Chris Allen, booted off the county legislature in 2017 by Joe Maloney, wants his old seat back.
On Feb. 20, Allen, who served two terms representing District 2, got the Democratic endorsement at the county convention in Kingston, beating out town councilman John Schoonmaker 629.5 to 541 in weighted voting. (Each county committee member gets a vote that is “weighted” based on how many people in their election district cast ballots on the Democratic party line in the last gubernatorial election).
“I wasn’t exactly sure because you don’t necessarily get a barometer on these types of things,” said Allen when he was asked whether he expected the results. Schoonmaker promised a primary challenge to Allen for the Democratic line.
Allen, 50, said that his primary focus, should he be elected to the legislative seat currently occupied by Maloney, will involve healthcare reform. During his two terms on the legislature between 2013 and 2017, Allen said he made strides towards Lyme disease awareness on the legislature’s Health Committee. His own Lyme diagnosis in 2008 put the disease on his radar, as taking care of his ailing mother has led him to advocate for improved services at the county’s Office for the Aging.
“We have an increasing demographic with people coming over to Ulster County. I have a lot of experience dealing with nursing homes and insurance companies on behalf of both of my parents. It’s a very daunting task for a lot of elderly people … they can’t always have children to assist them,” said Allen. “It can be very daunting for these people and intimidating. There’s a very narrow window of time where you can file appeals to get coverage for a nursing home.”
Allen, who currently resides in Barclay Heights, graduated from Saugerties High School in 1986; he also holds an associate’s degree from Ulster County Community College, bachelor’s degrees from SUNY Oneonta and SUNY Binghamton, and master’s degrees from Rutgers and Northern Colorado University.
Schoonmaker, 27, said he’s currently seeking the endorsements of the Working Families and Green parties, and has every intention of going head-to-head with Allen in the June 25 primary. Schoonmaker, a progressive, has served as a Saugerties town councilman since 2018. His foremost platform, he said, is keeping Ulster County at the forefront of the green movement.
“I think, at this point, I’m going to bring a new perspective. Chris has done a good job in there, but it doesn’t seem like he brought in any groundbreaking ideas,” said Schoonmaker. “The lack of experience argument isn’t strong. You can’t go based on just how long someone has been alive on the Earth, you have to look at the complete package.”
Currently a village resident, Schoonmaker graduated from Saugerties High in 2010, pursued a biology degree at Siena University and currently works as a lab technician at Taconic Biosciences.
Among Schoonmaker’s concepts that he’d like to implement, should he win the seat in September, are an invasive species-tackling task force, a countywide ban on new fossil fuel industry and seeking out policy to allow the county’s Industrial Development Agency to prioritize green businesses.
Al Bruno, 58, will seek the District 2 seat on the Republican and Conservative party lines. He graduated from Saugerties High in 1979, and is currently in the employ of Vassar Brothers Hospital as an HVAC technician.
“It feels good that the county has the confidence in me to represent my constituents,” said Bruno of the Republican nomination. “I will work hard to represent them as their employee — after all, all legislators are working for the people who elect them.”
District 1 incumbent Republican legislator Mary Wawro will be facing a challenger — Democrats nominated Aaron Levin last week to oppose her.