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League debate canceled in Rosendale

A candidates debate, proposed by the League of Women Voters for Rosendale, has been called off due to scheduling conflicts. The Shawangunk Journal offered to sponsor the event.

All three Republican town council candidates expressed their regrets that a previous commitment makes them unable to participate in a debate with their opponents on Friday evening, Nov. 4th. The election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 8th — leaving no time for an alternate event. The Democratic candidates all agreed to attend.

Organizers took partial blame, due to short notice in planning the face-off. “I was pushing to try to move it earlier,” remarked Paul Smart, a League volunteer who intended to serve as Rosendale‘s debate moderator this year. “Because it was so close to the election, it took away a lot of hysteria aspects — it wouldn’t be written about in the weeklies,” Smart said. “It was more of an event for those who showed up.”

Smart works as a journalist for Ulster Publishing, and also operated the now-defunct Mountain Eagle newspaper out of Greene County. His activities with the League are motivated by a desire to bring campaign issues to the forefront, and get voters more interested in local politics.

In addition to town council candidates, some county-level politicians were also expected to speak – including Attilio Contini versus Robert Parete – the opponents for Ulster Co. Legislative District 19; and D.A. Candidates Holley Carnright versus Jonathan Sennett.

“Without the town candidates there, it’s a no-go,” lamented Smart. “I was ready to go ahead with just the county candidates, but the League felt that since it had been publicized as a town candidate event, it would have been seen as partisan if only the Democrats showed up from the town side,” Smart indicated. “By declining to show up, the three Republican candidates pulled the plug on the whole thing,” he said.

Rosendale‘s local race is not without controversy. Jeanne Walsh, running for supervisor on the Republican ticket, is a registered Democrat who lost the primary to Jen Metzger. Three Democratic Committee members in town resigned to support Walsh – Brian Cafferty and Rochelle Riservato (who is also a writer for Shawangunk Journal), along with Jeanne’s brother-in-law Ken Walsh. Sarah McGinty, former town justice who nominated Walsh at the caucus, did not resign from the committee.

As a bipartisan fusion candidate, Walsh is expected to get most of the Republican vote, followed by some of the Democratic vote. Yet this crossover goes both ways. For example, Ron Parenti, the town’s Republican ZBA chairman, openly supports Democrat Jen Metzger. In the final week of election season, Parenti constructed an eye-catching campaign sign, on the hill behind St. Peter’s church. His effort represents a visual highlight for this year’s race. Republicans who are miffed that a registered Democrat is running on their line, may vote for Metzger instead – or not vote at all. A close margin is expected.

Previously, a “Meet the Candidates Night” was held October 18th in town by the Rosendale Women’s Club. Meanwhile, partisan jockeying continues to stymie actual debates. “If you go back into League history,” recalls Smart, “they handled the presidential debates until 1988. The parties started trying to control the format of the debate so much that the League pulled out, saying that this is becoming a charade of democracy at this point,” he said. “Since then, all of the presidential debates have been handled by political operatives,” Smart notes.” The statements are really kind of amazing, that the League made, you don’t really hear anything quite so harsh anymore, from a non-partisan level.”

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