Oh, God!

Let’s start this one with some topical humor.

Question: What’s the difference between God and Andrew Cuomo?

Ans: God doesn’t think he’s Andrew Cuomo.

And thanks to the New York Post for that one.

Thinking in my head the other day, I got to comparing the two Hinchey’s, former assemblyman and Congressman Maurice and his daughter, freshman state senator Michelle. There are some interesting similarities.

Both were break-through candidates. Hinchey senior was the first Democrat elected to the assembly from Ulster County since the 1912 Bull Moose year. Michelle was the first of her party elected to a senate seat in the mid-Hudson since Port Jervis undertaker Art Gray in 1988. 

Both entered office in troubled, if not perilous, times. Maurice won his first term in the assembly in 1974, hard on Watergate (maybe because of Watergate) with the state in serious financial stress.

Incoming Gov. Hugh Carey said it best. He dreamed he was at a fancy cocktail party, he liked to say of what he called “the days of wine and roses.”  Everyone was dressed to the nines, the women in gorgeous gowns and jewelry, the men in tuxes. They were laughing at some kind of joke being passed around.  “At the end of the party, the last guy handed me the check,” he said, referring to the outgoing Rockefeller/Wilson administrations.

These days, “the last guy” (metaphorically speaking) is still here.  May God be with us. Michelle Hinchey faced a raging pandemic during her successful campaign and now has to deal with its aftermaths, fiscal, economic and social. Pray that she quickly comes to appreciate the fundamental differences between campaigning and governing.

If history repeats, she will be given every advantage. Mid-70s assembly Democratic leaders were swift to reinforce their toehold in Ulster County. Within months in office, Hinchey was proud to announce he had secured $500,000 in matching funds to restore Kingston’s old city hall on Broadway, vacant at that point for about three years. Alas, Hinchey, a freshman then like his daughter is now, had not taken into consideration grassroots political considerations. The Koenig administration had relocated to Rondout and spent more than a million dollars in building new city hall. It was not about to commit another half million to a building it no longer needed for municipal purposes. Koenig campaigned against the matching grant in that fall’s election, if failed, and the money went back to Albany. For a man who would remain in office for another 38 years and retire on his own terms, it was a most inauspicious start.

Similarities like that Michelle Hinchey doesn’t need.

I expect state senate Democrats will do for Michelle what assembly leaders did for her father some 15 years before she was born. Even with the state running multi-billion deficits and a return to fiscal stability perhaps years distant, party leaders will somewhere find tens of millions in grants and aide for their rising young star in the senate.

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NUMBERS, PLEASE – The old saw about numbers lying and liars figuring doesn’t apply here; the facts about relative voter enrollment over the last decade or so in Ulster County are fairly well known. It is nonetheless rather remarkable to see the astounding increase in Democratic enrollment placed against what will soon be certified as a modest decline in overall population.

To wit: Over a 15-year period beginning in 2005, the board of election shows Democratic enrollment increasing from 34,555 (pre-Great Recession) to 51,847 at the end of last year (mid-pandemic). During the same period, Republican enrollment declined from 31,539 to 28,979. Non-enrolled registrants flat-lined, barely rising from a ‘05 base of 33,510 to 35,261. Of note: the Democratic Party picked up 87 percent of its growth since 2011, adding 15,412 enrollees. 

Total registration grew from 108,294 in 2005 to 125,594, according to the BOE. That increase almost exactly matches the increase in Democratic enrollment, leading one to conclude that the only people signing up to vote in Ulster County during the last 15 years, especially during the last decade, were Democrats.

BOE stats don’t deep-dive into where these new voters came from but I don’t think it was Greene County.

Bottom line: these numbers don’t lie. Democrats are dominant.

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MARCHING ON – Having declared her intent to seek a second term, Democratic county comptroller March Gallagher has already gotten down to the business of getting reelected. Last week Gallagher announced she would be doing a firehouse breakfast tour from now until early summer.

Fair warning: Temptation can be hazardous to your waistline.

My wife and I have always been big fans of firehouse breakfasts. People are friendly and appreciative and there’s tons of delicious home-made food. Seconds? You bet!

A few years ago, we attended a breakfast at the Sawkill Firehouse. The chief, an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in a while, was greeting guests at the door.  After handshakes he pointed to my emerging belly. “Guess you make a lot of these firehouse breakfasts, huh?” he said.

My wife was appalled. “The way you men speak to each other!” she said. I assured her it was only between good friends.

The lesson: Do be careful out there, March.