March on

Channeling her former boss and political mentor, March (don’t call me Marge!) Gallagher stole a march on rival Lisa Cutten in announcing first for county comptroller in early May. The ink had hardly dried on Comptroller Elliot Auerbach’s “see-ya!” press release before Gallagher’s formal announcement two days later.

Gallagher’s preemptive strike got top of the page billing on the Daily Freeman’s front page, with formal color photo. Cutten trailed a few days later with an announcement on Page 3 with a black and white snapshot. I sensed a knife and gunfight scenario.

Recall how former executive Mike Hein, then the county administrator, announced for the new office of county executive a year before it was on the ballot in 2008. I judged that premature at the time. I was wrong. Gallagher, who worked that first campaign, obviously went to school on her old boss.

Auerbach had been hinting about retiring after a decade in office and joining forces with state government shortly after Hein announced similar plans in January. Formal disclosure awaited the predictable results of the April 28 special election for executive between Democrat Pat Ryan and Republican Jack Hayes.

In Gallagher, 50, and Cutten, 60, Democrats have two distinct choices, except only about 300 committee members among their 45,000 enrollees will get to make a choice. Manipulated once again by their leadership and a calendar contrived by the state legislature, there will be no primary for county comptroller. A majority of the county committee will nominate the Democratic candidate for office. A party convention is tentatively scheduled for June 27.  Once nominated, as Ryan so amply demonstrated, a Democrat is a virtual lock for election in November.

There has been no word from Republicans.

While Cutten’s campaign is perhaps an exercise in futility, she is a certified public accountant with broad experience in government accounting and that will impress some voters.  Cutten’s record, while impressive on paper, is a mixed bag. Something of a gunslinger CPA, she’s worked in government from Kingston to East Fishkill and back again. Currently she heads the three-person Hein-created county ACE unit (for Accountability, Compliance and Efficiency.) That she was city treasurer under Republican mayor Dick White a generation ago remains a mortal sin that cannot be forgiven by some of those voting at the Democratic convention.

Gallagher is an attorney with broad experience in economic development (under Hein) and grantsmanship in the private sector, which of course has little to do with county comptroller. One of her hobbies is roller-skating, I’m told.

In terms of politics, Gallagher of Rosendale has lots of friends among Democrats, Cutten of Kingston, fewer. Gallagher and Hein parted company amicably, it seemed, even if Gallagher appeared to flip the bird on the way out the door. “He’s not as thin-skinned as he used to be,” she said of her famously red-assed former boss. Of late, Gallagher, no doubt cognizant of the emerging canonization of Hein, has walked that back a bit. He wasn’t that familiar with politics when he first took office, she told me, and was thus perhaps a bit too sensitive to its slings and arrows.

Not too familiar with politics? Here was a bank branch manager who wormed his way into the treasurer’s office as a Republican sponsored by Democrat treasurer Lew Kirchner, switched parties when Democrats won the 2005 election, got himself appointed the following year as county administrator, and then joined forces with Republican strongman Al Spada and Democrats for the first of three elections as executive. And now he’s sitting on a $190,000 state job in Albany. Not familiar with politics? The man was (is) a fooking wizard.

I digress but only to offer context.

I don’t predict a Ryan-esque cakewalk for Gallagher when Democrats convene next month; one vote, as they say, is enough.

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