I expect Phillips is making progress; it’s that kind of year and incumbent Democrats are everywhere targeted. But to start calling Phillips a serious challenger, much less a potential winner based on an incomplete GOP poll, is at this stage a big stretch.
This one has the appearance of pump priming. Partial release of polling information — what a Hinchey campaign spokesman called “cherry picking” — tests the limits of the rules of political journalism. In our business, it’s all or nothing, and for good reason. To accurately assess a poll — which in the final analysis is just a snapshot in time — one needs to see how the questions were worded, who did the polling, which people were called and how many. Stuff like that.
A Hinchey spokesperson called Hot Air “a right-wing blog.” But the hard-working Phillips, starting in the pits, could be (should there be there’s a scintilla of truth in Hot Air), on an upward curve. Hinchey led Phillips 54-29 in March, says Hot Air. The GOP polls say Phillips made up eight points in the last five months while Hinchey dropped to 44 percent. Almost 20 percent of voters remain undecided.
That Hinchey, with 96 percent name recognition (according to the poll), was wallowing below 50 percent in August just as the campaign turned to the final weeks is curious. Hinchey beat Phillips two years ago with nearly two-thirds of the vote.
That was then.
Hinchey has not been seriously challenged since 1994, when he was a vulnerable freshman facing a Republican tsunami. He survived that one by around 1300 votes out of more than 180,000 cast.
A few weeks ago, Phillips challenged Hinchey to a series of debates around the district. A Hinchey spokesman, noting that “Maurice always debates his opponents,” said, essentially, bring it on. That’s the real poll.
Like flies to soft stuff, large crowds tend to draw politicians and their cohorts. As such, the ire expressed by last week’s Hooley on the Hudson honchos over excess electioneering on the part of a pair of Republican candidates would seem unwarranted.
Mike Bruhn, Republican candidate for city judge, showed up with a gaggle of green-shirted supporters handing out fliers, t-shirts, water and stickers. Pete Rooney, GOP candidate for state assembly, recruited a couple of “hotties” (his word) with sandwich boards to work the crowd. For good measure, the well-heeled, self-financed candidate parked his yacht just offshore in the Rondout with additional signage. He did not set off fireworks at the end of the 13-hour Irish fest.
Depending on the time of day, upwards of 20,000 people milled around the ninth annual Hooley on the Hudson, according to Hibernian estimates. I’m told a record 101 kegs of Guinness beer were consumed, the standard by which this increasingly popular event is measured.
Hibernian president Jim Carey, perhaps a bit frazzled after 18 hours of putting out fires, found the politicking (by Bruhn and Rooney) a bit much.
“This is an Irish festival, a community event,” he huffed the next day. “It’s not about politics.”
Well, not excessive politicking.
Carey’s gripes were aired under a large Kevin Cahill banner hanging from the Mansion House fronting Rondout Park. (Fellow Democrat county executive candidate Mike Hein had a similar sign in the same place two years ago.) Democratic congressman Maurice Hinchey routinely belts out the Irish tear-jerker “Galway Bay” at opening ceremonies. His Republican opponent, George Phillips, all the way from Binghamton, was on hand, was not invited to the bandstand. Phillips, I am told, does a helluva rendition of “Oh, Lonesome Me.”
Just what measures Hibernians take to control political access to their annual fundraiser next year remains to be seen. Do they limit candidates to a small entourage of three or four supporters? Do they forbid handouts? Signs? Offshore displays? Singing candidates?
Or do they let nature take its course?
What with issues of free assembly in public places, it would seem an all-or-nothing proposition.
The good news, predatory pols notwithstanding, is that the annual Hooley on the Hudson continues to be the region’s largest single gathering. And it’s all free. Hibernians will just have to deal with the problems of success. (For the record, I am a card-carrying Hibernian and sometimes Hooley worker.)
They said Yess
By the time this reaches news stands, Robin Yess of Esopus will have been elected Republican county chairman to succeed Mario Catalano of the town of Ulster. Citing family obligations, Catalano stepped down after three years. Balloting took place at LaMirage in Port Ewen on Thursday, September 9.
Yess, Catalano’s vice-chairman and office manager, was not opposed. This is not to say she was universally admired — no one is — only that despite backstage grousing no one else stood up. With Catalano, Yess had a reputation for no-nonsense organization, of getting things done on time, of the willingness to break eggs.
Yess, well aware of backroom buzz, asked me what I’d heard.
“Things about iron pants,” I said.
“Iron pants? What the heck is that?” she said.
It’s an old expression, I explained, kind of like hard-ass, rigid, demanding, maybe something of a gender thing.
“It is what it is,” she said, as in, they’re irresitible you fools. Give in.
She is pleasantly direct. I asked whether a recent meeting between her and former clerk and chairman Al Spada (brokered by legislative chairman Fred Wadnola) meant the old guard — which Catalano shunned — was coming back.
“No.” she said.
“No. There will be a new guard.”
New Yess-men will include lawyers Dave Van Benschoten from Saugerties and Steve Nussbaum from New Paltz along with a 30s-something web geek from Esopus named Jeff Severson who can update party communications systems. Worker bee Patty Jacobson from Gardiner will return as secretary. Macro strategist Catalano can play, if he wants, she said.
Outnumbered by over 8500 Democratic registrants county-wide, Republicans will not regain the dominance they enjoyed for generations before 9/11 sent so many people scurrying upstate.
Yess, who obviously relishes a challenge, can only hope for parity.
The nearly invisible Harry Wilson, Republican candidate for state comptroller against unelected incumbent Democrat Tom DiNapoli, will be guest speaker at the annual county Republican dinner at Hudson Valley Resort on October 14. Ticket information is available at 338-6245.
Outgoing chairman Catalano misspoke in claiming convention nominee Rick Lazio had never been to Ulster County. Catalano hosted Lazio at Nekos on Wall Street in May. What he meant was Lazio hasn’t been back since. Catalano was backing Carl Paladino in Tuesday’s GOP primary for governor.
Ugliness in New Paltz
What do you do when one of your aging party stalwarts falls seriously ill and can’t get around circulating his nominating petitions for town committee? Stiff ‘im. At least in New Paltz.
This is not a pretty story.
Gerald (called Gary) Kitzmann, 74, a long, long-time New Paltz Democratic committee member, was hospitalized with a stroke a few weeks ago and was unable to carry his petitions for committee reelection. Town supervisor Toni Hokanson offered to help, but then inexplicably switched horses and teamed up with party activist Dan Torres for the two committee slots. (None of several calls to Hokanson, the apparent culprit in this sorry scenario, were returned.)
“I wanted to be on a petition with someone I believed was willing and able” to carry out committee member duties, she told New Paltz Times.
Kitzmann supporters — the man has done everything but sweep out party headquarters for decades — were outraged. Josh Honig, a committee member “appalled” by the treatment afforded Kitzmann, went out and got signatures to place his friend’s name on the ballot.
“It’s one thing to be a good Democrat,” he told New Paltz Times. “It’s more important to be a good human being.”
In New Paltz, it appears that sometimes, those noble goals can be mutually exclusive.
Come to think of it, if party regulars treat loyal members like that, how must they regard the general electorate?
I attended 9/11 services at Post Park on the Hudson in the town of Ulster, along with about 150 spectators and 75 uniformed rescue personnel.
It struck me and many others that it was the same kind of bright, cloudless late summer day as on 9/11 and that low-flying terrorists planes flew down the Hudson, right past the site of Saturday’s memorial services.
Most of the words have been said before, but these bear repeating, if not inscription on a 9/11 memorial —
“We are Americans. They (the terrorists) may have broken our hearts, but they absolutely did not break our spirits.” —
County executive Mike Hein, speaking at Kingston memorial services at Firemen’s Park in uptown.
Hein’s late brother, Werner, a New York State police zone sergeant, was one of the first responders after the towers collapsed at ground zero. ++
Hugh Reynolds’ column appears weekly.