Democrat Patrick Ryan will have an opponent in an April 30 special election for County Executive after Republicans made an 11th-hour nomination on the 11th to secure on a spot on the ballot.
On Monday, the final day for nominations for the special election, GOP officials filed a certificate of nomination naming Jack Hayes as the party’s candidate in the contest. Hayes is a retired state trooper and chairman of the county’s Conservative Party. He’s also served stints as Gardiner town supervisor and a county legislator. Hayes has also made unsuccessful runs for county comptroller and the 103rd Assembly District seat occupied by Kevin Cahill. Currently, he serves on the board of the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency. Hayes’ nomination comes after Republicans failed to field a candidate at their Feb. 23 nominating convention.
Hayes will face Ryan, a 36 year-old Gardiner resident and former Army officer. Ryan, who left the Army for a career developing intelligence software for the military and law enforcement, was previously a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for the 19th Congressional District. Ulster County Republican Committee Chairman Roger Rascoe said that he hoped voters would respond to Hayes’ experience in government against an opponent who has never held elected office.
“What he has going for him is experience and qualifications that his opponent doesn’t,” Rascoe said.
Ryan secured the Democratic nomination at a Feb. 20 nominating convention of 300 county committee members, where he prevailed over Kingston businesswoman Pat Courtney Strong. (Because of the compressed timetable of the special election, candidates were chosen by party officials, not through a primary open to rank-and-file members).
Ryan was quick to seize on Hayes’ belated entry into the race to question his commitment to securing the county executive’s job and working on behalf of voters.
“Ulster County deserves a decisive leader who is ready to put in the work,” Ryan wrote in a March 11 press release. “That’s what I’ve been doing since day one-listening to residents, attending community events and traveling to every part of our county. The Republican Party has spent the last nine weeks searching for a candidate to even commit to run.”
This week, Democrats seized on some of Hayes’ previous statements and his leadership role in the hard-right Conservative Party to portray Hayes as out of touch with local sensibilities. In particular, critics have pointed to a 2016 letter to the editor published in the New Paltz Times in which Hayes writes in an African-American dialect while writing about police officers’ knowledge of and empathy for poor communities. Ryan, in contrast, has put forth an unabashedly progressive agenda, including criticizing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for detaining undocumented residents in Ulster County.
“Jack represents the same kind of divisive politics that has become all too familiar from Republicans,” Ulster County Democratic Chairman Frank Cardinale stated in Ryan’s release. “No longer the party of Lincoln, today’s Republican Party is increasingly xenophobic, anti-environment and anti-woman.”
Rascoe, meanwhile accused Democrats of attempting to inject ideology and national-level politics into a race that he said should be about choosing a qualified candidate to carry out the nuts and bolts work of running Ulster County.
“Unfortunately, the other side has turned this into a political race instead of being about who can do a better job for the county and the taxpayers,” said Rascoe.