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Hudson Valley News

Town Supervisor Wants To Challenge A HV Assemblyman

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Courtesy of Susan Zimet
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There could be a Democratic primary in a Hudson Valley state Assembly district, as a town supervisor wants to face off against a longtime incumbent.

Democratic Assemblyman Kevin Cahill could be facing a primary. New Paltz Town Supervisor Susan Zimet Tuesday announced her candidacy for the 103rd District seat, which covers most of Ulster County plus Rhinebeck and Red Hook in Dutchess County.

“So many people are just really really just saying enough is enough, and a lot of people from Albany down, throughout the entire county, and on a local level were saying, Susan, you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do this,” Zimet says. “You are the one person who could actually beat him and you are the one person when you get up to Albany who will actually do what we want our representatives do to.”

Cahill prepared a statement, declining to address any specifics Zimet has raised.   

“And I’m proud of my record, my achievements and my vision for the people of Ulster and Dutchess counties and the great state of New York.”

He adds that he welcomes the opportunity to discuss any issues the residents of his district deem to be important.

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Credit Courtesy of NYS Assemblyman Kevin Cahill

One issue that helped propel Zimet’s decision to run is how Cahill approached what became a drawn-out and divisive sales-tax issue. Dr. Gerald Benjamin is a distinguished professor of political science at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

“We’ve had a controversy over the local share of the sales tax in Ulster County, and this divided the party,” says Benjamin. “And some people think that Kevin has a vulnerability so we have a potential primary race.”

But he questions that vulnerability.

“Well, I think the vulnerability is misperceived,” Benjamin says. “I think the dispute over the sales tax was more a dispute among people in government than a dispute that has resonance with the broader public.”

Here’s Zimet:

“It was really unconscionable what Kevin did with the withholding of the sales tax for Ulster County and using the safety net argument as the reason,” says Zimet.

Cahill had wanted Ulster County to absorb the cost of the New York state-mandated Safety Net Program over a three-year period, and some Democrats and Republicans accused him of blocking what they say should have been a routine sales-tax extension. Cahill had a different take, and the debate grew rancorous between Cahill and Democratic Ulster County Executive Michael Hein, escalating to what Hein called a “Cahill Crisis.” Cahill had accused Hein of spreading misinformation.

Benjamin says incumbents fare well in New York, and anyone who challenges Cahill, who has served for 15 years, faces an uphill battle.

“Whether a primary challenge against Kevin in this district that he served so long and so well will be effective is… I’m skeptical,” notes Benjamin.

Zimet admits incumbency is an advantage.

“Does incumbency help somebody? Absolutely,” says Zimet. “He’s going to have all of the Democratic Assembly campaign money sending postcards to everybody about how wonderful he is. He’s going to have all of the corporate money coming in.”

Yet she says incumbent advantage may not be enough this time around.

“However, people are really hurting, people are really suffering, and I think the everyday people really want a choice,” says Zimet. “And right now I’m not so sure incumbency is actually a benefit because I think people realize government’s not serving them.”

No potential Republican candidate has stepped forward. Again, here’s Benjamin.

“Well, I’m a big believer in competitive politics, and I think inter-party competition is very important as it brings greater accountability,” says Benjamin. “Intra-party competition is less powerful as a way of producing accountability because the alternative programs aren’t as distinct.”

Zimet, a former Ulster County legislator, ran for state Senate in 2006, losing to incumbent Republican John Bonacic.

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