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Three Democrats vie to replace Congressman-elect Pat Ryan as Ulster County Executive

Pat Bradley/WAMC

Three Democrats are hoping to serve as Ulster County Executive after Pat Ryan's election to Congress last month. The candidate will be chosen at a special convention next week.

Former New York state Senator Jen Metzger, deputy Ulster County Executive Marc Rider and Ulster County Comptroller March Gallagher are interested in filling out Ryan's term, which expires December 31st, 2023. Ryan was elected to Congress in the 19th district, to serve the rest of the year.

Metzger believes Ulster County can be a model for a resilient, sustainable people centered economy that leaves no one behind. She says she supports policies and procedures Ryan introduced, vowing to "pick up where he left off."

“I've worked with Pat, for many years, we've partnered on projects when I was in the State Senate," said Metzger. "We've talked a lot about his work in the time since, we're very much aligned. His commitment to a green New Deal, to really addressing climate change, and taking advantage of all of the opportunities that the clean energy transition offers for our county, it’s in step with the work that I've been doing for a long time. You know, his focus on mental health, especially for our youth, and substance use disorder. "

Metzger claims to be the only candidate in the race who has local and state-level decision-making experience. Metzger picked up Ryan's endorsement on Sept. 9, saying Metzger is a person of integrity who will build on his successes.

“I proudly endorse Jen Metzger for Ulster County Executive because I know she will build upon the many successes that we have had here in Ulster County," Ryan said in a statement. "Jen is a person of integrity, who brings great compassion to understanding the needs of the community. She has the experience and the drive to deliver results. I look forward to partnering with Jen to make sure that government from the county to the federal level works together to deliver results for our residents."

Rider points to his experience, having been a deputy county executive for two administrations under two different elected county executives for the last four years.

“I know what the job entails," Rider said. "And I believe that I have the clearest vision, especially to serve out the remaining year of County Executive Ryan’s term. I've had the opportunity to weigh in on some of the priorities that we've set the last four years. And, you know, the way I look at it, the priorities for Ulster County right now are affordability. It's enhancing mental health and addiction services. It's fighting climate change.”

Gallagher says she has years of executive experience and is ready to expand her role in county government.

“I've been interested in county government since before we revised our charter to switch to a county executive form of government," Gallagher said. "And I feel like my work in the comptroller's office has really informed me on changes that we could make that would improve county government. I think Pat Ryan identified a number of issues that are really critical for the county, including, you know, dealing with addiction, expanding our mental health services, redeveloping Tech City, and a focus on the creation of more affordable housing. And I would seek to continue all those initiatives, they’re absolutely critical.”

Ryan won the August 23rd special election against Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro for now-Lt. Governor Antonio Delgado's seat. In November Ryan will go up against Republican state Assemblyman Colin Schmitt for the seat in the newly drawn 18th Congressional District.

Ulster County Democratic Committee Chair Kelleigh McKenzie says a nominating convention at 4:30 p.m. September 17th at Kingston City Hall will determine who gets party support to run.

“In a year where we have had redistricting and new maps, and then new maps and then vacancies, now to have another vacancy to fill is a tall order to for Democrats to kind of really understand what's happening," McKenzie said. "It's a weird process, it's not going to be the Democratic Party members who do a primary election to choose the Democratic nominee because of the short timeframe as dictated by New York State election law, New York State party rules and the county charter. It has to happen within 90 days of the vacancy of the county executive office. So in order to do that, it requires that the Ulster County Democratic committee members, of which there are 277 current members, there are 328 seats on the committee, it will be that group of people who get to choose the Democratic nominee.”

McKenzie adds voting will be by "weighted vote." The value of one person's vote at the convention is related to the number of votes cast on the Democratic line for governor in the last gubernatorial race.

McKenzie is hopeful the special election for County Executive can be held the same day as the November 8th general election. Board of Election officials tell WAMC a date has not been set and while there is no Republican candidate at this time, it is expected the party will announce one.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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