Hard to believe it’s less than a month to “local elections,” because, quite literally, Nov. 2 is the earliest an election can be held.
For some candidates the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November will come all too soon, for others relief that the election is over sooner than later. For the electorate, it doesn’t seem to matter either way. Turnout is typically south of 50 percent in a contested election between viable candidates. School board turnouts are even worse.
Why this is has always intrigued me. Local offices, aldermen, town council officers, county legislators, justices of the peace, town clerks, assessors, highway superintendents, friends, neighbors and relatives of candidates, are closest to the people. They make decisions, or not, that impact residents at the grassroots levels.
This year’s ballot is topped by three Democratic candidates for state Supreme Court justice in the Third Judicial District. Kingston corporation counsel Kevin Bryant drew the coveted first spot on the ballot and would be locked for top dog except for Laura Jordon from the dominant Capitol District. David Gandin of Gardiner rounds out the automatic trio, assuring that Ulster County will retain its two judgeships. Ulster Supremes Chris Cahill and Jim Gilpatric reached the mandatory retirement age this year, though Gilpatric will stay on as a part-time judge.
Republicans nominated no one, which is getting to be a habit with them.
There are at least half a dozen state propositions on the back of the ballot, the most notable being a constitutional amendment to freeze the number of state senators at the current level of 63. It will pass since most people are opposed to expanded government.
Democrats hold a one-vote majority in the 23-member Ulster County legislature, something which vexes Dems since they enjoy a near 2-1 advantage in overall enrollment. Seven seats are uncontested.
Two of the contested districts look like they might keep people up on election night.
The three-way race in Kingston’s midtown 6th district features incumbent Dave Donaldson against Suzanne Timbrouck and Phil Erner. This one offers the classic matchup between incumbent and challengers. Much to the surprise of everyone, newbie Erner knocked off Donaldson, a 28-year legislator and two-time chairman, in a June Democratic primary. Timbrouck, the Republican, hails from an old Kingston family with considerable name recognition. Her campaign suggests she hopes to bridge the gap between major parties. Good luck with that.
Donaldson will run on the self-created Good Government Party but will not have the formal blessing of Democratic county executive Pat Ryan.
Asked after his budget presentation last week if he planned to endorse the current chairman of the legislature, his alleged copartner in government, Ryan replied, “I will endorse Democrat candidates.” He wasn’t ducking the question; he said it twice. Donaldson is not the Democratic candidate in that district, Erner is.
This will be a factor, maybe the factor in what could be a close race.
A vignette: I was on one of my neighborhood walks – I live in the 6th District – when I stopped to chat with a woman with an Erner lawn sign in her front yard. After a bit it became apparent she was paying attention to local politics. I asked her what she thought about Erner.
“I don’t know the man,” she said. “My daughter likes him,” adding, “he’s a Democrat and I always vote for Democrats.”
“Dave Donaldson’s also a Democrat,” I told her.
“Really?” she said, looking a little confused. “I’m still voting for the Democrat.” Shades of Pat Ryan.
In a three-way race, anything can happen. If Donaldson can lure back some of the old-timers who thought he had he primary in the bag and stayed home, he’s viable. Erner formally carries the flag of some 2,400 district Democrats. If those two splits vote, Timbrouck, with a strong door-to-door campaign, could slip in with less than 40 percent.
In Saugerties, freshman Republican Al Bruno, after an under-the-radar first term, faces a pair of real characters in former legislators Joe Maloney and Chris Allen. Maloney quit after one tumultuous term, dabbled in village politics and is now applying for a job he once gave up. Allen is just Allen, perpetually in motion. Maloney will appear on the Democratic line, Allen as an independent can’t win but could be a spoiler. He likes that.
Either one of these races could determine who holds the majority in the ‘22- ‘23 county legislature, for what that’s worth.
AROUND THE TOWNS – Races for supervisor in the town of Marbletown, with Rich Parete playing Road Runner to town Democrats’ Wiley Coyote, provide the best theater in any of the county’s 20 towns.
Typically, Parete, a former county legislator, gets crushed in the Democratic primary or at caucus, turns to Republicans and wins. This year he’s running against Democrat Jacob Sherman, but with a twist. Parete will appear on the self-designated “Pizza Party” line. I’d vote for that. It’s in the genes. His father, retiring county legislator John Parete, runs an Italian restaurant in Boiceville.
In Hurley, Republicans are fielding oilman Pat Garraghan, grandson of Kingston oilman and former mayor Ray Garraghan. M’thinks young Garraghan might have had a better shot as a Kingston Democrat. The big issue in Hurley seems to be methane gas under the town garage. I thought it was concentrated in the highway superintendent’s office.
Kingston’s uptown Third Ward features newcomer Republican Tiffany Christiana against incumbent Democrat Reynolds (no relation) Scott-Childress. Christiana seems a bit of a political pilgrim. She surfaced briefly as a candidate for town council in Ulster two years ago, withdrew, and is now running for alderman in Kingston. If at first you don’t succeed, move?
In the final analysis, voters have two choices. They can either sit on the couch watching game shows or they can vote on Nov. 2. If they vote, they’ll send a clear signal to the politicians that run our governments that they’re paying attention and they care. If not, it’s a blank check.