Ulster County voters could potentially get to vote in three elections in the space of seven months to replace outgoing County Executive Mike Hein. The cost of all three contests will likely exceed $1 million.
Hein is expected to leave office early this year to take a post as commissioner at the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. Hein’s official resignation will start the clock on a deadline laid out in the county charter to elect a replacement. According to the charter, a special election must be held within 90 days of the post becoming vacant, with the winner filling the remainder of the outgoing executive’s four-year term. Ulster County Election Commissioner Ashley Dittus said that she had reached out to both the county attorney and counsel at the New York State Board of Elections for clarification on timing of the special election. But, Dittus added, her understanding was that Gov, Andrew Cuomo would set the exact date of the contest. The winner of the special election will take office immediately for a term that will end on Dec. 31, 2019.
With a new county executive in place, the second electoral contest of 2019 will be party primaries. Currently, primary day in New York is scheduled for the second Tuesday in September. But state lawmakers are expected to weigh moving the primary contest to June to align the state system with a court-mandated primary day for federal posts. While party leaders are expected to select candidates for the special election, any candidate who receives enough signatures on nominating petitions can appear on their party’s ballot for the September (or June) primary contest. Theoretically, the winner of the special election could be knocked off the ballot in a primary just a few months later.
Finally, a November general election will determine who holds the county executive’s post through the end of 2023. According to Dittus, who based her calculations on previous county-wide elections, each of the three electoral contests will cost county taxpayers between $350,000 and $375,000.