Rebecca and Pat Ryan are a 21st-century political power couple. She is healthcare policy wonk who has worked as a civil servant since the George W. Bush administration. He has been the Ulster County executive since 2018.
They met at a function at the White House.
They now are the parents of two young sons, Theo and Cameron.
She is working remotely from home as her husband campaigns for Antonio Delgado’s seat in what is still the 19th Congressional District. Delgado, now the state’s lieutenant governor, vacated his office in Rhinebeck. No one is there, a bit of a scary thought. Those of us who live in the district have no representation until after Labor Day, when the new congressional session begins and a new representative is sworn in — either Republican Marc Molinaro or Democrat Pat Ryan.
Ryan doesn’t think Molinaro is addressing any of the issues. “But it will be a tough race,” he says.
Born and bred in Kingston, a fifth-generation Irish-German-American, Ryan, 40yearsold, is bearded, affable, lanky, and soft-spoken.
“There’s something about serving two tours as a commander of an intelligence unit in Iraq that focused me on the greater good,” he explains. “I had never been out of the country before I was deployed, and once I got there I immediately appreciated what we have and what we have to preserve.”
He says that’s why he’s so determined to continue his service to the country.
“There are dark forces in our society that must be addressed and contained: the erosion of our rights, two terrible Supreme-Court decisions backtoback. I don’t think most people realize the consequences.”
A graduate of West Point with a master’s degree from Georgetown, he wrote his thesis on “Leadership Targeting.” That’s drone warfare.
What did he think of the CIA drone killing of Al-Qaeda’s Ayman al Zawahiri last week in Kabul? “It’s a short-term counter-terrorism solution,” he responded. “We also have to think about China. China will be our biggest challenge in the months and years to come.”
So why did Pelosi go to Taiwan?
“I’m not sure. Certainly she didn’t go without Biden signing off on the visit.”
We have only a half-hour to talk, so I change the subject. What committees does he want to sit if he gets to go to Washington?
Given Ryan’s education, knowledge and interests, the answer is obvious: small business, security, the armed forces.
Ryan was an executive in a couple of tech companies. When he went into politics, his partners bought him out.
If Ryan beats Marc Molinaro in the special election August 23 he will be running for re-election in November in the new 18th district. That’s a bit confusing for voters and he’s trying to educate as he campaigns: Voters will be presented with two ballots in the same folder this round, one for the special election to continue Delgado’s term (the 19th District), and a second “primary” ballot for the re-drawn 18th District that will take effect before the mid-term elections in November.
Assuming he wins, Ryan will commute to DC leaving his wife working from home. “I think it’s important to live in the district I serve,” he says, “and for our kids to go to local public schools as I did.”
“And how do you think schools are doing these days?” I asked, thinking of the recent resignation of the New Paltz Superintendent and the angry parents at School Board meetings. “Parents are a fierce force,” Ryan says, “and the pandemic has taken its toll on everyone—our kids, teachers and parents.”
Are Ryan’s personality and style suited to the fight against the rabid right wing?He is certainly willing to listen to everyone and talk to anyone.In this difficult time in our history, we need smart, well educated, determined and compassionate politicians. We need them like we have never needed them before.
Carol Bergman is a journalist who lives in New Paltz, NY. Her last previous article for HV 1 was “Victims of Conflict Become Our Neighbors.”
Early voting, absentee ballots
Early voting for the August 23rd Primary & Special Election will begin on Saturday, August 13 and end on Sunday, August 21. Now before every election event, any eligible registered voter will have the ability to vote early at any convenient 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.
Early voting sites are:
American Legion, 26-28 Mountain Road, Shokan, NY 12481
Kingston High School, 403 Broadway Kingston, NY 12401
Ellenville Public Library, 40 Center Street, Ellenville, NY 12428
New Paltz Community Center, 3 Veterans Drive, New Paltz, NY 12561
Marlborough Town Hall, 21 Milton Turnpike, Milton, NY 12547
Saugerties Senior Center, 207 Market Street, Saugerties, NY 12477.
Early voting hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., August 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 20 and 21; and noon-8 p.m. on August 16 and August 18.