On the heels of last year’s Democratic successes nationwide, Dutchess County Republicans enjoyed a great share of victories in this off-year election. Historically, the opposing party tends to outperform its rival after a presidential election, and they feel strong effects when the current president’s approval rating tanks below 50 percent; President Biden’s is at approximately 42 percent (FiveThirtyEight, 2021). In this election, the Democrats focused on defending seats rather than seeking gains due to this historical precedent. In Dutchess County, 32 percent of all registered voters in the country cast a ballot, amounting to 66,000 ballots. Voter turnout was nearly 80 percent in 2020 (Poughkeepsie Journal, 2021).
Republicans gained two seats in the county legislature, expanding their majority from 15-10 to 17-8. The two Democratic incumbents that fell short of defending their seats were Vassar History Professor and the legislature’s minority leader Rebecca Edwards (D) and Hyde Park’s Brenda Lawler (D) (Daily Freeman, 2021). They lost to Tony D’Aquanni (R) and Benjamin Geller (R), respectively. Furthermore, Denise Watson (R) will serve another 10-year term as the county’s Family Court Judge. Democrats also lost the Town Supervisor position and Town Board majority in Hyde Park, as well as the Town Supervisor position in Pine Plains.
In the Town of Poughkeepsie, Town Supervisor John Bay Baisley (R) secured his reelection against challenger Barbara Pallazzo (D) by nearly 12 percentage points. The Town of Poughkeepsie Board will gain one seat for the Republican camp (Dutchess County Board of Elections, 2021). County Legislature Chairman Gregg Pulver commented on his celebration of Republican victories across the county: “This proves our point that we have done what our constituents in Dutchess County want. We don’t think of things as being Democrat or Republican––we think of what’s best for Dutchess County,” he said (Mid Hudson News, 2021).
Victories for Democrats amid the red wave were scarce. Robin Lois (D) will maintain her office as Dutchess County Comptroller, securing her position as the only Democrat to hold a county-wide position. After her successful campaign, she stated, “I want to continue providing the transparency and accountability that I brought to the office over the last four years, and there is a lot more to do and I am looking forward to it” (Mid Hudson News, 2021). The City of Poughkeepsie’s wholly Democratic council will remain in place.
An anomaly in the theme of Republican domination in this election was the voters’ overwhelming rejection of the Republican-initiated sixth ballot proposition. The proposition, if affirmed by the voters, would have decreased the number of seats in the Dutchess County legislature from 25 to 21 as part of an update to the rules and procedures of the Independent Reapportionment Committee (Dutchess County Board of Elections, 2021).
County Executive Marc Molinaro (R) and Chairman A. Gregg Pulver (R), along with all Republican members of the county legislature, voted to put this proposal on the ballot against the objections of all Democratic county legislators, and yet, despite a successful year for Republican candidates, county residents voted “no” by a margin of more than 2-1. The legislature will continue to have 25 seats.
Furthermore, Town of Poughkeepsie voters rejected town-specific ballot proposals, which appeared as seventh and eighth on the ballot. Ballot proposition number seven would have extended the Town Clerk’s term from two years to four years if a majority chose “yes,” and number eight would have done the same for the Town Supervisor position. Both term lengths will remain unchanged as a result of more “no” votes for both propositions (Dutchess County Board of Elections, 2021).
The most important election relevant to Dutchess County in 2022 will be for the 19th Congressional District of New York State, which Antonio Delgado (D-NY19) currently represents. Marc Molinaro (R) has filed to run and unseat him, setting up a competitive race for a district that WAMC Northeast Public Radio predicts will be a national bellwether district if Delgado and Molinaro are the nominees for their respective parties (WAMC, 2021). Molinaro has compared Delgado to former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, accusing him of prioritizing raising money over the well-being of working families. Congressman Delgado is one of the House’s top fundraisers despite rejecting corporate PAC funds (HudsonValley360, 2021).
All Dutchess County election results can be found at the county’s Board of Elections website and the Poughkeepsie Journal (Dutchess County Board of Elections, 2021; Poughkeepsie Journal, 2021).