TRICKY SITUATION – The Ulster County Legislature will meet in special session at 6:15 p.m. on Thursday to celebrate the 45th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation. But first, legislators will decide who will fill out the late Jim Maloney’s term until the end of the year.
Just kidding about homage to the Trickster, but it was an unforgettable night when they piped in Nixon’s farewell address over the PA system as county legislators and spectators sat around in various stages of glee and disbelief.
Thursday’s session will feature politics of the most personal kind amid a sharply-divided legislature only months before 17 of 22 stand for reelection. The special election to fill the late legislator’s seat year will not affect the 12-10 Democratic majority, if, and with Democrats, it’s a big if, they stick together.
Their candidate will be former two-term Democratic legislator Brian Cahill, who stepped forward shortly after it was learned that Maloney had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April. If only to place a few laudatory remarks on the record, Republicans could nominate newly-arrived Andi Turco Levin, Cahill’s Republican opponent in the November elections. Sitting in that seat, if only for a few months, will be a considerable advantage.
There is however a third name in the mix. Out of respect for their deceased comrade, Republicans have approached Brenda Maloney, the late legislator’s widow, to fill the vacancy. Brenda, a strong supporter of her husband during his almost 14 years in office, had made it clear she was not interested in running for the legislature, but that she would be honored to finish her husband’s term.
Cahill, a former two-term legislator and town resident for almost 40 years, would seem the front-runner over Turco Levin, a former alderman, and Kingston mayoral candidate. Turco Levin moved into Ulster some two years ago and locals can get quite parochial about politics. Cahill is already playing that card, hard.
If there’s a cloud on Cahill’s horizon, it’s the uneasiness among some legislators about his competing to replace the man he would have faced in the fall had fate not intervened. As the nose-counters figure it, if just two Democrats, out of respect for Maloney, switch sides, Republicans could prevail on Thursday. Should that happen, and I’m getting into the weeds here, the Cahill cakewalk Democrats anticipate in November could become something of a minefield.
A much simpler, sympathetic and respectful solution would be for the legislature to appoint Brenda Maloney. The nominees for Jim Maloney’s seat can then fight it out in the fall on a more level playing field.
NOTES – It should be understood that Cahill didn’t just jump into this race when the possibility of an open seat occurred with Maloney’s illness, though his opponents may charge that. He’d been offered the nomination by the Democratic town committee last winter, but gave them one of those “I’ll let you know” answers. He’d been thinking about getting back into politics for a while and considered Maloney beatable after lackluster reelection in 2017. Cahill was subsequently nominated by a county committee on vacancies to run this year.
Turco Levin spent a few anxious hours at the board of elections last week as the board as officials worked to straighten out the paperwork necessary for her nomination on the all-important Independence Party line. It seemed that Republicans had twice submitted the wrong forms and with deadlines looming, Democrats were ready to pounce. The final, correct form was hand-carried to Albany as the clock wound down. There still could be legal action by Dems to keep the Republican off the Indy line.