Bartlett beat Mazzacano by a landslide in today’s Republican primary for Columbia County sheriff. A preliminary Board of Elections tally as of 10 pm on Tuesday had Bartlett winning by more than a 2.5-1 margin, 2,181 to 800.
As of Wednesday morning, that ratio had stayed basically the same with a few more votes added to each candidate, bringing the total closer to 2,569 to 944.
Mendolia at a Trixie’s Whorehouse party (Image: MySpace)
Hudson mayoral hopeful Victor Mendolia had $182.35 on hand in his campaign coffers as of August 9th, according to State online records.
Among expenses reported by the impecunious canddidate were $62.46 for dinner at Club Helsinki, and another $57.36 dinner at Café Le Perche.
The bulk of all donations reported this summer for Mendolia’s “Better for Hudson” committee came from the reserves of the Hudson Democratic Committee, which he chaired until earlier this year. Only five residents of the City of Hudson are named as donors in his most recent campaign filing.
Meanwhile, incumbent Bill Hallenbeck appears to have failed to file any finance report at all with the State in the most recent cycle. This may be because Republican candidates in Columbia County tend to funnel funds through their County committee, rather than a local campaign—or because the Mayor does not consider Mendolia a serious threat—or both.
In the months following its August 2012 inferno, embattled PCB (mis-)handler TCI of NY made two $1,000 political donations, according to public records made available online by The New York State Board of Elections.
The first grand went to the County Republicans on September 5th, 2012, about a month after the fire. The second “large” was given to the County Conservatives in December.
A search of the Board’s electronic records turns up no other political donations by TCI for at least 10 years previous—suggesting a correlation between the fire and the sudden generosity.
An image of the records search appears below. (Local politics is all about the Clevelands, apparently.)
There appears to be a whole lot more to the story (reported by The Gossips of Rivertown and The Register-Star) of former Mayor Rick Scalera spurning the nomination of the the Hudson Democratic Committee, which he once chaired. Two well-informed Democratic sources offer and confirm the following nuggets, though at this point readers may want to view the following as credible rumor:
(1) Faced with criticism from several aldermen for continuing to support Scalera for 5th Ward Supervisor, even as he embarrassed the Democrats, newly-minted Hudson City Democratic Committee (HCDC) chair Aaron Enfield reportedly resigned yesterday morning.
(2) Enfield’s name was on the Committee to Fill Vacancies for the now-emptied Democratic petitions for 5th Ward Supervisor. But if he refuses to help choose a replacement candidate, that would mean the other two members—said to be Sarah Sterling and Debby Mayer—would have to agree on a substitute, otherwise the Dems will have no 5th Ward Supervisor candidate. NOTE: The Register article claims that the three have already “decided against nominating anyone,” despite Scalera’s repudiation of his party.
(3) Sterling reportedly sent an irate message to several fellow Democrats, denouncing any notion of finding another Democrat to run against Scalera. The 1st Ward Supervisor also is said to have threatened to file some sort of “ethics complaint” against certain aldermen for attempting to “intimidate” the Democratic Committee. (If true, Sterling may want to consider the maxim that politics ain’t beanbag—and that trying to criminalize political speech is not only difficult, but a perilously slippery slope.)
(4) While spurning his own party’s nomination, Scalera may not get the Republican line that he now intends to run on, due to a reported petitioning error. This could leave no candidates on either of the two major party lines for 5th Ward Super, unless someone files Opportunity to Ballot (OTB) petitions in the next few days. OTB petitions would create a write-in primary in either party (or both) in September. Scalera does, however, appear to have the Conservative and Independence party lines sewn up, so he would be on the ballot—just not as a Democrat or Republican.
(5) Democratic Alderman Nick Haddad has been trying to locate former Hudson police chief Ellis Richardson to encourage him to have his name written in for 5th Ward Supervisor. Note that when OTBs are filed, anyone could then have their name volunteered by voters.
(6) On the Mayoral front, Democratic candidate Victor Mendolia reportedly would not have secured the HCDC nomination if even one Committee member had changed his or her vote. Had Enfield stepped off the committee before that vote, the Dems might not have nominated anyone for Mayor.
(7) Several prominent local Democrats have reached out to 1st Ward resident Robert (Bob) Mechling to serve as acting HCDC chair, but he has declined the role, at least for the present... Getting someone to fill the role now may prove difficult, since even before this latest mess, any new chair is going to need a high tolerance for mopping up other people’s puddles.
Indeed, there is still time for anyone to file paperwork to force a write-in primary for any office in the City.
If anyone has further information to add, or disputes the source’s reports, feel free to email this site at firstname.lastname@example.org ...
Greg Fingar may vacate the Columbia County Republican chairman’s seat, and New Lebanon Supervisor Michael Benson may covet his seat cushion, according to three separate (and ideologically-distinct) sources.
GOP chair Greg Fingar with election law attorney James Walsh (Source: CC Scoop)
Fingar remains in the position for the moment, according to a fourth source familiar with the situation. It is not clear whether Fingar would step down voluntarily, or is coming under pressure to do so.
In addition to serving as the New Leb Supervisor, Benson is president of BCI, one of the Capital Region’s largest and most influential construction firms. The company is known for its uncanny knack for winning bidding wars on public projects, and has done extensive work for government within the County. For example, BCI completed renovations for the Chatham Central School District, and also construction on the City of Hudson’s new wastewater treatment plant.
In addition, BCI built A. Colarusso & Sons’ corporate offices, suggesting that if elevated to Republican chair, Benson perhaps would be sympathetic to mining interests which have been the source of some local controversy in the past.
Benson’s profile picture at BCI’s website
Earlier this year, a small controversy erupted after nearly 30 underage students were arrested in relation to a drinking party at a New Lebanon home while the parents were traveling. Initial State Police reports didn’t disclose the party details. But it eventually leaked out that it took place at the Bensons’ home—becoming the subject of reports in the Times-Unionand elsewhere—after the Town Justice had to recuse herself.
Benson contributed $250 to lobbyist, County powerbroker and former Assembly Minority Leader John Faso’s political action committee in 2001, and has donated similar amounts in the past two years to the Columbia County Republican Committee and Conservative Party. In November 2011, he donated $5,000 the State Republican Committee. All of these donations were made via BCI’s Loudonville Road address in Albany.
BCI Construction itself has donated a total of $17,890 to various political candidates over the past decade, according to New York State campaign finance records. Most of these donations were to Republicans, but a few were to Democrats in places such as Albany and New York City where the politics are heavily Democratic.
Though not necessarily over yet, Fingar’s tenure was colored early on by the intense controversy surrounding his party’s heavyhanded 2009 attempt to disenfrancise absentee voters in the hotly-contested Congressional race between Scott Murphy and Jim Tedisco. At the time, Fingar and Faso joined forces to sic lawyers John Ciampoli Jim Walsh (plus a gumshoe private detective) on second home owners who had legally cast absentee ballots. More recent primaries have brought to light various fissures among factions of the County GOP, which usually presents a monolithic front.
The ballot fracas, which was decided strongly in favor of the voters by fellow Republican judge John Nichols, focused heavily on the small Town of Taghkanic. Their challenges appeared to be backed in part by donations from racetrack developer Alan Wilzig—whose chef and manager Eric Tyree was on the ballot. Funds for the disenfranchisement effort came in part from the County Republican Housekeeping fund (to which Wilzig and a corporation he controlled had donated), a type of political action committee which is not supposed to be used for such purposes according to New York State election law.
At the time, numerous residents who were longtime customers of Fingar Insurance decamped to other insurers in protest, after noticing one of its key partners’ involvement. Ironically, the company’s Columbia County Chamber of Commerce blurb touted its work helping to insure second homes.
Assembly candidate Cheryl Roberts has finally conceded the 107th State Assembly race to Steve McLaughin, according to the Troy Record. Roberts’ grudging concession comes a week after McLaughlin declared victory on election night.
In the Record article, a McLaughlin campaign spokesman barely conceals his annoyance with Roberts’ lack of grace in defeat:
“It was very clear on election night that Assemblyman McLaughlin won re-election and was given the honor to serve another term in the state assembly... There was certainly no need to drag this out an additional six days when the obvious had already been stated when Steve had won by a margin far exceeding any need for a recount.”
Roberts had previously insisted that all absentee ballots be counted before she acknowledge the result, though numbers gathered from various Boards of Elections by this site a week ago made it obvious that the challenger had virtually no chance to catch up. The challenger would have had to garner almost 4 out of every 5 absentee ballot filed, even though 3 out of 4 of those ballots came from Rensselaer County, where McLaughlin won handily on the machine.
Roberts was cited for circulating dishonest literature against McLaughlin by the League of Women voters’ non-partisan Fair Campaign Practices organization. She campaigned as an environmental champion, despite having advocated one-sidedly for the interests of Swiss industrial polluter Holcim and notorious Connecticut construction firm O&G Industries over thousands of citizen concerns about the future of Hudson’s South Bay.
Nevertheless, Columbia County Democratic officials cynically promoted Roberts’ green bona fides using the (now-disproven) rationale that “she can win”—the same reason given for the party’s switch of its allegiance from progressive Congressional candidate Joel Tyner to CIA lawyer Julian Schreibman. Roberts reportedly wasted more than $100,000 in campaign funding from the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee, while Schreibman ran through $1 million on his race, not counting expenditures by outside groups.
In the 107th Assembly District race, GOP incumbent Steve McLaughlin declared victory late Tuesday night, with results (as reported by three County Boards of Elections) showing him ahead by 2,282 votes.
However, challenger Cheryl Roberts refused to concede, based on some theoretical possibility that absentee ballots could alter the outcome. But could they, really? Basic math suggests a reversal in her favor is extremely unlikely.
Calls to area Boards of Elections indicate that the number of absentee ballots issued to voters for this race totals about 4,600. So far, approximately 3,900 of those have been returned. If postmarked by election day, some additional ballots may be received. Generously, maybe 4,150 will come back. Of those, a few ballots will be deemed invalid for some technical reason, while other voters will be found to have skipped over the 107th Assembly race—or have written someone else in. Reasonably and for argument’s sake, let’s estimate that there a total of 4,000 more votes will be counted toward this race.
So does Roberts have a shot? With McLaughlin already ahead by 2,282, the raw numbers suggest her remaining chances are a longshot at best.
Years ago while handling a similar dispute for a Hudson candidate, I devised the simple formula pictured above for quickly computing how many votes a candidate who is behind in an election needs to get from the remaining voters to come from behind to win.
By that basic math, Roberts would have to get 3,141 of those 4,000 absentee ballots just to tie McLaughlin—3,142 to win. McLaughlin would have to garner only 858 of the 4,000 absentees to lose.
In other words, 78%.5 of all the absentee ballots would have to break for Roberts, and only 21.5% to McLaughlin. By contrast, the machine votes broke 52%-48% for McLaughlin.
In other words, Roberts would have to increase her tally +30% among absentee voters than among Election Day voters just to make this close. In my experience of contested absentee ballot races, the ballots generally follow the same pattern as the rest of voters, and even when they deviate, they rarely if ever deviate more than 5-10% from the “machine” votes.
Furthermore, the demographics of those absentee ballots also do not favor Roberts (whose chances were diminished during the campaign when she was cited for dishonest campaign literature by the non-partisan Fair Campaign Practices organization). 73% of the absentee ballots received so far come from Rensselaer County, which McLaughlin won easily by about 7.5%; whereas only 24% of the absentees come from Columbia, which Roberts won by a similar margin. Washington County was a dead heat, and only a handful of absentees will come from there in any case.
In other words, for Roberts to win she’d not only have to do significantly better than on Election Day, she’d have to do so in the less-friendly territory of Rensselaer County. While the general perception is that in Columbia County, absentees come more heavily from liberal weekenders than from longtime Republican residents, as one moves northward a higher percentage of the absentees emanate from nursing homes and more conservative retirees.
It thus would be remarkable, verging on highly improblable, for McLaughlin’s margin not to hold up. But that may not prevent Roberts’ more rabid partisans from mounting a long, exhausting and expensive ballot fight.
The faces of the FOX News anchors were ashen around 11:15 pm as they dutifully announced the projection—already aired on MSNBC—that Barack Obama would be reëlected President for a second four-year term.
Meanwhile, several Republican nominees running in Columbia County were ahead of their Democratic opponents. According to published reports as of midnight:
McLaughlin leads Roberts by about 3,000 votes for State Assembly;
Marchione leads Andrews by about 11,000 votes for State Senate;
Gibson leads Schreibman by about 14,000 votes for the U.S. House;
On the brighter side for Dems:
Mott is far ahead for State Supreme Court Judge, with Schick holding an 8,000 vote lead over the closest Republican challenger;
The Poughkeepsie Journal reports that Didi Barrett won comfortably in Dutchess County, while The Times-Union shows Barrett with a smaller lead in Columbia County, indicating an overall win.
There are absentee ballots and some precincts yet to report in all of these races, but they seem unlikely to change the outcome of these races.
South of us, Terry Gipson has declared victory over longtime incumbent Steve Saland for State Senate.
The Albany Times-Union is posting election results for Columbia County at this link.
Currently (at 10 pm), the paper has Gibson beating Schreibman handily; Barrett slightly ahead of Byrne; Roberts and Andrews trailing their opponents, McLaughlin and Marchione, respectively; and Mott winning handily, with Schick locked in a very close race with Kavanaugh and Malone.
There’s still a lot of hand-wringing about the Hudson population dropping over the past decade, as if this were some sort of catastrophe for the life of the town. Official census figures show the number of residents dropping about 11% between 2000 and 2010, from 7,524 to 6,713—about a third of that drop attributable to changes in how prisoners in the Hudson Correctional Facility are counted.
Whether such figures actually speak to the health and fortunes of this “small city” is debatable at best, verging on dubious. Hudson’s population was never higher than in the midst of the Great Depression of the 1930s, when residence rose well over 12,000 people. Does anyone want to go back to the mid-1930s, just to be able to say that the population has risen again?
Still, ever since this writer moved here full-time in the dank February of 1998, it’s always been fashionable to predict imminent doom for Hudson. Yet things have kept steadily improving, despite the efforts of certain officials and entrenched interests to impede progress. Then-City Attorney Giff Whitbeck once was heard to declare that the merchants of Warren Street were shell businesses on the verge of collapse—mere façades. That was in the late 1990s. Today, there are probably five times as many occupied storefronts on Hudson’s main street.
Indeed, closer look at voter rolls maintained by the Columbia County Board of Elections tells a somewhat different story about what’s occurred in the past decade or so. Despite the Census showing nearly 800 fewer people in town over the past decade, the number of voters on record in 1999 in comparison with today has dropped by only 56 people.
The percentage of Hudsonians registered to vote thus has actually increased, from 49% to 54%. As a basic measure of civic engagement, one could argue from these numbers that while there are fewer people in Hudson now, there are more interested in its future. To some extent, this reflects the number of concerted voter registration pushes in the years of 2000-2005, when there was a series of hotly-contested City races in the individual five wards as well as Citywide.
Now, turnout in the 2011 Hudson election was notably dismal, possibly because of the lack of contested alderman and supervisor races in the City; the upcoming Presidential, Senatorial, Congressional, Assembly and Legislature contests may be a better test of how engaged these voters really are.
More telling is the average age of registered voters, which has dropped from 54 years old to just 50 over that same period (1999-2012). In other words, the Hudson electorate is getting younger—an improvement, many would say, as a frequent concern in the 1990s was that Hudson’s population was not merely dropping, but also aging. That measurable shift demonstrates with hard figures the anecdotal sense that Hudson is indeed getting younger.
One sees the benefits of this shift economically when venues like Basilica Hudson can routinely bring out 600-800 young people on random weekday nights for bands like Grimes and Godspeed You Black Emperor. (Obviously, many of those attendees were young people from around the region, from Bard to RPI to SUNY to as far away as the Five College area of Northhampton, Mass. But the attendance was also boosted by local residents.
The answers as to why Hudson might be getting younger are not hard to imagine. There is a growing music scene, with multiple venues on both a grand and small scale, from Basilica to Spotty Dog—few of which existed until the last five years or so, let alone in the late ’90s. There are far more options of places to hang out in both day and nighttime, and more places for young people to work. Countless businesses which many newere residents take for granted (from retail and restaurants on Warren Street, to service and manufacturing off it) just weren’t here a decade ago, such as Etsy and Digifab. There’s just a lot more to do now.
Thus when it comes to population, it may many less how many people live in a place, than who. Better to have three people who pay attention to what’s going on, work in town, spend their income locally, support local civic institutions, and get involved with their community, than four who are apathetic and disengaged. Hudson still has a long way to go, but the increased youth of those who have stayed or moved here is a hopeful sign.