Coming off a landslide victory over a mismatched challenger, county executive-elect Pat Ryan has about six weeks before he officially occupies the corner suite in the county office building. But he won’t wait that long.
Bright and early Thursday morning Ryan has an appointment with acting county exec Adele Reiter for some serious OJT. If anybody can act as a mentor to the newly-minted executive, it’s Reiter. She served ten years under former executive Mike Hein as chief of staff and has been running the show since he departed in February.
Ryan, in an interview from his Gardiner home, says he plans to “look back and forward, mostly forward” in a “deep dive” into county government. He could be in for some nasty surprises.
But let’s not leave the special election just yet.
Ryan’s victory over Hayes was one for the books. True, he had a huge advantage in fundraising and enrollment, a seasoned team from last year’s congressional primary, and a good head start. Altogether, it produced a nearly 74-26 margin. This was an avalanche. The turnout might whet the appetite of Republican hopefuls, less so the steamroller campaign Ryan put on.
Ryan wasn’t happy with the dismal turnout (my characterization). Despite a vigorous get-out-the-vote effort, only about 14 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. “I’d like to see 100 percent,” he said. Fifteen percent in primaries is the norm, upwards of 60 percent in general elections.
But all statistics are relative. Ryan won by some 7,600 votes (11,729 to 4,084 in unofficial returns), compared to Hein’s 4,500-vote margin in 2015 where more than twice as many people voted. Voters avoided this special election more from timing and confusion.
Because deadlines for primaries expired last month, we’ll have another Ryan-Hayes mismatch in November. That is, unless Hayes declares for another office, dies, or moves out of state, according to the board of elections. A Republican committee on vacancies could name a fill-in.
Returns in what I like to call the “hometown matchup” (in this case, Gardiner)) might give Hayes pause, however. According to unofficial returns, Ryan, who moved into Gardiner only in January of 2017, trounced Hayes, a former town supervisor, by a margin of 556 to 222. With a better than average 20 percent turnout, 72 percent of Gardineers voted for the new guy. (Gardiner is, of course, heavily Democrat, but let’s not get too far into the weeds.)
It has been a most interesting and exciting year for young Ryan; he turned 37 a few weeks ago. From out of nowhere, almost, he’s elected county exec until at least the end of the year, at least, because he’ll probably win a full four-year term in November. On the homefront, Ryan and wife Rebecca are expecting their first (as yet unnamed) child (a boy) on Aug. 1.
I suggested they call the little fellow Mike, in appreciation of the extraordinary, totally unexpected opportunity Hein gave him last winter. There’s already a Mike in the family, he advised.
And with that, it was back to the business at hand.
Footnotes – Like the election itself, turnout at Ryan’s victory party at Keegan Ales in Kingston on Tuesday night was underwhelming. I didn’t stay all night but noticed only a few county legislators. Ryan says getting together with legislators will be one of his top priorities….
Hein texted congratulations a couple of times but didn’t attend the party. It was Ryan’s night, after all.
The usual gaggle of county department heads that usually populated Hein events, no doubt on orders from headquarters, was noticeably absent. Ryan doesn’t seem in head-rolling mode, but there will be haircuts.
Keegan’s monthly trivia contest was being held as Democrats trooped in for the victory party. There’s probably a joke there but can’t think of one.