This may take a while! With every possible advantage – double-digit enrollment, tons of money and a credible candidate – Ulster County Democrats still managed to lose, on paper, a race for district attorney that should have been in the bag from day-one.
And the margin – just three votes in favor of Republican Mike Kavanagh over Democrat Dave Clegg out of more than 50,000 votes cast when the final vote came in 15 hours after machines closed down – will be talked about for a long time. Who says one vote doesn’t count?
Still left to be counted are some 3,000 absentee votes, which tend to go the way of machine ballots. Counting won’t begin until about ten days after the election in order to allow mailed votes to clear the less than Pony Express (literally) Postal Service.
This will take a while. Hopefully, we’ll have a district attorney in place before retiring DA Holly Carnright goes to pasture on Jan. 1.
In hindsight, this election, no matter which way it goes, will be a bitter pill for majority Democrats to swallow. They had every advantage; 20,000 more enrollees, unheard of sums of money, upwards of $400,000, most of it supplied by the progressive Soros organization, and a credible, electable candidate with a fine record of public service, but thin on criminal trial work in Clegg.
And what of next year; there’s always a morning after in politics? How will this mortifying performance affect Democrats running for competitive offices for congress and state legislature? Here, I refer to firsttermers Rep. Antonio Delgado and state senator Jen Metzger. It would appear that in terms of solid underpinnings, their base in Ulster may be made of clay feet.
Elsewhere, there was more positive news for the people’s party.
When election night ended, Democrats had decisively taken the offices of county executive and comptroller, as expected. Dems raised their majority in the county legislature from a razor-thin 12-11 by maybe two or three, but with five races too close to call, leadership for next year remains in doubt.
Kingston Mayor Steve Noble kept his seat, but voter turnout was weak. Apparently, none of the three mayoral candidates excited the voters. Minority party candidate Vince Rua lost by 1,500 votes, taking 33 percent. Republican Ellen DiFalco’s 10 percent did not tip the scales, as she had hoped. Aldermanat large candidate Andrea Shaut, running unopposed in her first city-wide race, actually topped the mayor by more than a thousand votes.
A brief synopsis:
Executive – Pat Ryan of Gardiner will succeed Pat Ryan for a four year-term beginning in January. Despite promoting massive self-publicity during his first seven months in office (he won a special election against Republican Jack Hayes in April), his outgunned opponent actually gained ground. No matter. The Ryan express rolls on.
District attorney – Republicans placed their (only) hope on Kavanagh and there’s every indication it was warranted. Clegg stumbled badly at the finish line after it was learned a progressive PAC had poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into his campaign. Eschewing a “dirty campaign” (whatever that means), Kavanagh let that outside influence simmer with voters.
Comptroller – March Gallagher ran hard right up to the finish line and was rewarded with a four-year term against Republican Lisa Cutten. Gallagher will hold a constitutionally independent office, but will she rock the boat?
County judge – Bryan Rounds was unopposed, but still ran like hair on fire. Good for him. Residents got to know their future judge somewhat (judges are strictly restricted on what they can say) and he them. Rounds just turned 50 so a couple of 10-year terms could be in the offing if he doesn’t succumb to the siren song state supreme court. This guy’s a comer.
Legislature – There will be lots of new faces next year, most of them Democrats. The party of Jackson flipped seats in Kingston and Ulster but a number of close races could tighten things up. In the so-called “Maloney district,” for instance, Democrat Brian Cahill is clinging to a slim lead over newcomer Andi Turco Levin. The outcome of that race won’t change the majority, but a few others might.
Longer term, even after a decade under the new charter, the legislature is still searching for relevancy as a “co-equal” branch of government. That may prove a challenge with an energized executive taking office in January.
Then there are those pugnacious Paretes. Poppa John Parete demonstrated resiliency in turning the tables on Kathy Nolan in Olive- Shandaken District 21. Youngest son Rich Parete held his seat as Marbletown supervisor despite a heavy majority of Democrats. But the elder’s race, like many, can’t be called yet because absentee ballots can change the totals. Nolan’s first and thus far only victory, was by 60 votes and she could do that again.
A stinging election editorial in Catskill Mountain News against Nolan (essentially calling her a litigious obstructionist) may have provided Parete’s margin of victory, while Democrats’ refusal to debate Republicans in Marbletown no doubt swung votes for the junior member of the dynasty.
Last, but certainly not least, pundits will ponder the effect of ten days of early voting on final results. Strategically placed polling places in Democratic strongholds proved a magnet for Dems who outvoted their sworn enemy Republicans by a better than 4-1 participation.
“That was bullshit,” fumed GOP chairman Roger Roscoe, who, having lost more than 140 pounds the last few years, pretty much lost the county Tuesday night. To the Rajah’s remorse, early voting is here to stay, and that’s no BS.
It was a long night for the board of elections; actually, it was shorter than usual. BOE computers shut down after one of their tech people took sick. Like the hamster on the wheel, they had no backup. About ten percent of returns were left in the hopper until the morning after.
The BOE’s failure to include early voting results with incoming returns Tuesday night led to some unnecessary consternation and confusion.
Casting about for answers, I called DA candidate Kavanagh around 10:30 as he surged to an apparent 2,100-vote lead.
“Looks good for you,” I said.
“Maybe,” he replied, “but we don’t know if early voting results are in there.”
They were not. At around 11 p.m. those numbers kicked in and the tide turned, as it turned out, to almost dead even.
I’ll give the BOE a B+ this year. They got about 90 percent of it right under a new system with some unforced errors.