Moments of truth

Having covered hundreds of candidate nights over the years, I’m not convinced these occasions give would-be voters real insight into those who choose to be lawmakers. I mean, how revealing can a five-minute prepared statement and hurried responses to a few questions to the audience be?

This is not to say such forums cannot be useful. How candidate present themselves and how they respond to questions can be revealing. But voters typically (hopefully) take other factors into account before casting their ballots.

In Kingston on Friday morning, October 14, four candidates for mayor will face ham-and-eggers at a Ulster County Area Chamber of Commerce-sponsored candidates’ breakfast.

I thought sponsors should have limited participation to the only candidates who can win — Democrat Shayne Gallo and Republican Ron Polacco — but nobody asked me. Conservative Rich Cahill and Red Dog Party hopeful Steve Laden will soak up roughly half the limited time that should be devoted to the front-runners.

On Monday beginning at 6 p.m., candidates for all town offices in Saugerties will be showcased at the Frank Greco Senior Center. Sawyers are serious about town politics, and a full house is expected.

Woodstock will hold its traditional Meet the Candidates night at the Lake Hill Fire House at 7 p.m. Wednesday, October 19.

With a two-to-one edge in enrollment, a plausible message and an effective campaign team, the mayor’s race in Kingston is Gallo’s to lose. What Gallo has going against him is that almost exactly half of Kingstonians who voted in the September party primaries demonstrated aversion to the status quo. That Gallo prevailed by only seven votes over Hayes Clement out of over 1000 cast should be instructive.

Polacco surprised a lot of people with a low-key door-to-door stealth campaign that caught party nominee Andi Turco Levin at the wire by just ten votes. Polacco will have to amp it up against an aroused Democratic Party which isn’t about to hand over city hall after 18 years of control.

After collecting just 15 percent of the votes in the Republican primary, Cahill is along for the ride. He says he’s running because of loyalty to the Conservative Party, which backed him early. If so, it’s misplaced. Some may call him a spoiler, but that only happens if Polacco somehow gets to within 150 votes of Gallo on November 8.

In Saugerties, the focus is on the supervisor’s race, where six-term incumbent Democrat Greg Helsmoortel faces a spirited challenge from village trustee Kelly Myers. This is another one of those incumbent-against-incumbent affairs, which is to say the race is about Helsmoortel’s performance in office. Not always the easiest guy to take, Helsmoortel has ruled over a period of revival in Saugerties. The contention by Republican Myers that assessments are out of whack, taxes too high and Helsmoortel too high-handed may resonate among grousers, but will it be enough?

Tickets to the Kingston chamber event are scarce and expensive at the door. After all, how many link sausages can one consume for $20? Admission to the Saugerties face-off is free, but parking and seating are limited.