County legislators like to talk about the “profound transitions” we’re going through now, what with the certainty of three county executives in less than as many months. Under the radar, there’s machination going on in the legislature itself over another succession saga, albeit still in the speculation stage.
Recall, a few weeks ago when comptroller Elliott Auerbach was rumored to be considering joining that gravy train to Albany former executive Mike Hein boarded in February. For those who asked, like me, Auerbach’s response to that rumor was, no plans to make plans, but let’s wait until after the filing deadline (on April 4). Auerbach’s wait and see has been extended until after the April 30 special election between Republican Jack Hayes and Democrat Pat Ryan to fill Hein’s shoes until the end of the year.
Apparently, Auerbach whetted some appetites among majority Democrats in the legislature. None will admit, much less return phone calls, but the prospect of a $103,000 a year job for at least the next three years (for pension purposes) has to have some absolutely drooling.
As with all things in politics, it’s complicated. Unlike executive, where Hein got to name his interim successor, the office of comptroller is filled by the legislature. Thankfully, no special elections are included in this process. The legislature names some worthy who serves for the end of the year and then presumably stands for election in November to the two years remaining in Auerbach’s term.
But who might the legislature choose? If it be a legislator from the 12-11 Democratic majority, it really gets complicated. Under the charter, it takes a simple majority (12 votes) of the 23-member legislature to do anything. With 11, you get nice try, maybe a cigar or a set of horseshoes.
Newly-minted legislature chairwoman Tracey Bartels of Gardiner would be a likely candidate, being the only legislator able to gather 12 votes for herself for the chairmanship in January. But if she steps out, it’s back to 11, unless Democrats can lure a Republican over. That would take the mother of all favors. Stranger things have happened.
Bartels says such speculation is “premature,” as Auerbach is still checking out Thruway tolls to Albany.
Then there’s the so-called Tantillo Law, which restricts legislators from taking county jobs for one year after they’ve left the office. Insiders suggest the law may not apply to legislators leaving to take another elected office so it may not be in play.
Other names, too humorous to mention, have been mentioned. Former legislative chairman Dave Donaldson likes to call himself the “last executive chairman” and is always up for a plum job. Former economic development specialist March Gallagher gets points for brains and experience, and God knows this county could use somebody who knows how to attract good-paying jobs.
Personally, I like Fightin’ Joe Maloney of Saugerties, but it appears the Saugerties liquor store owner has had his fill of politics after just one term. As comptroller, he sure would shake things up.
There may be others, but typically, these things tend to explode on us full-blown. Who had any clue Hein was going to quit before he announced in January, for instance?
The ball remains in Auerbach’s court, who parenthetically, also says he might like to know what it’s like to serve in a government where the executive actually pays some attention to the comptroller.