Previews of coming attractions

Previews of coming attractions

“Dems dominate start of early voting” screamed the Freeman headline on Oct. 29. Drophead: “Outnumbered Republicans 6-1 at polling places over the weekend.”

The headline’s implication, perhaps inadvertent, was that Republicans will have no chance whatsoever in the Nov. 5 elections.

Holy rush to judgment! First, the 1,631 votes cast over a two-day weekend represented less than 1 percent of total county enrollment, which is like calling the World Series after the first game.

The GOP is in bad shape and sinking, but not that fast. The latest reports from the board of elections show Democrats with a 65 percent edge (47,510 to 27,695) but it’s not six to one, less than two to one, which is bad enough.

So, who were those voters who turned out in such numbers for the first-ever early voting opportunity? There’s no way to accurately determine that, though the board of elections know they were overwhelmingly Democrats.

An educated guess would suggest these early birds were mostly weekenders, folks who make their living in the city, but register here, for whom the opportunity to avoid driving 90 miles off Broadway (and further) to vote in a mid-week election was simply irrestible.

For Republicans, that startling headline must have felt like one more nail in the coffin. Some may be discouraged and will stay home Tuesday. They shouldn’t; there will be a number of elections on Tuesday where a few votes will count.

Democrats, too, might have read something into these returns that really wasn’t there. Yet. Might they too figure, what the hell, we’ll win big anyway. Why vote?

How ironic would it be that early voting, promoted to encourage greater participation, has the opposite effect?

Around the ballot – For what it’s worth, word on the street has nervous Nelly Democrats worried about turnout in two key races, district attorney and mayor of Kingston and control of the county legislature. Let us review.

County executive: This one was over in April when Democrat Pat Ryan took almost 70 percent of the vote in a special election against Republican nominee Jack Hayes. Hayes claims that Ryan spent some $250,000 in that definitive contest (confirmed by official campaign spending reports). Ryan hit the ground running and hasn’t looked back.

County comptroller: This contest between two unknowns competing for an office few care about will be strictly party line. March Gallagher has the solid support of majority Democrats even if Republican Lisa Cutten, a CPA with decades of government accounting experience, looks better on paper. Voters looking for an upset might place a bet on that one.

District attorney seems to be getting tighter by the day. If the election had been held Oct. 5, Democrat Dave Clegg would have won by 10 points. He’s still the favorite over Republican Mike Kavanagh, but time is running out.

Kingston’s mayoral candidates have thrown out at least three ideas, each on 15 different subjects, to widespread consternation. Who to believe? Take city debt. Are we headed for the poorhouse, or flushed with cash? Dunno.

Just to add spice, there’s the three-way factor currently playing out in Washington. While three-ways can produce weird results, I see this as more of a traditional mano-a-mano between incumbent Democrat Steve Noble and challenger Vince Rua, with Republican nominee Ellen DiFalco playing spoiler.

With his job on the line, Noble seems fired up in the latter stages of this campaign. Shotgun Rua, long on issues but shaky on explanations, hasn’t made the case for Noble’s retirement after one term. DiFalco is along for the ride, but if she breaks into double digits, she might be a factor, which is to say preventing Noble from achieving a majority vote.  

A month ago, Democrats had their man winning in the 70 percent range, reflecting their 3-1 majority in the city. So confidant was Noble that he put himself in for a nice $5,000 raise, in an election year. Now they’ll be happy with something in the low ‘50s.

Backatcha! – In politics, they say payback is a bitch, so here’s one on Rua. At the chamber of commerce breakfast last month Rua pointedly questioned Noble on whether he would accept a job in Albany next year. Noble denied it. At the Temple Emanuel debate last week, Rua was asked afterward about whether he had moved out of Kingston. Rua confirmed reports that he bought property in the town of Ulster “for investment purposes” and that he had sold his condo on tony West Chestnut Street in Kingston, but that he was still living in town “on Washington Avenue with relatives.”  

Building a majority – Despite the usual pre-election anxiety, legislative Democrats are confident of adding two or three seats to their 12-11 majority. Two are fairly predictable.

I expect former Democratic legislator Brian Cahill to make a return in Ulster District-4 against Republican Andi Turco Levin. Republican Jim Maloney, who died in June, represented the district for more than a dozen years.

Republican Brian Woltman fluked in (to coin a phrase) two years ago in Kingston District-7 when damaging video tapes of incumbent Democrat Jennifer Schwartz Berkey at a routine traffic stop went viral just before election day. He’s running against newcomer Peter Criswell.

Woltman has been a diligent legislator during his first term, but Democrats are more dominant in his district than the county at-large. Board of election stats show 2,087 Democrats enrolled in the district, compared to only 702 Republicans.

It remains to be seen what legislative Democrats, with a solid 14-9 majority, do next year. It won’t be a very high bar.

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