Wednesday, November 4, 2015

How Did This Happen?

Yesterday, 286 people voted for Victor Mendolia in the race for Common Council president, in spite of the fact that Mendolia had withdrawn from the race more than two months ago. There have been demands to know why his name still appeared on the ballot and whose fault it was. The explanation is that New York State Election Law establishes a deadline for candidates to withdraw in order to have their names removed from the ballot, and that deadline had already passed when Mendolia announced, on August 21, that he was dropping out of the race.

There are rumors that phone calls were made on the eve of the election urging people to vote for Mendolia. If that actually happened, it's very disturbing. It suggests that a deliberate attempt was made to sabotage Tom DePietro's chances by encouraging people who might have been inclined to vote for him to throw away their votes by voting for someone who was out of the race and who had given his support to DePietro.

There are many troubling things about this outcome, not the least of which is, as Seth Rogovoy has pointed out, that significantly more voters did not vote for Claudia DeStefano than did. The combined votes of Mendolia and DePietro total 771 to DeStefano's 574 votes. More disturbing than the possibility of having a Common Council president that about 60 percent of the voters did not opt for is the fact that 286 voters were so uninformed as to vote for someone who wasn't actually running.

But this may be nothing new in Hudson. Someone told me a story yesterday that I have yet to confirm, but, with that caveat, it's worth sharing anyway. Back a half-century or so, a mayoral candidate died before an election. There wasn't time to recruit a new candidate or to remove his name from the ballot, and remarkably, he won. In that case, there was probably a special election to select a new mayor. In this case, unless there are enough votes for DePietro among the 220 absentee ballots to close the 89-vote gap (and there very well may be), Hudson will have to live with the consequences: a Council president that 60 percent of the voters didn't vote for and who is of a different party from both the majority of the Council and the mayor.


  1. Hard to understand why Republicans would tell voters to vote for a Democrat when there was a Republican running. This makes sense only if they called Democrats, who would not be inclined to vote for a Republican. In that case, there may have been some dissembling--as to what party the phone callers belonged to.

  2. Party labels mean little in local politics. Half of the candidates endorsed by the HCDC actively worked against TMH -- who was also endorsed by the HCDC. How can we continue like this, shooting ourselves in the foot because the majority of the HCDC encourages this type of shenanigans. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if some of the callers (or those directing the callers) were HCDC members.

  3. When Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, 57% of voters voted for someone else.

  4. Time to be more realistic. The likelihood of closing an 89-vote gap via 220 absentees is mathematically *very* unlikely, especially with three candidates on the ballot.

    In a two-person race, DePietro would need to win over 70% of the absentees (155-65) to pick up 90 votes and win by one. 70% is a lot in any election, and it’s nearly double what he received on the machines.

    Making things more difficult is that Mendolia is sure to get at least a few of those 220 absentees. Moreover, some of the ballots will get tossed for one reason or another, and some absentees will not vote for Council President at all. Other ballots won't even be returned.

    Generously, even if 200 more votes are cast for either DePietro or Destefano, Tom would need to win 145-55. That’s 72.5%-27.5%.

    It didn't have to be this way.

  5. Neither party has a monopoly on low-information voters, but it's not far fetched to suggest that the Get Out the Vote campaign, which generally favors Democrats, is a factor in this.

    I just didn't have time this year to research the Supreme Court candidates, and I felt pretty badly about it. But lots of people who made the herculean effort to get to the polls probably just guess in those circumstances. Those are the people who marked Victor's ballot.

  6. Tom Shriver was the candidate that remained on the ballot after he died. He got many votes but did not win.

    1. Thanks, Dick Donovan! I figured someone reading Gossips might know this, and I was right.

  7. Good Morning John,

    Specifically, the boys.


  8. I'm more interested in "why" this happened.

    I hope someone fair and smart will be involved in the absentee ballot count.

    There is no guarantee that Ms. Hamilton will win; and DePietro...prayers to St. Jude are in order.

  9. Gossips, Can you help me understand what the Common Council president does?

  10. Dear Newbie,

    Here is what Tom DePietro has said in answer to your question:
    "The duties of the Common Council are stated in our city charter (C12-7): they have "general legislative powers," much like the relation of Congress (the Council) to the President (the Mayor) in our federal government. Their powers are limited by the charter which favors a strong mayoral system, but their "authority" is explicit: "to govern the City , manage its affairs and provide for the protection, security and welfare of the City, its inhabitants and their property."
    The Common Council President has all the powers of an alderman, but is elected by the entire city. Our city charter makes clear his extra powers: the President "presides" at all Council meetings, and appoints all committees. These may seem like simple duties, but if you've attended any meetings in the recent past, you'll know that often these events spin out of control. I hope to bring a new level of civility to our public life, along with a more open and honest government.
    Another important function of The Council President involves the budget. With the Mayor and the Treasurer, the President hammers out the annual budget for Hudson. This may sound like dull labor, but the Board of Estimate (as it's called) determines much of the quality of life in our city. How we fund public works, social services ,and the police department--to name some of the budgetary categories-- affects everything from snow removal to the number of police on the beat. Though the state limits how much a municipality may raise taxes, the BOE must keep taxes under control. Fiscal responsibility means accounting to you about the money you've paid.
    In addition, the Common Council President also appoints all committees. Committee appointments are important because that's where the real work gets done; committee members develop resolutions that eventually are voted on by the entire Council. In an effort to bring more citizens into government, I hope to amend the committee system to include non-Council members. At present, Council members are overburdened by meetings, and often at a loss when dealing with technical matters. To take one example, our legal committee would benefit greatly if more local lawyers could contribute to the public conversation."