In February, after Kingston Republicans failed to find a nominee to challenge Mayor Steve Noble, it appeared that the incumbent Democrat might have a free ride to a second term. Four months later, Noble has gone from no opponents to three.
The latest entrant into the race, former accountant and businessman Vince Rua, announced last week that he would run for mayor on the ballot line of the “Serve America Movement.” Rua joins Republican candidate Ellen DiFalco and Ethan Scott Barnett who is running on his self-created “Kingston People’s Party” line.
“We’re giving the voters four distinctly different platforms. We have four uniquely different skill sets or lack thereof,” said Rua of the crowded field. “Voters are going to have really good, clear choices.”
Rua, 65, has is a Kingston native who returned to the city a few years ago after a career at several major accounting firms and running a chain of clothing stores in the Capital Region. He is the founder and CEO of Christopher’s Custom Clothing, which designs and manufactures bespoke men’s clothing.
Rua has been hinting at a run for mayor for at least three years. He’s been a regular presence at Common Council meetings and spoke out against a proposal by RUPCO to build low-income senior housing at the former site of the Kingston Alms House on Flatbush Avenue. In 2017 he headed up a campaign committee of the Kingston Republican Committee. Running under the banner “Restore Kingston Pride,” Rua recruited candidates for Aldermanic elections and ran weekly strategy sessions with an eye towards retaking the nine-member Common Council which, at the time, had just one Republican. “Restore Kingston Pride” ran on a platform of lower taxes and argued that the city had taken on more than its fair share of the county’s low income housing.
The attempt at a Republican resurgence in heavily Democratic Kingston failed. Just one of the Restore Kingston Pride candidates won election, Patrick O’Reilly (Ward 7). O’Reilly is not enrolled in a party. Upon taking office he declined the post of minority leader and in February he was endorsed by city Democrats to join Noble’s “One Kingston” slate. Following the election, Rua stepped down from the Republican Committee and left the party.
Despite his withdrawal from Republican politics, the Kingston Republican Committee nominated him as their candidate for mayor at a February convention. Rua declined the nomination. At the time, Rua said, he turned down the Republican nod because the party had failed to field a slate of candidates for other city offices. Without support from fellow elected officials, Rua said he would be a “lame duck” Mayor.
But Rua said he changed his mind after speaking with Alderwoman Andrea Shaut (D-Ward 9) who is running unopposed for alderman-at-large — the city’s second-highest elected office — and other council members.
“I sat down with Andrea and we mutually agreed that if I were to become mayor we could work together to effect positive change,” said Rua. “Knowing that I will have the ability to work with the alderman-at-large and the majority of the Common Council, I felt more comfortable running.”
Rua is running on a platform that includes lowering property taxes. Rua said Noble’s administration has overstated the city’s fiscal needs leading to surpluses in the city’s fund balance that should have been left in taxpayers’ pockets. Rua said he also favors taking a supply-side approach to addressing issues of affordability in the city. He said he thinks attracting more, better paying jobs to the area would be the best way to help residents cope with rising housing costs.
Rua added that as mayor he would also work to improve safety by slowing down hazardous material laden “bomb trains” that run through the city. He also promoted a five-year plan to fix the city’s streets with an aggressive repaving program.
“We should be fixing potholes every year,” said Rua. “Not just in an election year.”
Rua is running with the backing of the Serve America Movement. The party, which first appeared on New York State ballots last year promotes pragmatic, middle of the road solutions and calls for bipartisanship and cooperation among elected officials.
“The only thing that stands out more than Vince’s deep commitment to the City of Kingston is his focus on getting the best results for its people,” wrote SAM New York Chair Michael Volpe in a press release announcing Rua’s candidacy.
Noble declined to address Rua’s entry into the race directly, saying that he would focus on building on his administration’s achievements and moving forward on issues facing the city. Barnett did not respond to a Facebook message seeking comment. DiFalco, a onetime personal secretary to former Mayor Shayne Gallo who ran for a Ward 3 Council seat on the Restore Kingston Pride ticket, blasted Rua by calling attention to his record of personal and business bankruptcy. Rua’s clothing chain declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2005, 11 years after the company was founded as a hardware store chain using money from local investors. Later, Rua would declare personal bankruptcy. DiFalco said that Rua’s personal financial history called into question his claims of fiscal expertise.
“It is relevant for the public to know the truth about what really happened 25 years ago,” wrote DiFalco referring to a 2005 article in the Times Herald-Record detailing the businesses evolution — apparently unbeknownst to some investors — from a hardware enterprise to a clothing concern and its devolution into eventual bankruptcy.
“A leopard doesn’t change his spots; and he’s not a team player and will try to discredit anyone who doesn’t agree with his philosophies. Is the caliber of an individual we want leading the city? In my opinion, Kingston deserves better representation.”
Rua dismissed the criticism and said that his campaign was focused on delivering real solutions to the city’s issues.
“This is the type of political hatchet job that turns people off of politics completely,” wrote Rua in a prepared statement. “For Kingstonians, this election is not about finger-pointing and name-calling … it is about jobs, housing, and the city’s fiscal bottom line. My campaign is focused on the future of Kingston and creating a thriving, inclusive future for our residents.”