HAround noontime Saturday – weeks earlier for insiders – the shocking news broke that county Executive Mike Hein had been nominated by Gov. Cuomo as director of the obscure state Office of Temporary Disabilities Assistance. Hein, who seemed to be gearing up for his fourth run for office this November, instead will ride the next fast horse out of town to Albany.
Hein hasn’t talked to us for most of his decade in office, but we can speculate. In no particular order, I’d guess it has to do with timing, boredom and money, in no particular order.
Let’s follow the money. Hein took office in 2009 at $133,000 a year and has refused to raise his salary. This was noble, politically popular, but expensive, given inflation. State department heads, if the courts agree with salary commission recommendations (the same panel that proposed legislative raises from $79,500 to $130,00 over three years), will be paid between $170,000 to $220,000 a year by 2021, according to the pay raise commission. Hein’s soon to be department is in the mid-range of that scale.
If the seven year itch means anything, Hein was overdue for a change of scenery three years ago. I mean, what else does he have to prove, or build? I for one, wondered why he was in such a god-awful rush to finish the new family courthouse in Ulster and the restorative justice center in Kingston before the New Year. Now I think I know.
In terms of timing, the job offer (reportedly made weeks after the election) wouldn’t be there that long and prospects of a $200,000 salary in the near future as executive were grim.
Hein might have had mixed feelings about another campaign. His only challenge would have been from the left in a primary, but he’s been tacking in that direction for the last four years. Truth was, he campaigned all year long as executive, but in the unlikely event that Republicans put up a viable candidate and raised some money, and given the state of politics these days it could have gotten nasty. Who needed that with the brass ring waiting in Albany?
In terms of succession, the executive-centric county charter calls for a special election within 90 days of his resignation which will take place after his confirmation by the state legislature. And that means
Adell Reiter, Hein’s chief of staff.would fill out the remainder of his term which ends Dec. 31. As a successor will almost certainly rise from the political class, here’s a short list of possibilities.
Adele Reiter: Hers tor taking, but she’ll have to agree to run for a full four-year term in November.
Comptroller Elliott Auerbach – The three-term Democrat is a proven vote-getter and would no doubt relish a move upstairs.
Ulster town supervisor Jim Quigley – The numbers man has made an impressive record in Ulster and just missed getting elected against Auerbach in 2008, a brutal year for Republicans.
Kingston Mayor Steve Noble.- In his fourth year as the city’s chief executive,
Noble has the administrative experience and is a progressive darling. Given his $75,000 salary, which he tried to raise last year, to public outcry, executive pay would be sweet.
Legislature Chairman Ken Ronk – I don’t think the executive suite is to Ronk’s liking, but how often do open seats present themselves?
Pat Ryan – The unsuccessful congressional candidate has deep roots in the community, ran a strong race for congress in carrying Ulster and has a talented team.
Deputy Executive Ken Crannell – Hein’s glib apologist has paid his dues and deserves to be in the conversation.
Joe Maloney – Stranger things have happened..
Rosendale’ deputy supervisor Ken Hassett – I throw Ken in here because I like him and he never sees his name in print.
Somebody named Bernardo – Hein trounced Len Bernardo in 2008 and wife Terry four years ago when she was chairman of the legislature. Is it possible he’s the only Democrat they can’t beat?
Pat Courtney Strong – She may have lost the election. But could she win the war?
Did I mention Assemblyman Kevin Cahill? I shouldn’t, because Cahill is happy with his part-time job in Albany and the nice salary he’ll be paid going forward, but he’s happiest about that vacancy on the sixth floor. For the record that was not Cahill dancing around veterans monument park in front of the county office building when he heard the news. (It was actually at Keegan Ale.)
There will be others, too humorous to mention, but I will.
More speculation to follow.