Let’s get ready to rumble

Verily it is said as the calendar turns to October, it’s showtime!

Like a final exam in school, for those candidates who haven’t done their homework by now, only about a month before the general, it could be an ugly election night.

And while most of the buzz is about congress and state offices, it seems that the race for county executive has come to the forefront.

Neither candidate, Democrat Jen Metzger of Rosendale or Republican Jim Quigley of Ulster, was given much of a head start for what will be a sprint to the finish. Metzger secured her party nomination in a three-way race at party convention less than two weeks ago, with Quigley announcing within 24 hours.

It would appear that Quigley busted out of the gate with a good deal more momentum than his opponent and with time running short, Democrats are good and worried about it.

Lawn signs don’t vote, as some say, but Quigley had large purpose-built mini-billboards planted at key intersections all over the county before Oct. 1. He’s also gotten the jump on mailers. From Metzger, we hear and see almost nothing. Does she really believe her 2-1 win over comptroller March Gallagher at convention and her party’s enormous advantage in enrollment is all she will need? Kevin Cahill had similar advantages going into his June primary against no-name Sarahana Shrestha and look what happened there.

About that demolition job on Gallagher. That matchup was characterized in this space as a contest between the Democratic establishment and Gallagher. With Gallagher going into convention as the strongest candidate, it appeared that the powers suddenly developed a concern about the watchdog comptroller gaining full access to all those carefully guarded records in the executive’s office. Not that anyone had anything untoward to hide, just that bulls in China closets can be problematical. Just musing here, of course.

All things considered, Metzger should be a competitive candidate. With a doctorate in international studies – that way she can negotiate as executive with far-off places like Wawarsing, Saugerties and Shandaken – she’s got the smarts. Firmly in the left lane of her party, she’ll attract the young enthusiasts that hold sway these days. On the campaign trail, when and if she straps on those high heel sneakers in her closet, she’ll be personable, empathetic and well-informed. She does need to emphasize more the county issues she will face as executive rather than her all too brief two-year career-interrupted record in the state senate.

This is not so much a prediction, or God help me, an endorsement, but by any fair assessment, Quigley is off to a surprisingly good start. Fair warning: if Democrats don’t get their act together very soon, they could be in for a long election night.

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QUIGLEY CASHES IN –  I dropped by Quigley’s fundraiser last week mostly to count the crowd, it being widely-perceived that the last thing the wealthy candidate needed was financial assistance.

On the same night, Democrats were holding their annual fall dinner at Wiltwyck Country Club, a few miles away. A survey of respective parking lots indicated a considerable advantage for Dems. And why not? Their party controls almost all the elected offices in the county.

To my surprise, somewhere between 100 and 125 attended the Quigley function, most with checks in hand. It would appear the Grand Old Party has a pulse, at least for this candidate.

As an orator, Quigley will never make anybody forget the late, great Mario Cuomo. There are no cities on hills for this meat and potatoes man, only water and systems and balance sheets. Through sheer grit,   he’s gotten reasonably competent at public speaking after12 years as Ulster town supervisor.  As a CPA, he tends to get too much into the numbers, even if fiscal acumen is his trump card. (Nobody mentioned Trump, not even guest speaker Marc Molinaro, Republican candidate for congress in half of Ulster.)

Quigley, wearing his trademark red campaign socks and a conservative business suit, probably went on too long – Molinaro certainly did – but they all do. Doesn’t anybody remember Reagan’s “If you can’t say it in a bumper sticker, don’t say it at all?” Republican county clerk Nina Postupack, an old campaigner, hit just the right note.

The mostly partisan audience was receptive, even supportive. How often do Republicans field a viable candidate, much less somebody they can actually vote for?

Quigley preferred to talk about his family, rather than his opponent. Plenty of time for that. Or is there?

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HERE COMES THE JUDGE – Sharon Graff, Kingston attorney of solid credentials, has thrown her hat in the judicial ring for the second time. In one of the lesser reported events of this political season, Democrat Graff was nominated at a Third District convention in Albany in August for one of four seats on the state supreme court. Graff lost a Democratic primary for Ulster surrogate to the unsinkable Sara McGinty of Rosendale in 2016.

Oddly enough, Graff’s path to state supreme court could be much easier, the Democratic nomination in the seven-county Third District being tantamount to election. And oh, those benefits, $210,000 a year for a 14-year term. Graff, just 51 and in the prime of her career, could even run for reelection in far-off 2036.

There’s only one Republican facing four Democrats, Cohoes city judge Tom Marcelle. Homer that I’ve become, I would much prefer another sitting judge (Graff) in Ulster.   

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BUDGET TIME – With local municipalities rolling out their 2023 budgets this month, the first to hit the airwaves will be the county spending plan. With former executive Pat Ryan off campaigning for congress, the budget will be presented by his designated successor, acting executive Johanna Contreras at 10 a.m. in legislative chambers in the county office building.

It will be interesting how much of this budget will be Ryan’s, – seldom seen around the county office building while running in a special election for congress last summer, and Contreras’. She’ll also have to shepherd the budget through the legislature and briefly administer it after adoption in December for a few weeks before she leaves Dec. 31. A new elected executive takes over the next day.

This is a fine mess you’ve gotten us into, Patrick.