The race is on

by Hugh Reynolds
February 17, 2011 11:00 AM | 2 2 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last week’s fundraiser for Jon Sennett, a Democratic candidate for Ulster County district attorney, was more noteworthy for who was there than how many. Ticket sales, at $75 per, were less than robust — somewhere between 80 and 100. But political clout was much in evidence...

Sennett, the party’s unsuccessful candidate for DA in 2007, spent a good deal of the interregnum mending fences and securing support. It shows. Endorsing the candidate at the fundraiser were assemblyman Kevin Cahill and county executive Mike Hein, an odd couple rarely seen on the same page or in the same room together. If Sennett can unite those factions, he’s halfway home.

Also dropping by with a grin, a handshake and a check was Independence Party chairman Len Bernardo. The Indies backed maverick Democrat Vince Bradley Jr. in the ’07 ménage a trois between Republican Holley Carnright, Sennett and Bradley. They could provide the margin of victory in this year’s election. Bernardo, who shamelessly describes himself as “a power broker,” will steer his party’s nomination to the highest bidder. That he appears at anybody’s fundraiser is no guarantee of support from the wily pol.

Bradley, only 43, is out of this year’s race, happily operating out of Poughkeepsie as the state attorney general’s Hudson Valley representative. But the “Bradley vote” is very much in play.

A Kingston resident and heir to the old guard, Bradley polled 22 percent of the vote on the Independence and Conservative party lines. Sennett, with support from the Working Families Party, came in with 34.3. Carnright won the election on the Republican line with 43.5 percent.

But even the best brains (?) in each party aren’t sure just what constitutes the “Bradley vote” and how to get at it. It’s a mixed bag of independents, conservatives, Republicans and Democrats that defies easy analysis. For instance, Carnright trounced Sennett in Kingston, seat of Democratic dissension, where Dems hold a two-to-one enrollment advantage.

Meanwhile, appearances to the contrary, Carnright isn’t just sitting around awaiting his fate. While publicly eschewing politics, the DA has been quietly courting support, with a particular focus on the Bradley vote and the Independence nomination.

More Mo

Given the Republican resurgence in Congress and a lackluster showing in the 2010 elections, there was speculation on whether Maurice Hinchey would be reappointed to the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Fear not. Mo is snug as a bug on the committee that dispenses literally trillions in federal funds every year. More importantly, the 385 House members who are not on the committee hold “appropriators” in the highest regard. In the business of House politics, they got clout.

Hinchey, who mentions his Appropriations membership in many speeches and press releases, had nothing to fear from the new GOP majority. By House rule, each party names members to Appropriations, meaning it doesn’t matter much which side has a majority. And if Hinchey be an example, membership on Appropriations is based in large part on party loyalty, a quality Hinchey demonstrated early and often in his congressional career. Elected in 1992, he was named to Appropriations in 1996, after voting with his party more than 90 percent of the time.

Politics aside, it’s good for the district to have somebody, as Willie Sutton might have said, where the money is.

Speculation over whether Hinchey would in fact serve out his tenth term after a disappointing showing at the polls and some health issues was rampant post-election and right into January. One delicious rumor had county executive Mike Hein, an ambitious man if there ever was one, ringing up the congressman and asking him directly about his plans. Should Hinchey decide to vacate, Hein supposedly said, he’d be all too happy to step in — to “save” the seat for Democrats, naturally — and would welcome Hinchey’s support.

The short-tempered congressman, it was said, went through the roof.

I gave that one a few weeks to perk before calling the exec for comment.

After a deep breath he said, “Our congressman is a very courageous congressman, and I hope he remains in Congress for a long time to come.”

And what was the question, again? Hinchey was not available for comment, and his staff rarely reacts to political questions.

In any event, the congressman seems to have thrown himself into the job, perhaps having come to realize that nothing is guaranteed these days. And what better way to defray those pesky rumors about early retirement?

Pants power

There’s a painting at the Vassar College art gallery titled “He who wears the pants has the power.” It shows a pile of grappling powermongers, some with pants on, some off, others on the rise or decline.

We’re forever telling our kids that knowledge is power in the hope that maybe they’ll spend a little more time on their homework. We should be telling them that information is power and, like the Vassar painting says, he who has it, has it.

Last summer, Ulster County’s purchasing department, at the request of a special task force on the future of Golden Hill, solicited “requests for proposals” from the private sector on what to do with the senior health-care facility in Kingston. The names of the seven respondents were published in mid-October. The executive appointed a secret committee to review the proposals shortly thereafter.

“Secret” review of a (potentially) public project of major importance? It’s the law, everybody said.

It’s state law, minority leader Jeanette Provenzano explained to skeptical legislators at last week’s Democratic caucus. The purpose, she said, was to protect the public so that bidders couldn’t influence the review committee.

Do these people listen to what they say? Government secrecy is public enemy Number One.

In this case, the executive wears the pants. He controls the information and has steadfastly refused to release it. Why, more and more suspicious legislators are beginning to ask? Absent information, those suspicions will only grow uglier in the dark.

Here and there

After three organizational meetings, the county reapportionment commission formally presented itself to the legislature that named it this week. It is now apparent that the legislature will have the last word on reapportionment. The best the commission can hope for is an up-or-down vote on its recommendations. And if it’s down? We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, as Ted Kennedy liked to say.

Giving the executive a little more rattle in his saber, the legislature agreed to transfer $50,000 from contingency to the county attorney’s office should a law suit against New York City for muddying up the lower Esopus be pursued. New York has softened its position somewhat since Hein went after them for “polluting” the creek with excessive discharges from its reservoirs. Forewarning on the next deluge of muddy water is likely, a seat at the table is possible, a vote is out of the question.

Carnright didn’t tell media — exiled from last week’s executive session with the legislature — much more than he told lawmakers regarding his Resource Recovery Agency investigation. Frustrated scribes caught the DA slipping out of the legislative session but were given only “no comment” and vague generalities. At one point the athletic prosecutor put his foot up on a recycling container to tie his shoe and almost fell over. “Now that would have been a story!” said writer Bill Kemble.++

Hugh Reynolds’ column appears weekly.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
February 18, 2011
When referring to three or more people (Carnright, Sennett, Bradley), the correct term is "among," not between; that word is reserved for two and two only.
Wes Pegler
February 17, 2011
Reynolds always forgets to mention Bradley did not register in time to officially be a democrat for the race. Some dems wanrted their boy in the race no matter the cost. He should have gracefully bowed out. Not doing so split the party and cost dems the race.

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