GOP hopes for better times

It’s not easy to put a positive spin on the next election when you’re still nursing wounds from the last one only a few months past. But Ulster Republican chairman Roger Rascoe gave it the old college try at the party’s unofficial nomination convention Saturday morning at Ulster town hall.

The state sets the political schedule, backwards from Election Day Nov. 3. Throw in the holidays and it’s not that long, really, from the last election to the oncoming nominating conventions in February.

“Democrats have a 19,000 advantage in enrollment, but we lost the district attorney race by only 77 votes,” Rascoe told the gathering in what was supposed to be a rallying cry. What he didn’t say was that Democrats register voters in droves this presidential year and Republicans don’t. An already crushing disadvantage could balloon to 25,000 by the time polls open in November.

The contrast in convention venues portent long odds for a GOP resurgence. More than 200 Democrats turned out for their unofficial nomination convention at the Best Western in Kingston earlier in the week. About 100 Republicans squeezed into town hall on Saturday. But like the first day of baseball spring training, hope and optimism abounded.

A few of more interesting newcomers were Richard Amedure and Mike Martucci for state senate and Kyle Van de Water for congress.

Not that Amadore. Republican Senator George Amadore (no relation) will retire at the end of the year after four terms. Amedure drove him around the district the last two elections.  He’ll be in faster traffic against Democratic nominee Michelle Hinchey of Saugerties, already being called a “rock star” by adoring Dems. Does the hyperbole ever end?

Born in Rhinebeck, the 55-year-old Van de Water is an attorney, a major in the army reserves and the father of triplets. The lines between contender and incumbent congressman Antonio Delgado will be clearly drawn. “Why am I running for congress”?, the Republican asked the audience. “Because I refuse to allow my children to grow up in a socialist country.” The choir ate it up.

Rascoe sadly announced that there will be a primary for the Republican nomination, even after Van de Water received 84 percent of county chairmen votes (weighted by county GOP enrollment) in secret balloting last month.

Reflecting an emerging sense of tolerance, perhaps, challenger Ola Hawatmeh of Poughkeepsie was given a few moments to address the convention. Aware of the stacked deck she was facing, she kept it brief.

Mike Martucci, Republican nominee against freshman Jen Metzer of Rosendale, brought almost as much enthusiasm as GOP firebrand Assemblyman Chris Teague. Striding confidently to the podium in a tight blue suit and pink tie – feminist, but neutral -he declared, “Two-thousand eighteen was a crossroads for us. Today, we’re at the edge of a cliff!” Teague looked up and smiled at that one, no doubt taking note for the next speech.

There were, as usual, some light moments. Otsego County legislature chairman Peter Overacker was nominated to succeed retiring senator Jim Seward for the 51st district. Overacker’s family fortunes were founded in the sausage business. “That’s politics,” commented Ulster Conservative party chairman Jack Hayes. After enduring demolition derbies for assembly and county executive, Hayes declined to put his neck on the line for Republican allies this year.

And so, the dice were tossed. Republicans will campaign on restoring the two-party system in Albany, bail reform reform, socialism and, it would appear, another term for Trump, in sharp contrast to their Democratic foes. For once, we may get some real choices.

Note: I missed the Democratic convention. My bad. Like cheap underwear, these early conventions (it used to be June) can creep up on a body.