Surprisingly close: VanBlarcum swam against the blue wave

John Faso and Paul VanBlarcum.

In a midterm political year dominated by an anti-Trumpian blue wave, three-term incumbent Ulster County sheriff Paul VanBlarcum, running on the Republican, Conservative, Independence and Reform lines, lost by a solid 42,445-to-36,078 margin to Democratic newcomer Juan Figueroa, sworn in last weekend for a four-year term. Considering that he lost both the Democratic convention and the September primary to Figueroa by margins approaching five-to-one and considering how numerous the pro-Trumpian, pro-gun, anti-NFL-kneelers and anti-immigrant sentiments he was noted to have expressed, however, VanBlarcum actually may have exceeded the prognostications made for him in the Nov. 6 general election. He lost the county by 6,367 votes. He definitely had a dedicated personal following. In a less politically engaged year, he might have won.

Contrast that with the performance of incumbent GOP congressman John Faso, who lost Ulster County by a memorable 19,052 votes. VanBlarcum lost by a third of that. Though far more outspoken in his Trumpian conservatism than Faso, VanBlarcum improved on Faso’s tally in each of the 21 Ulster County municipalities.

The Democrats were unstinting in their efforts to pin the Trumpian label on the 62-year-old veteran sheriff. “What happens when your Democratic sheriff morphs into a Trumpian conservative?” asked one political journal.


VanBlarcum gained particularly on Faso in the northern part of Ulster County. In the City of Kingston, VanBlarcum gained 1,150 votes over Faso’s total. In Saugerties it was almost 1,100, in Ulster 800, and in Esopus almost 600. 

Unsurprisingly, the liberal bastions of New Paltz and Woodstock proved most resistant to ticket-splitting. But even there the incumbent sheriff ran ahead of the incumbent congressman. In town after town, Democratic or Republican, he picked up hundreds of votes.

Juan Figueroa is seeking a different direction in the sheriff’s department that his veteran predecessor served for 44 years. It may turn out a less familiar direction than Ulster County is used to, or it may be a very familiar one shaken up a little. As Assemblyman Kevin Cahill said in his remarks at Figueroa’s swearing-in ceremony in Kingston, the direction the new sheriff in town is seeking “will respect every single individual for who they are without prejudgment.”

During the Putney Debates in 1647, Thomas Rainborough expressed similar thoughts in slightly different words: ¨For really I think that the poorest hee that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest hee; and therefore truly, Sir, I think itt clear, that every Man that is to live under a Government ought first by his own Consent to put himself under that Government; and I do think that the poorest man in England is not at all bound in a strict sense to that Government that he hath not had a voice to put Himself under.”