustee among other things, the sprightly Finch remains active in his real-estate business. A widower for many years, Finch is expecting his first great-grandchild in a few months. Finches flew in from as far away as Colorado, because that’s what Finches do, to celebrate the patriarch’s birthday.

And finally, condolences to the family of former Kingston police detective and DA’s special investigator Junious Harris, 86. Junious, affectionately called Junie, was a prince of a guy and scrupulously honest. Junie left everybody smiling, even some of the motorists he ticketed early in his 30-year career with KPD. He leaves a large and loving family.

There is one comment

  1. unatracktive

    re: One Track Minds; the county has responded to the U&D Prestidigitation’s petition to the STB with evidence that Penn Central’s receivers filed for abandonment in 1977, before there was an STB. NYSDOT recognized that abandonment in 1977.

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