In less than a week Dutchess County voters will go to the polls to make their choice for a variety of county and municipal offices. The marquee matchups are the races for County Executive, District Attorney, County Clerk and Poughkeepsie Mayor. In all of these races the incumbents are Republicans in an increasingly Democratic county.
Democrats have tried hard to leverage as much anti-Trump sentiment in an attempt to oust some long-time Republican incumbents. Tuesday’s elections should provide a valuable insight into that and the 2020 election.
The County Executive contest pits two-term incumbent Marc Molinaro against journeyman Cuomo Democrat Joe Ruggiero. Most observers expect Molinaro to prevail easily. The District Attorney’s race is considered a toss-up with long-time incumbent Bill Grady being challenged by one of his former assistant district attorneys, Richard Berube. The race appears to be a referendum on whether Grady has stayed too long at the dance or does experience trump ambition. Regardless of the outcome, Berube appears to have a bright future down the road and a victory for Grady would likely be his last hurrah.
Dutchess County Clerk Brad Kendall is a heavy favorite against Democratic newcomer Kenya Gadsden. Kendall is an experienced and popular public servant who has transformed the county clerk’s office into a friendly and efficient place to do business as well as modernizing the 300 yeah backlog of documents and historical documents of the county.
The contest for Poughkeepsie Mayor is something of an old guard versus new guard event. Incumbent Mayor Rob Rolison is a former police officer and detective turned politician, and his opponent Joash Ward is a 24-year-old African-American wunderkind just embarking on a career in public service. Given Democrats in Poughkeepsie hold a 4-1 registration edge over Rolison and his Republican base, Ward would seem well positioned. Four years ago more than 900 Democrats voted for Rolison given their dislike for the Democrat nominee, Randy Johnson. If those voters return to the Democrat fold Tuesday, Rolison could be in trouble.
Change may be coming to the Dutchess County Legislature. Term limits, approved by the legislature in March, are set to take effect in January, as will higher salaries for each position.
At least 20 percent of the legislature may change, with five legislators set to retire. And, as all five are Republicans, the majority in the governing body could also change for the first time in 12 years. In all, 22 of the legislature’s 25 positions will be contested during the November 5 elections.
The county has long had Republican leadership despite there being more voters registered as Democrats. The legislature is currently 14 Republicans and 11 Democrats. Out of the 182,782 registered voters in Dutchess County, 36.2 percent are registered Democrats and 28.8 percent are registered Republicans.
Dale Borchert (R-LaGrange), Joseph Incoronato (R-Wappinger), James Miccio (R-Fishkill) Marge J. Horton (R-East Fishkill) and John M. Thomes (RPawling) are retiring at the end of this year.
Of the uncontested races, two are Democrats — Randy Johnson and Barbara Jeter-Jackson, both of the City of Poughkeepsie, and one is a Republican, John Metzger (R-East Fishkill).
Beginning in January, legislators may only serve six two-year terms. Another legislature motion increased the salary of county officials for 2020. In 2020, the legislative chair will earn $33,949, the majority and minority leaders will earn $24,401, the assistant majority and minority leader will earn $20,157 and legislators will earn $15,914.