Last year, it took Jim Quigley the better part of a month and an excruciating recount of ballots to find out he lost the Ulster County comptroller’s race by an ultra-slim margin. This year for Quigley, it is a completely different story.
Quigley led the Republican ticket to a massive victory Tuesday in the Town of Ulster. According to unofficial results, Quigley crushed incumbent Democrat Nicky Woerner by a nearly 2-1 margin, pulling 2,307 votes to Woerner’s 1,238. GOP domination, the prevailing theme in Tuesday’s election countywide, carried over into the town board races, where John Morrow (2,207 votes) and Cris Hendrick (2,083 votes) cruised to victory over Democratic incumbent Councilman Rocco Secreto (1,403 votes) and Deputy Supervisor Craig Artist (1,192 votes). Running unopposed, Republican Town Justice Susan Kesick was re-elected with 2,581 votes.
Tuesday’s results in the town will, come Jan. 1, 2010, result in an all-Republican town board, as Quigley, Hendrick and Morrow will join Republican councilmen Eric Kitchen and Joel Brink. The result was the outcome of a surge of discontent with the Woerner administration, stoked by a nearly 20 percent property tax increase with the 2009 budget, allegations of favoritism toward affordable housing developer Steve Aaron and accusations that Woerner blew through more than a million dollars of the town’s fund balance during his four years in office. Quigley, who has worked for many years for a Wall Street investment firm, won on a platform promising to restore fiscal watchfulness.
“I think it’s a decisive win,” Quigley said Tuesday night at a jovial Republican victory party at Christina’s on Ulster Avenue. “I think the will of the people is clearly expressed, and I look forward to serving the Town of Ulster’s citizens with distinction.”
Quigley said his huge victory was due in part to the Republicans “walk to win” strategy, where he and his running mates did their best to visit every one of the town’s households. “I walked, [Woerner] didn’t. He employed people to walk, I walked myself, and my whole team walked.”
Quigley said he and his fellow town board members will have their work cut out for them when they assume control on Jan. 1. “I think we’re going to have to do a complete assessment of the fiscal situation of the town” as soon as he gets into office, Quigley said. “I’ve had a discussion with Mayor Sottile, and he’s advised me of the situation in the City of Kingston, and I’ve had discussions with two other supervisors, and they’ve advised me of the situations in their towns, and it raises some concerns with me. I’ve said all along during the course of this campaign how the books may not be transparent enough and we as citizens might not have enough knowledge of what is actually going on with the finances of this town.” The supervisor-elect promised an “interesting” hearing on the 2010 town budget, scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. at Ulster Town Hall in Lake Katrine.
“I feel very thankful and very blessed,” said Hendrick, who was formerly the town tax collector, Tuesday night. “People wanted change. People wanted their community back, and that’s reflected in the numbers.”
Hendrick, a bookkeeper, tax preparer and owner of the Taxes R Us tax preparation business in Ruby, said she will work to rebuild the sense of community in the town, “change it from what it’s been, which has been debilitating, and build it back up.”
Morrow, a former state police investigator and until recently owner of Safeco Alarm Systems who was elected to his first public office, was also pleased with the election’s outcome. “The people of the Town of Ulster have spoken. They made their decision loud and clear. I think we had a good message, and we’re going to live up to everything we’ve promised the people.”
Morrow said the caliber of the Republican slate resonated with the electorate. “I think it was honesty and integrity. I think we gave them a true voice and great candidates, with the background needed to do the job and to run the town like a business.”
As far as what he would like to get working on in 2010, Morrow said: “I’m very interested in improving the infrastructure and [addressing] the traffic problems, and bringing in some real jobs, working with [TechCity] to open that up and start bringing some real jobs.
Woerner: No regrets
“You know, it is [a big disappointment],” said Woerner Tuesday night at the Democrats’ campaign headquarters on Ulster Avenue. Tuesday’s loss puts the 25-year-old at 2-2 in town supervisor races, losing in 2003 and 2009 and winning in 2005 and 2007.
“I have always respected the opinion of the voters of the Town of Ulster, I’ve tried my best to serve all of our residents and business owners, and tonight, they’ve chosen to select Jim Quigley as the supervisor,” Woerner said. “They’ve decided to put a unanimous Republican town board back into place. They ran on their platform, we ran on ours, our accomplishments and our successes, and they ran on what they felt were our weaknesses. At the end of the day, it was a great pleasure to serve the people of the Town of Ulster over the last three and a half years, it will be a great pleasure to serve the people of the Town of Ulster until Dec. 31. I hope that the government remains as committed and dedicated to the people as we were, and I hope that they’re able to accomplish the things they set forth as part of the agenda.”
Woerner said he had no regrets about his time in office and how his campaign was run. “I don’t regret anything we did and I don’t necessarily think there’s anything we would have done differently,” he said. “We put an agenda out there, we managed that agenda and that’s how we governed the town. People said we shouldn’t have raised taxes so much last year, but the fact is I didn’t want to eliminate services to the people of the Town of Ulster. … The people have obviously disagreed with my opinion on how to run the business of the town and they’ve selected a successor for me. It’s government, it’s politics, and hopefully the new administration will do the job that’s necessary for the people.”
Woerner said he will mull over his options for what he will do come Jan. 1. “I’m not really sure yet. … There’s a lot of opportunities for me. I have a great interest in continuing my education. I’m nearing completion of my associate’s degree, and I’ve already started looking into the possibility of a bachelor’s in public policy. In addition, it’s always been my passion to further affordable housing in our community, for seniors and families, so I’m sure there’s opportunities for me in that field. But ultimately, I want to find something that will allow me to continue to serve the Town of Ulster, the people of Ulster County and the community in general.”
“Well, you know, you win some and you lose some,” said a philosophical Secreto, who will depart the board after one term in office. “People straight-lined the ballot … and they wanted their voices to be heard. I thought I would do a little better. Voting was down — that hurt, it wasn’t a presidential election, but hey, we’re not dead. We’ll be back.”
Secreto said he worried about an all-Republican town board. “You’re going to have a dictator sitting there, and they’re going to follow them. They spent a lot of money on this election. Money did buy it for them. I hate to say that, but that’s my feeling.”
Secreto, too, said he had no regrets. “I did a lot for the kids and the seniors. I just hope these guys keep my programs up.”
Change, Republican style
“I think the people of the Town of Ulster really came out this evening and really voted for change,” said Councilman Eric Kitchen, who will be part of the all-Republican town board in 2010. During the last year, Kitchen was often the lone voice of dissent against Woerner; for him, the cavalry has come.
“I think the people of the Town of Ulster really got the message that was sent out in the last two years, and that the people have finally decided that they wanted Jim Quigley for supervisor and they wanted change in the Town of Ulster, not only for supervisor, but right across the board,” said Kitchen. “It’s a great night … I am really looking forward to January and getting down to business. I won’t be alone on the town board anymore.”
“I think the people have spoken,” said former Republican supervisor Fred Wadnola, who will himself join the new GOP majority on the county legislature on Jan. 1. “People wanted a change, and I think they exhibited that tonight with the way the voting when down.”