There’s been some political chatter about the residency status of Timothy (Tim) Rodgers, who was recently endorsed by the Hudson Democrats to run for Alderman in the City’s 1st Ward.
One of his likely opponents, Geeta Cheddie of Warren Street, raised the question of where Rodgers lives in the context of his application to become a Commissioner of Deeds in Hudson—normally just a formality to help candidates overcome some of New York’s more arcane petitioning requirements.
In over a dozen years in these parts, I have never heard of any such application (including my own) being rejected. There are many, many Commissioners of Deeds on file with the County Clerk; the designation sounds like a lot bigger deal than it actually is. It’s kind of like becoming a Notary, only a lot less onerous—as there are few qualifications besides having a pulse and promising not to lie.
Naturally, an applicant needs to provide a valid address on their application. But anyone familiar with the shenanigans that mark each Hudson election cycle knows this unusual objection was purely political. It’s long been a local convention that all other differences get put aside when approving CoD applications, since they involve the fundamental right to get candidates on the ballot. As such, the objection is extraordinary, even if the grounds have some technical merit.
And indeed, my understanding is that Cheddie was engaged in a friendly dialogue with Rodgers—who’s prominent in the local hospital union, and who she may have imagined could help her electorally—right up to the moment she heard that he was running for a 1st Ward seat, at which point she went ballistic. (There are, by the way, two Alderman slots for each ward, and currently three likely candidates: Cheddie, Rodgers, and Larissa Parks.)
Now, I don’t have a dog in this fight, and have never met this Rodgers—though I’d be charmed to learn that he wears cardigans, speaks in a kindly voice, and sings helpful songs about getting along... But whether or not Tim Rodgers can become a Commissioner of Deeds right now is irrelevant to whether he can run for 1st Ward Alderman. Because as far as I can see New York State Election Law does not to require him to be a resident of Hudson’s 1st Ward in order to run for Alderman. It would only require that he become a 1st Ward resident before his term started next year.
The full election law can be downloaded here (as a PDF), but the relevant section seems to be this:
§ 6–122. Designation or nomination; eligibility, restrictions
A person shall not be designated or nominated for a public office or party position who (1) is not a citizen of the state of New York; (2) is ineligible to be elected to such office or position; or (3) who, if elected will not at the time of commencement of the term of such office or position, meet the constitutional or statutory qualifications thereof or, with respect to judicial office, who will not meet such qualifications within thirty days of the commencement of the term of such office.
Unless the City of Hudson has some local prohibition against petitions being circulated for Council candidates who do not yet live in that district (and I’m not even sure such a rule would be legal), it appears Rodgers could run for any City office—so long he is a resident of New York State at the time his petitions are circulated, and so long as he becomes a resident of the district in question by the time he was administered the oath of office.
Indeed, the Democrats of the 1st Ward could circulate petitions for Bill Clinton to be one of their 1st Ward reps, and if he got enough votes and moved to the ward by January 1st, he could assume office. (Just beware, Bubba; Hudson elections are in many ways tougher than national ones.)
If that Ward’s voters want to hold Rodgers’ residency against him—though he’ll surely find an apartment there soon if he’s serious about running—they can do so with their ballots. But as a practical matter, this early election year fracas is not about whether Rodgers will be able to run, it’s just a chance for Cheddie to try to throw a clod of Spring mud at her opponent, and see if any of it sticks.
P.S.: Some also may recall that former Congressman John Sweeney lived in Cohoes—outside of the 20th Congressional District—when he announced his candidacy for U.S. Representative. Sweeney only moved into the district shortly before the election, well after petitions were circulated on his behalf. His successor, Kirsten Gillibrand, likewise had a shaky claim to local residency. But it wasn’t an issue for either.