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Voters To Decide Ulster County Exec, DA, Comptroller Races

WAMC, Allison Dunne
Ulster County Chamber of Commerce candidate forum Oct. 22, 2019

Ulster County voters return to the polls Tuesday after a special election for county executive six months ago. They’ll also select a county comptroller and district attorney.

Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan is in a rematch of April 30th’s special election against Republican Jack Hayes. That came after the county’s first executive, Democrat Mike Hein, left for a position in New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration. Ryan says he would continue to implement his vision and build on accomplishments in the areas of renewable energy, lowering taxes and using funding to help tackle the opioid epidemic. And he’s been reaching out to residents via town halls throughout the county, fielding a number of topics, including economic development.

“We really have to broaden this definition. It’s not just how many jobs and what are unemployment numbers? It’s what the quality of the jobs? What’s the housing situation, can workers afford to live?” says Ryan.

Hayes, a former county legislator and Gardiner town supervisor, wants to see a different approach to economic development in the county.

“There’s a confusion as to whether or not we’re open for business. We say we’re open for business, and then when the business comes, people have a protest and say, you can’t do that here,” Hayes says.

In the race for Ulster County district attorney, Republican chief assistant district attorney Michael Kavanagh is seeking to succeed his boss, Republican Holley Carnright, who is retiring.

“I would like to honor a lot of the principles that he has implemented, and I have as well, as being his chief and being in that office for eight years, it’ll be a continuation of what we as an office have been doing,” says Kavanagh. “We’ll make some changes. I think one of the things that we could do better is outreach, and I would like to see that happen.”

Democrat Dave Clegg:

“I’ve been a criminal defense attorney for 40 years. I’ve handled really important big cases throughout the country, from Nebraska to New York, from Buffalo to Manhattan. I’ve spent nine years as a public defender, and it’s really important to come from that side right now when we want to reform our criminal justice system, when we want to reform our bail system, when we want to reform our discovery system,” Clegg says.

Lisa Cutten and March Gallagher are vying for county comptroller. The position opened when Democrat Elliot Auerbach left in May to work in the state comptroller’s office. The Ulster County Democratic Committee chose Gallagher over Cutten for the party line. So Cutten is running on the Republican ticket, and also is on the Conservative and Independence lines. Cutten, a CPA who began in local government in 1986, says the chief auditing officer position is not about policy.

“It’s about watching the money for the people of Ulster County, and that includes making sure that it’s not wasted or stolen, making sure we’re getting what we’re paying for and that people are benefitting from the services that we’re providing in the way that we think they should,” Cutten says. “So it’s a really important job, but it does require background in the work.”

Gallagher, who is also on the Working Families line, and who most recently served as president and CEO of Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley, says she brings fresh eyes from the nonprofit and private sectors.

“Well, I did not set up the internal controls inside county finance so I can bring an objective point of view to it and ask questions, and look at things that we’ve implemented in other places in the private sector and in the nonprofit sector,” Gallagher says. “I think a lot of people would say government needs to be more like business to move with the times.”

There is a three-way race for Kingston mayor. Democrat Steve Noble faces two challengers as he runs for a second term. One is Ellen DiFalco, secretary for former Democratic Mayor Shayne Gallo. Gallo lost a Democratic primary to Noble. DiFalco is a registered Democrat but is on the Republican and Independence lines. And Kingston native Vince Rua is running on the SAM line, which was born from the Serve America Movement.

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