Congressional candidates Republican incumbent John Faso and Democratic challenger Antonio Delgado have at least one thing in common: Neither wasted any time getting on with the main event once the Democratic primary results were in.
Faso was on the horn an hour after polls closed on primary night on June 26 with a preview of coming attractions. Describing his general election opponent as just another outsider shopping for a winnable congressional district, Faso reprised the playbook that won him the last election. I don’t think Delgado will be the punching bag Zephyr Teachout turned out to be two years ago.
Winning habits are hard to break. In politics, it’s all about defining your opponent, and woe the candidate who allows the other side to do it. Delgado, born and raised just across the district line in Schenectady, with future stops in Oxford, Los Angeles, New Jersey and since last year Rhinebeck village, was having none of that.
Taking the campaign to a higher level, Delgado suggested he and Faso exchange opinions directly rather than through campaign mouthpieces or Beltway PACs. I thought that a capital idea, but got no comment from Faso’s campaign.
It now appears that as Delgado was taking the high road, only to be ignored by Faso,
the Faso forces were up to no good. The flap that Faso et. al. created by bringing forth an objectionable (to some) hip-hop CD Delgado, now 41, released just as he was turning 30 could turn out to be an unforced error on the congressman’s part. Delgado made no secret of that phase of his life during the primary, though he did not offer up the CD’s N-word lyrics that Faso found so “seriously troubling.”
Faso, piling on his opening characterization of his opponent as a Jersey lawyer, liberal, carpetbagger, was attempting to further define his African-American opponent as “the other” in what he calls “our district.”
And it’s only mid-July.
Reactions from Republicans I talked to over the weekend regarding Faso’s foray into the hip-hop genre — and this was no scientific poll — generally ranged from dismay to revulsion. Even among GOPers who donated to Faso’s campaigns, the phrase “just plain stupid” made the mix. Oops. A blast from a letter penned by some 20-odd members of local clergy also tipped the scales in Delgado’s direction.
Maybe Faso should accept Delgado’s offer of direct interchanges on important issues, which quite obviously should not include racial innuendo.
I’ll admit to a hasty call on this one. After 18 months of grueling campaigning, I expected Democratic primary losers to scatter like seagulls, leaving winner Delgado to fend for himself. Nope.
A large, enthusiastic crowd gathered at the Rhinecliff Hotel last Saturday afternoon to hear five of six former candidates extol the virtues of the man who handily defeated all them. All heaped scorn on the opposition.
Erin Collier, after finishing last, motored over on a hot, steamy day from faraway Cooperstown to join the love fest. Jeff Beals of Woodstock, the most radical of the original seven, did not attend. Perhaps it was because his car only makes left turns and Rhinecliff is east of Woodstock via the George Clinton Bridge. (Does anybody call it by its official name?)
The riverfront rally, not far from Delgado’s home in Rhinebeck, was a good start for the challenger. The Harvard lawyer and Rhodes scholar probably needs every Democratic vote available, and lots of independents, to win. He had to be impressed, and grateful.
By the numbers
Official primary final results (with the absentee ballots included) showed Delgado with some weak spots in Democratic strongholds. Delgado finished a distant fourth in Woodstock, despite his wife being a native of the town. With 449 Woodstock votes, Dave Clegg crushed Jeff Beals, who had 338. The Kingston lawyer has lived in Woodstock for 34 years against less than two for Beals.
Gareth Rhodes of Kerhonkson, after finishing a strong second to Delgado in the district, but fourth in the county, was the first ex-candidate to publicly to campaign for Delgado, appearing at one of those weekly “Faso Fridays” sidewalk rallies at the congressman’s district office in Kingston. Good move. Petulance has no place in politics. Rhodes, who turned 30 this month and is headed back to Harvard Law, has a bright future.
With the hometown vote split every which way among the Ulster-based candidates, Delgado could use some shoring up in Democratic bastions like Kingston, New Paltz, Rosendale, Woodstock and Gardiner. While popularity isn’t always transferrable, having surrogates like the five-pack on the campaign trail in key areas could help. We’ll see.
I don’t know about other motorists, but I look upon the reconfiguration of the juncture of Albany Avenue, Broadway and Chandler Drive in Kingston into another roundabout with considerable trepidation. State planners say it will take upwards of two years to complete the job, if they bring it in on time. And the cost may be almost double original estimates.
But there’s some good news. Kingston’s water department, tasked with replacing century-old water mains as part of the project, looked at state estimates and called in its own consultants. To the amazement of the big Albany spenders, the estimates came in at half the million-dollar original figure.
Water department superintendent Judith Hanson, “Hard Hat” to the crews she joins in ditches from time to time, treats water and money like precious resources. How quaint. Maybe ol’ tight-fist should be running this job.
Not that polls released in July mean much, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s sampling of local voters had their man Delgado up seven points last week. Call it a primary bump. The only poll that matters should be a good deal closer. The next poll by somebody, probably in mid-August, could be more significant.
Nobody’s heard much recently from independent congressional candidate Diane Neal of Hurley, but she’s out there beating the bushes for the 3,500 signatures required for ballot placement in November.
Joining the fray this month was Dal LaMagna (pronounced “lamanya”) of Clinton. A retired businessman, the self-described “man from lasagna” and inventor of the hugely successful “better tweezers” says he’ll invest at least $100,000 in his independent campaign. Given the odds of any independent other than Bernie Sanders winning federal office, LaMagna might better call himself the man of La Mancha.
LaMagna, like Neal, is quotable. “Faso is the past, Delgado is the future,” he said. If either Neal or LaMagna, assuming they make it on the ballot, take many votes from Delgado, Faso will be the future, and probably for a long time.
Neal, 42, a former Law and Order TV actress, and LaMagna, 72, have until July 31 to secure the necessary signatures. After that looms a long-shot campaign. What’s that they say about being careful about what you wish for?
Incumbent Ulster Sheriff Paul VanBlarcum and challenger Juan Figueroa, the unofficial Democratic nominee, both made the ballot for the Sept. 13 Democratic primary, reports the board of elections.
With Democratic committee members carrying his petitions, Figueroa posted just over 3,000 signatures against 1,500 for Van Blarcum. According to campaign spending statements, the challenger has raised $20,600 (in round figures) against $14,300 for the sheriff. Competitive county-wide races usually require at least six figures.
Condolences to the family and friends of former Hurley supervisor Raymond (Jake) Croswell, who died at 88 this week. Jake served as town supervisor for ten years, ending in 1985. A Republican of true Hurley stone-house fashion, Jake was averse to spending money. Friends may recall the time a newcomer asked about the town building a swimming pool at the town park. “Build one for yourself in your own back yard,” retorted Jake. “We’re not spending town money on that.”
That was Jake.