A small sample of voters will decide

From the way both sides have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on next Tuesday’s Democratic primary for assembly, some might predict a huge turnout. In fact, it’s a shallow pool.

According to the county board of elections there are roughly 115,000 registered voters in Ulster but only about 44% – those enrolled in the Democratic Party – will be eligible to vote in the primary. Red Hook and Rhinebeck in the eastern part of the district add a few thousand.   

Of those 115,000 Ulster voters, 51,652 are Democrats, 34,730 are non-enrolled and 28,000 are Republicans. But only Democrats will count on Tuesday, and if history holds, among that number, between 15 and 20 percent will actually cast ballots. An average between the high and low is about 8,900. Elsewhere in the district there are about 60,000 Democrats, an indication of Ulster’s dominance.  

Incumbent Kevin Cahill and challenger Sarahana Shrestha had as of the end of May collectively reported some $300,000 in spending and contributions, about evenly split. Final totals aren’t due until about three weeks after the primary and the sky’s the limit. As such, this race in the 103rd A.D. could be the most expensive, in terms of cost per vote, in county history.

Neither winner would face a serious threat from Republicans in November, so all the marbles are on the table on Tuesday.

The stakes are high. For Cahill, 66, a loss could signal the end of a 24-year assembly career. For Shrestha, 41, it could be the start of something big. I don’t think either loser will go away.

Cahill is too much the political animal to sit for long on the sidelines. Shrestha “fiercely” believes (that’s how she describes herself) in social change. With a close call, she and her allies will begin planning for Campaign-24 when public financing of elections kicks in.

As a journalist, I have never understood why anybody enrolls in a political party, which presumably represents their core values, and then does not vote in primaries. What’s the point?

Bottom line: something like 5% of the registered voters will decide the assembly election. Open primaries, anyone?

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CAMPAIGN FNANCE REFORM – One of the questions we asked Cahill on our Me and Mario radio show two weeks ago was how the state campaign finance reform enacted in 2019 compared to New York City’s in place for more than a decade. Gotham applies an 8-1 taxpayer contribution ratio to small donations.

The state’s is different than the city’s, Cahill told us, but said he wasn’t sure what it was. He knew. Cahill knows everything. Hard to embarrass, he may have wanted to avoid disclosing the 6-1 ratio on donations of $250 or less for which he voted.

I think we could wind up with the worst of two worlds, even with a guaranteed 6-1 payback. New Yorkers have been resigned to a morally corrupt system where special interests donate huge sums to political campaigns in exchange for “access.” Two years from now with public financing by taxpayers  they will be contributing to campaigns of people they either don’t know or don’t like.

And does anybody believe the present system is just going away, that a billion-dollar influence peddling industry – “the fourth branch of government” – won’t find slither into the halls of power?

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RYAN EXPRESS HITS A BUMP – Not everybody expects Ulster executive Pat Ryan to have a cakewalk over Dutchess executive Marc Molinaro in their Aug. 28 special election for congress in the old (current) 19th district. But a recent poll released on June 20 could give pause to both sides.

An outfit called Triton Polling and Research out of Henderson NV had Molinaro up a healthy 51.6 to 38.4. Triton polled 505 voters by phone.

Last time I looked, Ryan was not jumping out of the sixth floor of the county office building over this poll.

For one thing, it had barely a handful of respondents.  Professional pollsters are for the most part pretty good, but this is what is called a small-sized sampling.

Secondly, the campaign has hardly begun and has months to go. Molinaro had a good head start, having run for governor in large sections of the 19th and for congress before Ryan even knew there would be a race.

And let’s not forget, as trailers always say, polls are really just snapshots in time. I’m waiting until Siena or Quinnipiac pollsters establish a trend.

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RADIO DAZE – Speaking of Me and Mario, we’re on the air Friday beginning at 7 a.m. on WGHQ. Alas, we have no guests scheduled and damned few callers. Left to our own devices, we’ll probably talk too much.

Speaking of refusals, two weeks ago we invited both assembly candidates to appear. Cahill readily accepted; Shrestha’s campaign person cited “scheduling difficulties.” We offered the 24th. Shrestha sent her regrets on Saturday; she’ll be out “talking to people” between 7 and 9 a.m. Right.

We gave this situation some thought, having seen this act before. At first, we thought it would be unfair to host one candidate and not the other. But why, Mario mused, should we penalize a candidate because his opponent didn’t show up? Why, indeed.

There’s also this: Why would a candidate who wouldn’t face the media during a campaign, be any more accessible if elected?