And the winner is….? (REVISED)

The best that can be said for next Tuesday’s special election for congressmember in the 19th district is that it will eliminate some of the confusion that followed from Antonio Delgado’s sudden resignation last May to run for state lieutenant governor.

County executives Pat Ryan of Ulster and Marcus Molinaro of Dutchess will compete to complete Delgado’s term, ending on Dec. 31. The winner will be congressmember for only a few months, but should have a leg up for the real deal (a full two-year term) in the Nov. 8 general election.

Just so if anyone thought this was going to simplify things, Democrat Ryan will be competing at primary  on the 23rd  against a gaggle of no-names to determine who will be on the ballot in November.

Confused? Welcome to the club.

Some might ask why would either one of these savvy politicians put it all on the line for a less than five-month term? The answer, of course, is they would dearly love to run as an incumbent congressmember in the general election. Losing the special does not preclude them from running in separate congressional elections. Again, confusion. These guys will run against each other in a special election, but not in the general? Different strokes for different districts.

I lay all this at the doorstep of Delgado, whose resignation sent all these spinning wheels in motion. May he ever be known as DelGone-o.

On to the handicapping.

As per my job, I talk to a lot of people, though not as many as when I had a full-time job as a reporter. What I’m hearing from most people, and a few pros, is that this special election could be close. Conventional wisdom would have Ryan with a decided edge, if only because he should romp in Democratic-heavy Ulster, while Molinaro’s base comprises only a comparatively small slice of Dutchess.

Molinaro has a decided advantage in experience, having come up the food chain from Tivoli village mayor (at 19) to county legislator, state assemblyman and three-term county executive. Ryan has three years as executive, but finished a close second (to DelGone-o in a Democratic primary for congress four years ago.

Ryan is a fundraising machine, so much so that he was able to sprinkle some $300,000 around the district in seed money well before Gonso announced his retirement in May. Obviously, Ryan was looking to run for something outside Ulster then. He just didn’t know what it would be.

In terms of fundraising, Molinaro tends to bite off more than he can chew. Woefully underfunded for his run for governor against mega-bucks Andrew Cuomo in 2018, Molinaro still managed to carry almost every upstate county, except Ulster. Earlier fundraising reports show the rivals fairly close at around $1.5 million each.

Ryan’s campaign is quite obviously based on current events, like the abortion issue. For many, this is hot, hot button stuff and they will vote on Tuesday. Molinaro’s more moderate approach seems to mirror broad polling but arouses little passion.

This is just me, but I think there is one issue that clearly distinguishes Molinaro from Ryan and that is property taxes.

Molinaro, in his 2022 budget approved by the Dutchess legislature last December, asked for and got a 10 percent reduction in the county’s tax levy. It amounts to about $700,000 on a $530 million budget, not much, but something.  Ryan played with decimal points south of one percent, almost nothing at all. This week he announced he’d ask the legislature to reduce the county tax levy by 3% in next year’s budget. As an election ploy it doesn’t pass the sniff test, but hey, 3% is still better than almost nothing. It does hint at desperation in the Ryan camp. 

This election eve a Hail Mary does not change the perception that Molinaro is  willing to give taxpayers back some of their hard-earned money and that Ryan will keep almost all of it, preferring to divvy dollars out in programs he chooses to fund with fervent hopes that voters will be grateful a week from next Tuesday.

Will it make a difference at the polls? Search me. These guys are running for congress, not county executive, but I like Molinaro’s chances. In any event, it’s a trial run. But both candidates will get another chance at Congress in only a few months. Only one will have a decided advantage over any opponent he faces.

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THE 14 MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION – I must open with full disclosure. I have been a staunch supporter of the Kingston Library ever since serving on its board of trustees some 45 years ago. I was on the board that relocated the library from Broadway next to the high school to the former Sojourner Truth School on Franklin Street in midtown. Over ensuing generations under the leadership of librarian Margie Minard, the library has become a vital community resource.

“It’s a lot more than books,” a young mother said this week during our discussion of the library’s intention to ask district taxpayers to approve a $14 million bond issue on Sept. 20.

That was not a typo. It’s not $1.4 million, not $4 million, but $14 million.

All the young mother and I could say was “wow.” And we’re both library supporters.

I was on the phone asking Minard some clueless questions, when she asked me if I had seen the project information flyer the library mailed to households last week. I had not.

“Phyllis!”, I yelled across two rooms, “Did you see the flyer on its renovation the library put out?”

“Yeah. It’s on the dining room table.” Under our territorial cat, who’s taken over the table. He lounges on piles of paper, flyers from the June assembly primary, newspapers, photographs and dozens of fan letters. For Phyllis, not me.

The flyer, which the cat indignantly gave up, didn’t tell me much of what I wanted to know, like the tax impact on respective households and commercial properties.  More details are on the library web site.

The director told me that the board of trustees this summer ran its final plans past the Common Council and the county legislature to generally favorable response, she said. That’s easy enough for elected officials. The library, which used to be called the Kingston Area Library, was set up as a special city- taxing district in 2008. Bond approval and payments will come from those approximately 8,800 property owners.

The library board plans to hold three public informational meetings before district residents go to the polls in five weeks. Emphasis on “informational.”

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