Hugh Reynolds: Erin Collier won’t let ‘those boys’ beat her

Erin Collier

The all-male congressional six-pack’s worst nightmare came roaring out of Cooperstown this week with Erin Collier’s announcement she’s entering the overcrowded Democratic fray for Congress.

Collier’s candidacy is designed in part to address at least three long-lingering questions. Why haven’t any of the six candidates yet distinguished themselves from the others? Why hasn’t a woman come forward? And could she beat Republican John Faso in November?

Diane Neal of Hurley, however briefly, answered at least one of those questions in putting forth her candidacy five weeks ago. But nobody’s heard from her since, and there is the growing sense that nobody will. Neal is (was?) running as an independent. The worst thing she could do for the Democratic Party was to siphon off precious votes from whoever wins the June 26 primary. An independent candidate can only play spoiler.

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Collier, an agricultural economist with for the federal Agency for International Development (USAID), projects something more positive. At best, she augments the Democratic vote, potentially bringing women voters who might not have voted for any of the men plying their troth to the polls. And that includes Faso. While soundly defeating Zephyr Teachout two years ago, Faso took a hellacious beating on women’s issues. Does Planned Parenthood ring a bell? It will.

But let’s not hand Collier the keys to Congress just yet. Her campaign, at first blush, seems based almost entirely on gender. “I can beat all those guys” is a war cry reminiscent of the 2016 presidential campaign, and how did that work out? Collier will need a lot more than that in the general election, if she gets there. But I like her chances in a seven-way primary.

The guys have collectively raised close to $4 million after a year on the campaign trail. Collier will be able to tap seed money from women’s organizations like Emily’s List (Early Money Is Like Yeast, it rises), but may find empty pockets elsewhere.

More critical and most timely, Collier must put together a team of people to go door-to-door collecting the 1,250 signatures she’ll need to qualify for the primary. She says she has that covered. I wonder.

She may think a couple of thousand signatures are but one small step for womankind. Perhaps, but there are six other candidates out there mining Democratic signatures.

Will any or all of the six-pack alter strategy based on this new development? I doubt it, but women’s issues, something of a sidebar for many, will take a more prominent role.

Moments of truth mark the horizon. The deadline for submission of petitions is April 12, only four weeks from Friday. Her performance by that date will determine whether this new, feisty, outspoken runner is in it for the long haul.

Media note

As I’ve whined herein before, races with multiple candidates are a reporter’s worst nightmare. Two or three contenders are manageable. Six or seven with a dozen critical issues in play? Oy. No wonder these guys got lost in the mix.

In fairness, we have to mention all candidates if we mention one. If Aaron Judge hits one out of the new Yankee Stadium (no one ever hit out of the old one), do sportswriters have to include every member of the team in their stories?

I hate to call the six-pack also-rans just because some newcomer pops up from Cooperstown. They’ve all worked really hard for over a year. Also running are Jeff Beals, David Clegg, Patrick Ryan, Antonio Delgado, Brian Flynn and Gareth Rhodes.

Number, please

As most Democrats appreciate by now, it‘s petition season. By April 12, the deadline for securing signatures on nominating petitions for the June 26 congressional primary, even cave-dwellers and groundhogs will have been flushed out. I can smell the sweat.

According to the state board of elections, there are 151,679 “active” Democrats registered in the congressional district, meaning those potential primary voters whose addresses have been verified by county boards of election. Republicans have about 4,500 fewer, statistically within a poll’s typical margin of error. Non-enrolled voters plus a smattering of supporters of the minor parties make up the other third of the pie.

Given the history of turnout for party primaries, usually about 15 percent of enrollment, the anticipated Democratic voting pool would be around 25,000. With seven candidates actively campaigning for the June 26 runoff, I think that number could exceed 30,000.

Entry to the primary requires 1,250 valid signatures from enrolled Democrats. The operative word is “valid.” For safety’s sake — there will be challenges — most campaigns will aim for double that number.

“Our goal is 3,500,” said Jen Fuentes of Esopus, field manager for Woodstock resident and Kingston lawyer Dave Clegg. “To be honest, I think we’re already there,” she said. With the brief petition season officially launched only on March 6, I don’t think so, to be honest, not yet.

Those who challenge Fuentes often run amok. Around Kingston, the energetic Fuentes is known by some as “the mayor-maker” for heading campaigns that elected the last three mayors. Fuentes knows her city wards, all right. But the 19th Congressional District holds over 700,000 residents across an 11-county district slightly larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. The logistics are daunting.

Her field operation for Clegg, Fuentes says, has enlisted 500 (unpaid) volunteers. Included in that impressive number is a group of foot-slogging Methodist church ladies from Woodstock calling themselves “Legs for Clegg.” (Clegg is a deacon in the Methodist Church). One of those ladies is 91, according to Fuentes, and hopes to see Clegg’s campaign all the way through to November victory over incumbent Republican Faso.

I’m not telling campaign managers anything they don’t already know, but there’s no question the road to the Democratic nomination will run through Ulster County, and to a lesser extent Dutchess County. According to the state board of elections, there are 43,311 registered Democrats in Ulster, by far the largest pool in the district, and 23,123 in northern Dutchess. Together, those two counties comprise almost 45 percent of district Dems. No wonder five of seven declared candidates either moved to or have lived in Ulster for a long period. Delgado, who leads the fundraising race with more than $1.7 million, moved to Rhinebeck last year. Ryan, born and raised in Ulster like Rhodes, moved back in 2017. Beals moved from Putnam County to Woodstock in 2016. Does anybody see a pattern here?

Standing Pat

Flash: Archrivals Mike Hein and Kevin Cahill have finally agreed on something. Both Democrats endorse Kingston businesswoman Pat Strong for state Senate against two-term incumbent Republican George Amedore of Rotterdam.

In separate statements on Strong’s press release, Assemblyman Cahill and County Executive Hein extolled the business virtues and community activism of Strong. She runs a consulting firm, Courtney Strong, which deals primarily with energy issues. Its offices are at 446 Broadway, across from Kingston High School.

Strong, 62, is a founder of the Kingston Business Alliance. A former journalist, she was a reporter at the Daily Freeman in the mid-1980s.

Former state Senate Democratic candidate Jeff Collins of Woodstock, who announced only last month, withdrew upon Strong’s declaration. He cited Strong as “our best chance to enact change in our state.”

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Strong said she will continue to support the candidacy of congressional hopeful Antonio Delgado, at least until the likely seven-way Democratic congressional primary in June.

In a senatorial district that includes about half of Ulster County residents, Amedore trounced Sara Niccoli by almost 33,000 votes in 2016. Niccoli, Town of Palatine supervisor when she ran, carried the Ulster portion of the district by a scant four votes among almost 40,000 cast.

In Ulster County, the senatorial district includes the City of Kingston and the towns of Saugerties, Esopus, Hurley, Lloyd, Ulster, Saugerties and Woodstock.

Siting the issue

When it comes to regional landfills, once again a hot topic in these parts, only three questions need to be considered: location, location and location. To hearken to those turbulent days a generation ago when Ulster County tried to locate a county landfill at Winston Farm in Saugerties, “Dump here? Never!”

Legislatures from Ulster, Greene and Sullivan counties are currently considering a consultant’s proposal to establish a regional landfill somewhere in what is for the most part a vast wooded region. On paper, it looks like a workable idea. Millions could be saved by not shipping trash to distant points near the Finger Lakes. Ulster’s hallmark recycling program could be implemented in neighboring counties.

Geographically central Ulster might be the best spot. But where?

It would seem that time will soon become a factor. Permits for landfills near the westward lakes will expire by 2025, less than four election cycles away.

Consolidation, pushed hard by the state, is usually a good idea, but landfills are a special case. Which is to ask, what happens when the rubber (garbage) hits the road?

Honest, Abe?

I used to think nobody could get around Assemblyman Kevin Cahill’s left flank, but it now appears that uptown Kingston businessman Abe Uchitelle will give it a try.

Cahill, recall, was often pilloried from the right for being too liberal too long, hopelessly off the rails somewhere to the left of Maurice Hinchey and Shelley Silver. The pugnacious Cahill wore his liberal label — now called progressive — proudly.

Along comes Abe, so new to the scene that he had to pronounce his surname (you-sha-tell) at a campaign launch in Kingston last week. About 50 people turned out, most, as far as I could see, under 30, like Abe, who’s 29. They reminded me of the people Cahill usually hires as Assembly staffers: young, bright, eager.

In many ways, Uchitelle’s candidacy represents the Democratic Party’s lurch to the left toward Bernieville: younger, demanding, idealistic, confrontational. That used to be Cahill. As far as I know, it still is — except, of course, the young part.

May nominating conventions will tell us more about just where this party is at.

There are 3 comments

  1. Jen Fuentes

    My sleep would be so much more restful if we had reached our petition goal. To clarify, we have obtained enough signatures on our designating petition to qualify for the ballot, about 1/3 of our goal. Until then it’s no sleep and brisk business for Hudson Coffee Traders.

  2. Steven L Fornal

    I’m thankful that Erin Collier decided to run for NY19 Congressional district. She has proven herself very capable of setting goals and achieving them. An eighth generation family in the district and fifth generation farm family she graduated magna cum laude in agricultural economics from Cornell. Erin went on to earn a Masters in the field as well. She landed a job with the UN which offer positions which are hotly contested by the best and brightest.

    Erin is also an experienced marathon runner and triathlete which shows strength and a never give up attitude.

    The six pack (as Hugh calls them — nice, Hugh) have been on the campaign trail for a year yet haven’t made much of an impression. Erin Collier reminds one and all that only 20 percent of Congress are female which is ridiculous.

    Let’s have someone running on the Democrat line that can actually beat Faso. Erin Collier has everything to do just that!

  3. Claude Suhl

    I am disturbed that an experienced marathon runner and triathlete who must know full well the years of preparation required to survive let alone compete would barge in to a Congressional race with international consequences well into the narrow window during which petitions must be gathered. She is NOT the only woman who tried running – Sue Sullivan , who appeared at the Old Dutch Church August 2017 along with the boys – filed her candidacy with the FEC May 2017 – Erin Collier -March 11, 2018. Sue Sullivan with an impressive resume and ample campaign skills raised $66,000, felt that was an insufficient amount and has closed her candidacy account with the FEC.
    As for Mr. Fornal’s assertion of the other 6 candidates not having made much of an impression, I would agree that to the casual observer they have not significantly set themselves apart from each OTHER, but they all present a much stronger case for being an effective House member with histories of activism and accomplishment than someone who could only manage to step into the fray 10 months after the others, while our Democracy has been under the greatest threat this country has ever experienced.

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