“Has everyone in this room had enough?” Patty Ritchie asked a room full of Republican officials in the basement of the Tavern on the Lock restaurant in Fulton.
“Yes,” they shouted back.
By “enough”, they mean they’ve had enough of Darrel Aubertine.
Ritchie, the County Clerk of St. Lawrence County, declared her candidacy for State Senate in the 48th District on Monday with stops in Fulton, Watertown and Canton. She intends to be the Republican party’s candidate to take on Democrat Aubertine, a former state Assemblyman who has won the Senate seat in two elections.
Ritchie became known locally for turning her county’s money-losing Department of Motor Vehicles office into a profit center by processing automobile registrations from other counties. She reached a wider audience when she led a statewide online petition drive against the state’s plan to force all vehicle owners to buy new license plates. Her campaign logo is a reminder of that battle — it’s a New York State license plate with her name, Patty, on it.
In her brief speech, Ritchie hit the common themes of this year’s Republican state Legislature campaigns.
She promised to cut spending and cut taxes. “You can’t spend money you don’t have,” she said. Later, she said she supported putting back into the budget money to keep Ogdensburg prison open, to keep all state parks operating and to restore some state aid to the school districts hardest hit by state cuts. She said she’d pay for that by eliminating management layers in state government and by rooting out more welfare fraud.
Ritchie never mentioned Aubertine or directly criticized him, but instead attacked the Democratic party. Aubertine’s election helped swing control of the State Senate to the Democrats, who already controlled the Assembly and the Governor’s office. “It was supposed to get better,” she said, of one-party control of government. “It got worse. More dysfunction, more late budgets and more partisan politics.”
Democrats hold a thin, 2-vote margin in the Senate. “One vote really does count,” she said.
On paper, Aubertine should never have won. The district, which encompasses all of Oswego and Jefferson counties and part of St. Lawrence County, votes reliably Republican. Registered Republicans make up about 40% of the district’s registered voters, according to the state Board of Elections. Democrats make up about 27% of the registered voters.
But Aubertine is a moderately conservative Democrat who has voted against his party at least a few times, notably on a same-sex marriage bill and on a farmworkers’ rights bill. He’s won by taking overwhelming numbers of Democrats, a majority of independent voters, and just enough Republicans to put him over the top.
Campaign filings show that as of January, Aubertine had more than $100,000 in his campaign account. Ritchie was not a candidate then.