Two weeks before the New York primary, the Dutchess County executive has invited all the presidential candidates to stop in his county for a town hall-style event, saying the county’s history is reason alone to come.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro has extended invitations to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, both Democrats, along with Republicans Donald Trump, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and Ohio Governor John Kasich.
“When in anyone’s lifetime would you be in a position to invite all of the major party candidates for president of the United States and have even the slightest possibility that they might, in fact, visit the Hudson River Valley,” says Molinaro.
Molinaro says New York, and the Hudson Valley in particular, are important along the path to the White House.
“It is very, very rare that this state plays a critical role in the electoral side of this process,” Molinaro says. “And I just don’t think we should allow it to pass without making clear that every vote should be earned, every voice should be heard and that, if we can, we should elevate the dialogue.”
Molinaro says the Marist College administration has agreed to accommodate town-hall style forums, not political rallies, which would have to be organized by the campaigns themselves. The Republican Molinaro says he has not endorsed any candidate and would not detail whether any of the candidates or their campaign staff have responded to the invitations in any particular way.
“I believe that the Hudson River Valley is going to be a stop for nearly all if not all the candidates.” Says Molinaro. “And while I can’t tip my hat, I’m hopeful that several if not all of them find their way to Dutchess County and believe that they are all considering this seriously.”
Molinaro offers some presidential history.
“We can certainly point to perhaps one of the most influential of America’s presidents certainly in modern history — Franklin Delano Roosevelt calling Dutchess County home,” Molinaro says. “And, in fact, the only time the two major party candidates came from the same state and the same county was 1944 when Thomas Dewey, then governor of New York, ran against President Franklin Roosevelt.”
Dutchess County also is the site where the United States Constitution was ratified and the idea of the Bill of Rights took shape. Political Scientist Dr. Gerald Benjamin says Molinaro’s proposal makes sense.
“The Hudson Valley is critical in the election. It’s a competitive area. We’ve had visits in the past from very distinguished people,” says Benjamin. “I remember when President Clinton visited us and had an event on the Roosevelt estate property. So I think it’s a terrific idea.”
He says Dutchess County is an important and suitable location, and one party could more easily connect with its history.
“On the Democrat side, the location resonates a lot for both candidates. On the Republican side, less compelling,” Benjamin says. “The link to FDR would be claimed both by Clinton and Sanders, and it would be interesting to see how they tried to make that link.”
Molinaro says he hopes any candidate who visits Dutchess County will visit one of its historic sites.
“And I personally will make arrangements with the National Park Service for a visit to the Franklin Roosevelt home and Library. I think every candidate, should they want to be president of the United States and should New York be as critical as it seems to be now, should make a visit to the FDR home and Library. I think each will be inspired and somewhat humbled by that experience.”
Molinaro says Dutchess County’s location between New York City and the Capital District makes it the ideal spot for a Hudson Valley town hall meeting.