Hugh Reynolds: Saving Captain Ryan

A man speaks at a town hall meeting on gun violence and control held by congressional candidate Pat Ryan (at right with mic) at Kingston Library Tuesday evening. (Photo by Nicole Terpening)

When I read the front-page headline in the daily Sunday morning I had the distinct impression of having missed seven months somewhere. “Mickey,” I yelled to our tuxedo cat, “is Pat Ryan already our congressman?”
Could have been. Plastered across the top of the lead story was a Freeman headline declaring that Pat Ryan (with photo) would be holding a “town hall” on gun control at the Kingston Library in a couple of days. Who knew?

Mickey knew that Ryan, a Kingston native lately of Gardiner, is not yet the congressman. He’s not even close. He is one of several Democratic candidates seeking his party’s nomination at primary on June 26. Town-hallers are the bailiwick of incumbents. Here was this mere challenger not only donning one of the perks of office but also, thanks to the slow newspaper day getting a free dose of status.

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Huzzah for a slow news day, the Ryans must have thought, even as opponents gnashed teeth for not thinking of the idea of holding “a town-haller” first. What had probably started out as a press release under a pile of police reports on the daily’s city desk had somehow percolated its way up to the very pinnacle of the paper. 

High-fives to Ryan and his team for offering this gimmicky press opportunity, a public format incumbent John Faso has assiduously avoided. It’s not Ryan’s fault that news-starved editors sometimes have to go with what they’re fed.

But there’s a method to Ryan’s strategy. As a former Army officer with tours of duty in the Mideast, Ryan knows from guns. Both sides. If anything separates him from his Democratic opponents, and there’s not much, it’s the gun-control issue and his military record.

Ryan supports the Second Amendment, said a spokesman, “but he doesn’t want the kind of assault weapons he used in combat in the hands of civilians.” Neither do any of the other candidates, or for that matter any sensible civilian and certainly not millions of schoolchildren.

“In combat” separates Ryan from the pack. It’ll be ammunition among independents and Republicans (the majority of the electorate), but only if he gets the chance to face Faso in the November general election.

In the short term, Ryan, already considered top-tier in this crowded Demo derby, has stolen a march on his opponents. But it’s still early, and the gun issue will play far differently outside of Ulster in November. 

Joining the herd

Last week, former New Paltz school board member Steve Greenfield became the tenth candidate for Congress in the congressional district. A man who marches to his own drummer, Greeenfield will seek the nomination of the Green Party. As such, he’s no threat to the eight Democrats in the June 26 primary, but he could cost somebody votes in the general.

Raising Elliott

Showing some teeth for a change, Ulster’s county legislature seems poised to at least reconsider restoring a staff position in the comptroller’s office. This preemptive strike on Comptroller Elliott Auerbach’s payroll was launched in County Executive Mike Hein’s 2016 budget, dutifully rubber-stamped by a compliant legislature that year and last.  

Auerbach lost his confidential secretary and aide-de-camp Dan Torres. Torres, then barely 25, was much more a than a secretary to the comptroller. Too much like a political operative, said critics. But perhaps they exaggerated. Torres, a New Paltz town councilman, swore he performed no political duties on county time, unlike dozens of other denizens of the County Office Building. Representing the comptroller at political events on his own time was well within the rules. Torres, ever agile, quickly moved onto greener pastures. No pun intended: Torres works for the farm hub that purchased the Gill farm in Hurley.

He’s heavily involved in the Ryan campaign for Congress. Should Ryan succeed, that could produce a very plum congressional staff job for the ambitious Torres.

Meanwhile, déjà vu seems to be resurgent. After futile appeals to the legislature and a court rejection, Auerbach has circled back through a seldom-used procedure known as a petition to discharge to try to force another legislative vote. Auerbach’s cause is again being advanced by never-say-die Dave Donaldson, Democrat of Kingston. Though Donaldson loses more than he wins these days, he is always up for a good fight.

Legislature Chairman Ken Ronk, previously a staunch opponent of restoration, has advanced a new wrinkle: create a civil-service position in place of the former appointee, thus patronizing unions and perhaps saving a few bucks on salary. Torres was in the mid-50s, plus benefits.

Will Auerbach rise after being twice buried? Only twelve votes are required, and the ground seems to be shifting.

Marc his words

Sounding like a latter-day John F. Kennedy, Marc Molinaro formally launched his run for governor this week with a “this generation has a date with destiny” declaration. Doesn’t every generation? 

More than 200 supporters showed up for the formal announcement at Tivoli Village Hall, where it all started 23 years ago for a then-19-year-old. Molinaro. He had been in and out for the race for the big prize all winter. Maybe the bribery conviction of a close Cuomo confidant pushed him over the edge. Or was it Cynthia Nixon?  Talk about sex in the city!

Sounding like the Republican nominee — like JFK, Molinaro expects to have the nomination locked up going into the May state Republican convention — the candidate served up familiar anti-Cuomo themes: the two-term governor is a bully and he hangs with some shady characters. 

The governor’s response is no response at all, as if the emperor were fully clothed. Nobody here but us chickens (birds of a feather?), said Cuomo through myriad spokespersons. And so what if he’s a little forceful.

Molinaro offers an attractive package. He’s young but mature, with hands-on experience on the village, county and state levels. 

But, he’s an upstate Republican, and the Big Apple is where this election will be decided. In other words, the train doesn’t stop at Tivoli.

Molinaro was careful to give this run the most serious consideration. Through a long, undefeated career from boy wonder to two-term county executive, Molinaro has never really faced the kind of big-time, down-and-dirty campaign he’s signed up for. If there are any skeletons in his closet, and so far none have been revealed, he can expect that hardball Cuomo will come knocking. 

Budget time

Few seemed to take much notice, but after the usual behind-the-scenes midnight rambling, the state legislature actually increased the governor’s proposed $168 billion by some $2 billion. Recall that three months ago the state was supposed to be facing a $4 billion deficit? And they increased spending!

I love New York! Good-government groups fought for reform, which they didn’t get. Legislators lobbied for pork, which they apparently got in abundance.

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill reported out a few goodies as weary-eyed legislators headed for spring break. Belleayre can tap into a $10 million capital fund, and SUNY Ulster was granted $2.5 million for development of a fire training center. The actual training facility will be located in the Town of Ulster.

A rumored midnight salary raise didn’t survive the light of day, but will almost certainly be on the table after the election. Constituents might ask their reps whether they think they’re worth it.

Strange pewfellows

When the priest directs parishioners to offer “peace be with you” to each other is one of my favorite times at Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s Church in Rosendale. Imagine my surprise when I turned to find Mike Hein, so frequent a subject in this space, standing just behind me with his family on Easter Sunday. We shook hands and exchanged “peace is with you” with what appeared to be mutual sincerity.

“Who would have thought we’d wind up at Easter Mass together,” Hein said as we stood waiting for the congregation to file past our pews. “Truly, it is said that God works in mysterious ways.”

Before I could respond, he placed a hand on my shoulder and whispered, “But remember, this is, after all, April Fool’s Day.”

Job differences aside, I always liked that guy’s sense of humor.

There are 2 comments

  1. Mart

    No he isn’t our congressman and never should be. This guy spent his career spying on liberal groups for the chamber of commerce. When you write articles for our local news you shouldn’t ignore national articles about how flawed a candidate is. This guy should have dropped out a month ago. Go back to Brooklyn Pat Ryan!

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