Kingston mayor’s race back to a three-candidate affair

Steve Noble, Vince Rua and Ellen DiFalco.

Kingston’s mayoral race will be a three-way contest after a fourth candidate ended his campaign. Meanwhile, nine members of the Kingston Republican Committee have resigned to throw their support behind third-party candidate Vince Rua.

Rua, who’s running on the party line of the Serve America Movement, will face incumbent Democrat Steve Noble and Republican candidate Ellen DiFalco at the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 5. A fourth candidate, Ethan Scott Barnett, dropped out of the race last week. In a video posted to social media on Aug. 30, Barnett said that he had dropped out because he did not see a path to victory.

“If we don’t have a functioning foundation, there’s no way for a credible outcome,” said the 26-year-old post graduate student and civil rights historian.

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Barnett led a successful petition drive to place his Kingston People’s Party on the November ballot and positioned himself as progressive advocate for working-class residents of the city. In his video statement, Barnett said that he planned to remain involved in civic life and youth work in the city.

“I’m dedicated to doing this work, I’m dedicated to making a better Kingston,” said Barnett. 

Mayor Steve Noble said that he had had “some great conversations” with Barnett over the past few months and that he hoped to work with his erstwhile opponent in the future.

“We have a similar ideology about where Kingston is going,” said Noble. “He’s got a lot of great ideas and it’s been a good, positive relationship so far.”

While Barnett’s departure from the race will likely help Noble unite fellow progressives around his re-election campaign, Rua’s campaign got its own boost with the defection of nine veteran members of the Kingston Republican Committee. The breakaway group includes former Ward 9 alderwoman Debbie Brown, her husband Gerald Brown and former committee chairman Anthony Sinagra. In an Aug. 27 letter to Kingston Republican Party Chair Charles Polacco, the group said they were resigning at the request of County Republican Chairman Roger Rascoe, based on their support for Rua’s campaign.

This week, Deb Brown downplayed the resignations, saying they were simply based on party bylaws which forbid committee members from supporting candidates running against Republicans. Brown said she’s supporting Rua based on his pragmatic approach to city government.

“I agree with what Vince is saying,” said Brown. “This is not about disgust with the Republican Party or anything, but people want some bipartisanship. They are tired of the fighting and bickering.”

Rua seeks the center

But the loss of nine committee members represents a blow both for DiFalco, a former clerk of the Ulster County Legislature and confidential secretary to former mayor Shayne Gallo, and the city’s Republican Party infrastructure. The nine resignations total nearly a third of the entire committee. Committee members assist in on-the-ground campaigning for Republican candidates. The committee also serves as a recruiting pool for candidates in city and county elections, and a vehicle for fundraising. Republicans have not held the mayor’s office since the early 1990s and have not had a single representative on the Common Council since Brown was ousted in 2017 by current alderman-at-large candidate Andrea Shaut.

Rua, founder of a custom clothing business, formerly served on the city’s Republican Committee. In 2017, he helped organize a slate of candidates for the Kingston Common Council and the Ulster County Legislature running under the banner of “Restore Kingston Pride.” He resigned from the committee following that election. In February, Rua was nominated by Kingston Republican Committee to run for mayor on the GOP party line. Rua declined the nomination citing the committee’s failure to nominate anyone for alderman-at-large or any of the nine council seats.

Rua would later accept the nomination of the SAM party. The party, which in early 2019 had no registered members in New York, won a spot on the ballot this year after gubernatorial candidate Stephanie Miner garnered more than 50,000 votes. The party promotes a centrist approach to politics. 

Rua said that middle-of-the-road approach is evident in his own campaign, which has emphasized issues like street repair and job creation. Rua said he has garnered support from city residents across the political spectrum. At his campaign events, Rua said, Republicans, Democrats and non-enrolled voters show in numbers roughly equal to their proportions on the city’s voting rolls.

“Every person I meet wants the mayor replaced,” said Rua. “And the issues that bubble to the top are the lack of a five- to 10-year infrastructure plan and the condition of our sidewalks and streets.” 

Noble meanwhile is running on his record since taking office in 2016. That record includes a freeze on the city’s annual tax levy and a major increase in state and federal grants to pay municipal projects like improvements and Dietz Stadium and sidewalk replacement in Midtown. 

“We’re working to get the message out about the great work that’s been done over the past three and a half years,” said Noble of his re-election campaign. “And my commitment over the next four years to helping the city grow and continue to move in a positive direction.”

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