‘I am Going to Win’: Carmel GOP Primary Candidates Square Off at Forum

Carmel Town Supervisor Kenneth Schmitt, with his sons by his side, is sworn in by Judge Daniel Miller.

Five of the six Carmel candidates that will be on the ballot in a winner-take-all Republican primary on June 22 appeared at a lightly attended forum at Dante’s Trattoria in Mahopac Thursday evening.

After admittedly having reservations about showing up, Carmel Supervisor Kenneth Schmitt, who is running for an eighth two-year term, was in attendance, along with one of his running mates, Steve Baranowski. Councilwoman Suzanne McDonough was unable to make it.

“I think I have done a great job. I’m proud of my record,” Schmitt said. “I have a passion for this community.”

Looking to unseat Schmitt is a familiar face, former Carmel Police Chief Mike Cazzari.

“The position of supervisor is something I feel where I could make some changes,” Cazzari said. “

Former Carmel Police Chief Mike Cazzari

Baranowski, who worked on Wall Street for 35 years, expressed extreme confidence in his chances in the primary (early voting begins on June 12).

“I am going to win this primary in a landslide by hard work and meeting people,” he remarked. “I am going to win on skills, experience and ability.”

Running on the same ticket with Cazzari, although they are campaigning separately, are Erin Lee Crowley and Gerard Ahler.

Crowley, a married mother of a teenage son and identical triplets, is the founder of the Hope Chest Sisters, a nonprofit organization that provides support and advocacy for domestic violence victims. During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, her Mask Maker’s Guild distributed more than 30,000 pieces of personal protective equipment to frontline workers, and she was recognized by State Senator Pete Harckham as a “Hometown Hero.” 

“People want to feel like their voice matters,” Crowley said. “We need to focus on existing businesses and local residents.”

Ahler, a resident for more than 30 years who has been involved in a variety of businesses, said he, Crowley and Cazzari decided not to campaign as an entity because “if you run as a team that means you will be a puppet, that you will vote the same way.”

“We want people who will think differently,” he said. “I’m running because the struggles are real out here.”

Schmitt said the long-awaited Master Plan will be delivered “for public consumption” in the coming months.

“You can’t have a vibrant community that doesn’t have a blueprint for the future,” Schmitt said. “Every resident should have stake in it.”

Baranowski maintained recreation and tourism was the future of Carmel.

“I think we have a lot of opportunities in those areas. There is a lot of potential here,” he said, adding having a community college in Putnam “would be a fantastic economic engine.”

Crowley questioned where in Carmel a community college would fit. Instead, she said she would like to bring a YMCA.

“Kids who do things stay out of trouble,” she said.