Though her name will appear on the ballot on Election Day, current Town Supervisor Toni Hokanson announced that she has decided to withdraw from the 2011 race for the position.
After serving the Town of New Paltz for 16 years, Hokanson initially prepared to compete with Susan Zimet —who secured the Republican and Democratic endorsements — but publicly announced she would no longer seek to be reelected to her current post.
Coupled with receiving a full-time job offer that was contingent on her withdrawal from the race, Hokanson said she would not be seeking a fourth-term as supervisor even though she garnered the Working Families Party endorsement.
“I had to be realistic with what my odds were,” Hokanson said. “It’s difficult to win just having the Working Families nomination when your opponent has both the Republican and Democratic nominations.”
Although Hokanson said she is no longer looking for an Election Day win, the Ulster County Board of Elections confirmed that her name will remain on the ballot. According to Hokanson, this could not be changed because absentee ballots have already been disseminated.
The town supervisor said she is aware her name will be on the ballot next week in spite of her withdrawal and stands by her request for people to vote for her in The New Paltz Times.
“I encouraged people to vote for me in that article to send a message,” Hokanson said. “By voting for me, people can show support for the ideas I stood for.”
Zimet, who previously served as supervisor for two terms, said she was concerned the incumbent supervisor’s name would still appear on the ballot Nov. 8.
The former supervisor said the fact that Hokanson’s announcement about not be seeking another term was on the front page of The New Paltz Times gave her publicity that could affect the election outcome.
“She basically said ‘I can’t win,’ and she got advertising she could have never gotten otherwise by any means,” Zimet said. “She got a front page story that went on two pages. At the end when people withdraw, they usually say, ‘I’m out, so let’s all get behind my opponent and work together to do what needs to be done,’ But that’s not what she said. Instead she said, ‘Still vote for me’ and her name is still on the ballot.”
Zimet said the name appearing on the ballot was “questionable” and was uneasy about voters possibly being unsure about the options available to them on Election Day.
The candidate said she hopes voters will still come out to the polls although they may think the election is uncontested.
“What I am concerned about is the fact that I have everybody calling me to congratulate me, and they are forgetting that I haven’t already won the race,” Zimet said. “They forget that they actually have to go out and vote and that I still have to get more votes in the end than Toni.”
However, Hokanson said she does not think this will be the case.
“It sounds like [Zimet] is concerned that people aren’t going to go out and vote at all,” Hokanson said. “I don’t think people are going to stay home because I withdrew.”
Local officials agreed with Hokanson, saying they don’t believe the incumbent’s name remaining on the ballot will confuse New Paltz citizens when it comes time to cast their votes.
Deputy Town Supervisor Jane Ann Williams said while there might be minor confusion, the situation isn’t completely out of the ordinary.
“There is always confusion,” Williams said. “I don’t think [her name being on the ballot] disenfranchises anyone or will change the outcome.”
Members of the other portion of the area’s local government, the Village of New Paltz, agreed with town officials.
Village Trustee Ariana Basco said she feels Hokanson’s withdrawal has been well broadcasted to the community.
“I don’t think it will affect the outcome,” Basco said. “People may be confused, but Zimet is on both the Democratic and Republican line. I think it being on the cover of The New Paltz Times will help people realize, though.”