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Pat Ryan Wins Ulster County Executive Special Election

Democrat Pat Ryan sailed to victory in the special election for Ulster County executive Tuesday. The runner-up in the 19th Congressional District primary last year says he’s ready to hit the ground running and put his vision to work.

Ryan held just about 74 percent of the vote, with more than 11,700 ballots cast for him.

“We did it,” Ryan says. “We won.”

Republican candidate Jack Hayes, who chairs the county’s Conservative Party, garnered north of 4,000 votes. The seat was open for the first time since it was created 10 years ago as Democrat Mike Hein joined the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. Hayes, a former county legislator and town supervisor, did not respond to a request for comment. Here’s Ryan:

“I want to also thank my opponent, Jack Hayes, one, for his long career of public service here and elsewhere, and also for  running a really good, positive campaign.”

Ryan delivered his victory speech at Keegan Ales in Kingston, with his wife Rebecca at his side, and his parents in the room.

“We had a pretty decisive result here, and I think that that says a lot, it says a lot,” Ryan says. “I think it sent a very strong message, a loud and clear message, that what happened in Ulster County, and in our country but, in Ulster County in 2018 was not an anomaly, it is going to be the future of our county and we’re going to build on that.”

Ryan, who served two combat tours in Iraq as an Army intelligence officer, has his sights set on a few accomplishments.

“One, I want to, I really want to have a good, smooth transition where we take care of our folks, our employees. We don’t drop the ball on any of the great services we’re providing; everything is seamless,” says Ryan. “And then, two, I want to have a, my vision that I’ve laid out pretty clearly, that will, we’ll integrate that into the budget that we’re going to be working on. We’ll integrate the priorities of a Green New Deal here both moving to 100 percent renewable and setting up green jobs training program. We’ll work on the economic development side. We’re absolutely going to focus on more funding for the opioid epidemic. So I want to put my stamp on the budget, with the help of the team, right off the bat.”

He says the transition plan includes engaging with department heads and considering policy recommendations.

“And I think continuity is really the watch word, in my mind,” Ryan says.

“How are you going to campaign and lead and learn the ropes at the same time?” asks Dunne. “You have to turn right back again and run.”

“Well, I think leading effectively, you need to do the same things that you would do in a campaign, so showing up everywhere, talking to as many people as we possibly can,” says Ryan. “So I’ll be doing a town hall in every one of the 24 towns ,which will both help me learn what’s going on in our communities to a greater degree, and also set us up to continue to have a successful campaign again in November.”

Democratic Kingston Mayor Steve Noble:

“I’m really looking forward to working with Pat. A little known fact — Pat and I actually went to high school together way back when,” Noble says. “So I know his skill set and have been able to watch what he’s been able to do. And I really look forward to working with him.”

While the win may have been easy for Ryan, Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach says there is a cost to the county.

“Well, it’s estimated that the cost is going to be well in excess of $200,000 because you have to realize that the polls need to be staffed, the polls need to be open. In this particular election, the polls are open from 6 o’clock in the morning till 9 o’clock at night. So, we have poll watchers, we have all of the appropriate people that it takes to run an election,” Auerbach says. “So add that unanticipated cost onto the county’s back, and it’s a concern; not that I’m opposed to the election, don’t get me wrong at that, but I’m looking at it from the dollars-and-cents standpoint.”

Plus, he says, it was difficult to find workers to staff the election this time of year. Pointing to a healthy budget with sales tax revenues up, Auerbach anticipates the county legislature will look to the contingency budget to fill the gap.

Meantime, Ryan says once the election results are certified, he has to wait 30 days before taking office, noting it looks like he’ll be in the position in early June. He faces Hayes again in November in the general election.

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