Whoever heard of a candidate running in two elections for two different districts on the same day? Ulster County executive Pat Ryan will be doing just that on August 23 when he runs in a special election to fill the congressional seat vacated by Antonio Delgado in the old 19th district while also running in a primary election for the Democratic nomination for a congressional seat in the newly created 18th district.
Ryan will be running against Dutchess County executive Marc Molinaro on that date’s special election to fill the Delgado seat, the term of which will only last until December 31. In a separate race Ryan will also square off against two opponents August 23, Aisha Mills and Moses Mugulusi, for the Democratic nod to run for congress in the newly redrawn 18th district, a seat that will last the usual two years. Dutchess’ Molinaro could have faced the same scenario but no challenger emerged for the Republican nomination for his November race for congress in the new 19th district.
While competing for the short term fill-in seat, Ryan’s run for the new 18th CD includes mostly central and southern Ulster County, northern and central Dutchess County, and all of Orange County. Molinaro will be running in November for the new 19th CD, which includes Columbia County and northern Ulster, and then stretches westward as far as Tioga and Chenango counties.
The Ryan challengers
Ryan faces two primary opponents in the new district, one of whom garnered just enough petition signatures to compete for the Democratic nod on August 23. Though not widely known in the district, Aisha Mills of Newburgh compiled a considerable record in almost 20 years as a political operative in the nation’s capital.
At the age of 27, she became an executive director for the Congressional Black Caucus PAC. She worked for the progressive Center of American Progress, became a political consultant and then a radio personality for a Black radio network, was president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund & Institute. With her wife Danielle Moody, she started Moodie-Mills Strategies, a political strategy and social impact advisory firm. Moodie-Mills has given advice to a number of congress members and other political figures.
In 2019, Mills was a resident fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School in Boston. “Aisha Moodie-Mills has led and won campaigns that build political power for people of color, LGBTQ people and women for close to 20 years,” that school wrote. “Most recently, she was a driving force behind 2017’s historic ‘Year of the Trans Candidate’ leading the effort that elected more transgender officials across the country than ever before.
“A nationally respected voice on Democratic politics and diversity, she appears regularly on MSNBC, and is the author of dozens of policy reports and cultural analyses on the intersection of race, class and sexuality. She also hosted a popular politics and pop culture podcast, Politini, with Danielle for several years.”
The possibility of spite
“History repeats itself,” Karl Marx once wrote. “First as tragedy, second as farce.” This deadly serious political campaign is not without its elements of farce.
Hector Rodriguez of New Paltz was one person to celebrate Mills’ candidacy. “Aisha Mills is on the ballot,” the former New Paltz county legislator wrote on social media. “Thank you to all who signed a petition. I think she’s going to [do] very well in Congress.”
Alex Wojcik, Village of New Paltz deputy mayor and longtime local Democratic organizer, emailed a message on Saturday about the primary contest. “Regarding Hector Rodriguez petitioning for Aisha Mills,” wrote Wojcik, “I would like to point out that Hector has a known track record of abusing power via sexual harassment, and county executive Pat Ryan was heroically outspoken in defense of the women Rodriguez had hurt over the years, so I truly believe Rodriguez petitioned for Mills out of spite and not in the spirit of lifting up a Black lesbian candidate.”
Former eight-term legislator Rodriguez had indeed recently carried petitions for Mills, copies of which staff from the Ryan camp helpfully provided. There’s enough of a history of bad blood between Rodriguez and Ryan that the possibility of spite between the parties should not be casually discarded.
Contacted by telephone, Mills noted that over 50 people had carried petitions in her grassroots campaign. “I don’t know this Rodriguez person,” she said. “I’ve never met him.”
In 2019, Ryan called Rodriguez “unfit for public service” after an investigation into allegations made against the New Paltz representative. The investigation found multiple occasions where Rodriguez, “used his official governmental position and title to gain access to and seek improper favors and considerations from women.”
Ryan urged the county legislature to condemn Rodriguez’s actions, and that December the legislature did censure him by an overwhelming vote.
Before he left, however, Rodriguez was one of the initiators of a local law to prevent county employees from holding other public office, a move many observers interpreted as directed against Dan Torres, a close Ryan aide. Ryan vetoed that measure.
State primaries are June 28
New York Democrats will choose their candidate for Governor on June 28 in a primary election. Current Governor Kathy Hochul will face Long Island congressman Tom Suozzi and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
Also on the ballot, Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado will face two challengers for the Democratic nod for that office, Diana Reyna and Ana Maria Archila.
Incumbent Kevin Cahill faces a primary challenge from Sarahana Shrestha in a race for the Democratic nomination for the 103rd State Assembly seat.
Republicans will choose their candidate for New York Governor on that same date. The choices are Rob Astorino, Andrew Giuliani, Harry Wilson and Lee Zeldin.
Early voting starts June 18
Early Voting for the June 28 Primary Election will begin on Saturday, June 18 and end on Sunday, June 26. Now before every election event, any registered voter will have the ability to vote early at any Early Voting Center. When you get to the Early Voting location, you will check in to vote, receive your ballot and vote as in any other election. Voting during Early Voting is the same as election day, but if you do decide to vote early you are not eligible to vote on election day.
This year’s Early Voting sites are:
American Legion, 26-28 Mountain Road, Shokan 12481
Midtown Neighborhood Center, 467 Broadway, Kingston 12401
Ellenville Public Library, 40 Center St. Ellenville 12428
New Paltz Community Center, 3 Veterans Dr. New Paltz 12561
Marlborough Town Hall, 21 Milton Turnpike, Milton 12547
Saugerties Senior Center, 207 Market St. Saugerties 12477
Polls are open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. June 18, 19, 20, 22, 24, 25, 26, and noon-8 p.m. June 21 and June 23.
For more information, see https://elections.ulstercountyny.gov or call 845-334-5470.