POUGHKEEPSIE – The race to represent the City of Poughkeepsie’s fourth ward on the common council officially has three candidates. Republican Lee David Klein officially launched his campaign on Friday evening surrounded by supporters at the site of the new Vassar Brothers Medical Center.
Klein served as council chairman in 2010 and 2011 and spent two terms on the council from 2014 through 2017.
Citing the need to focus on “revenue enhancement and debt management,” Klein seeks to unseat incumbent Sarah Brannen, a Democrat. Kari Rieser, a former Democratic Dutchess County legislator, lost a primary challenge to Brannen but is still in the race appearing on the Working Families ballot line. Klein will appear on the Republican, Conservative, and Independence lines while Brannen holds the Democratic line.
In addition to his time on the council, Klein has substantial experience in city government. He served on the ZBA in the 1990s, on the city’s Industrial Development Agency, and as a city court judge from 1996 to 2004.
Klein said the council needs to spend time “trying to avoid ideological agendas and instead, sticking to the common sense issues.”
Klein is a practicing attorney in Poughkeepsie and says that he wants to work on “kitchen table issues” such as safe streets, clean streets, and taxes.
“Reasonable development,” according to Klein, is useful for the city, citing the need to attract businesses and residents to the city to improve the tax base.
The fiscally conservative Klein denounced the council’s recent passing of a large salary increase for the council taking office in January. A vote this past Monday increased the upcoming salary from the current $9,000 to $15,000 annually, not including the cost of benefits such as health insurance.
Additionally, the salary for the incoming at-large member is set at $22,500 per year. “The timing is wrong because the city is still experiencing financial distress,” he said, pointing to the state comptroller’s just released report saying the city is financially stressed.
“I know that Mayor Rolison and city administrator are working diligently to develop solutions that will improve the finances of the city.” Klein also took aim at a council member that said the raises were needed so they could be considered a living wage. “It’s not the duty of the community to pay more so you can make more as a city council member!” The same night that the raises were approved, the current council refused to vote on a resolution that would extend the city’s police contract through 2020 and implement the long-awaited body camera program. “It was wrong to table the body cams bill because it protects both the public and police officers wearing the cameras.”
Klein has the support of influential members of the city’s Republicans including Mayor Rob Rolison. “I have known Lee Klein for over 30 years. He has always put what he feels is in the best interest of Poughkeepsie first. He has worked across the political divide to get things done.”
Kara Bucher, chairwoman of the city’s Republican Committee, said the council voting itself a 67 percent raise and tabling a resolution to give a three percent raise to the police is “a lack of leadership and common sense; two qualities Lee will bring back with him to the council next year.”
The only non-Democrat council member is Fifth Ward Alderwoman Yvonne Flowers who won in 2017 running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines.
When asked about the official “three-way” race for the seat, Alderwoman Brannen said that since taking office in 2018, “We’ve gotten streets repaired and repaved, new trees planted, a police retention plan passed, a new renewable energy program and are well on our way toward creating a land bank, addressing vacant properties, strengthening historic preservation and generally improving quality of life in Poughkeepsie.” Brannen also chided Klein for his official campaign kickoff, saying “Unlike my opponent, who is only now announcing his candidacy- months after he filed petitions, I and my volunteers have been doing the hard work of knocking on doors for months to talk to residents and engage them.”
Reiser is a member of the Dutchess County Democratic Committee and is facing removal from the committee for challenging Brannen for the seat. Sources say that because Rieser chose to stay on the third-party line and challenge Brannen, her position on the county’s Democratic Committee is in jeopardy.
Rieser reacted to the multi-candidate race saying, “As a lifelong Democrat I have chosen to run on the Working Families line because I believe both the Democratic and Republican candidates have failed to meet the needs of our city’s residents. An effective councilperson must reasonably represent the interests and concerns of all city residents. I choose city above party!” Rieser opted not to discuss the details of the removal proceedings.