Three Contested Seats in New Paltz 2023 Election

Photo Courtesy of Makayla Witherell
With minimally contested seats, votes in the local general election are highly important in the 2023 year.

Election Day is coming up in just two weeks with 12 seats on the ballot this year. Of those 12, there are only three races with more than one candidate, those being one of three seats on the State Supreme Court, the Ulster County District Attorney and the New Paltz Deputy Mayor.

Three State Supreme Court Justice seats are on the ballot with only one being contested. Daniel C. Lynch and Sherri J. Brooks-Morton are running unopposed as Democratic and Working Families candidates. Richard Rivera, candidate for the Democratic and Working Families parties, is running against Dana Salazar, candidate for the Republican and Conservative parties. The three vacancies were caused by two justices reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 and another justice stepping down.

Rivera was recently appointed as Statewide Coordinating Judge for Family Court Matters after being elected in 2014 to a 10-year term in Albany County Family Court. This made him the first Latino elected to any Bench in the Third Judicial District. Ulster County is one of seven in the Third Judicial District. Salazar is a practicing attorney with Salazar and Erikson LLP, a practice she helped found in 2015.

Jen Metzger is seeking a full four-year term as Ulster County Executive after being elected last year in a special election to serve out the remainder of Pat Ryan’s term, the former executive who now represents New York’s eighteenth district in Congress. Metzger served for over a decade in the Town of Rosendale government, before serving one term in the state senate from 2018 to 2020. She is running as the candidate for the Democratic and Working Families parties.

In the race for district attorney, Manny Nneji and Michael J. Kavanagh will be the two candidates on Ulster County ballots. Nneji, a SUNY New Paltz alum, is the current chief assistant district attorney and has prosecuted cases in the county for 33 years. Kavanagh was formerly an assistant district attorney who worked alongside Nneji for eight years but has been in private practice since losing the 2019 race by just 78 votes. Nneji is running as the Democratic and Working Families candidate and would be the first African American elected to the Ulster County government. Kavanagh is running as both a Republican and Conservative candidate, though he is a registered Libertarian.

The DA office has been hotly criticized over the past three years. Kavanagh has blamed incumbent Dave Clegg, the first Democrat to hold the position since 1850, for the disorganization. Nneji has blamed changes to pre-trial discovery rules that went into effect right before Clegg’s term began, as well as the political stubbornness of four assistant district attorneys to work with Clegg as a Democrat. Clegg is not seeking reelection.

Stephen Pampinella, assistant professor of political science at SUNY New Paltz, commented on this year’s DA race. “With Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger running unopposed, the District Attorney race is the main opportunity for County Republicans to reassert themselves after being marginalized during the Trump presidency. Their ability to do so will be shaped by voter turnout, which is usually lower in off-year (non-national) elections. In theory, lower turnout elections should favor the Republicans, while higher turnout elections that mobilize non-base voters should benefit Democrats. If Democrats can maximize their numerical advantage in Ulster County and keep voter turnout high, Republican victory is less likely.”

Limina Grace Harmon is running unopposed for Ulster County Legislature District 20 under the Democratic and Working Families parties. District 20 includes the Village and Town of New Paltz, respectively. She has been a speech writer for the mayor of Philadelphia and worked in communications at the national office of the ACLU.

Megan Sperry is running unopposed for Ulster County Legislature District 17 under the Democratic and Working Families parties. District 17 encompasses the greater New Paltz area around District 20, including part of Esopus. Sperry is seeking a second term and is also an associate professor in the department of Digital Media & Journalism at SUNY New Paltz.

Rosanna Rosenkranse is running unopposed for Town Clerk/Tax Collector under the Democratic party, seeking a fourth term.

James Bacon is running unopposed for Town Justice under the Democratic party, seeking a fifth term.

Kitty Brown and Julie Seyfert-Lillis are running unopposed for two seats as Councilpersons under the Democratic party. Brown is seeking a fourth term and Seyfert-Lillis is seeking a third.

Tim Rogers is running unopposed for Village Mayor under the Democratic and Working Families parties, seeking a second term.

In the Village Trustee race, Alexandria Wojcik and Stevie Susta will be the two candidates on the ballot in New Paltz, both of whom are SUNY New Paltz alumni. Wojcik is running for a second term as a candidate for the Democratic and Working Families parties, winning in 2019 by just 14 votes. Susta is running as an independent with no prior office held.

In an interview with The Oracle, Wojcik spoke on the state of this year’s election and the role that students can have in shaping its outcomes.

Wojcik believes there was more energy when she first ran in 2019 due to the historic midterm election the year prior. That year, Democrats flipped what was then New York’s 19th congressional district and the State Senate. “I think 2019 was different just because there was that kind of energy,” Wojcik said. “Even though people are still fired up, we did get Trump out. We have more visibility, at least on local levels. People feel more represented than they did.”

Wojcik continued to emphasize the important difference that SUNY New Paltz students can make in the upcoming election and implored them to register to vote here, where they live. “The system as it is, the people who have been in power throughout history, want us to feel like we don’t have that right to have that voice,” she stated, but with such narrow elections year after year, every vote counts.

This Saturday will be the last day to register to vote in the general election on Nov. 7th.