Kent Councilman Paul Denbaum officially ended his bid for Putnam County Executive after he failed to get his name reinstated on the ballot for a GOP primary against the incumbent MaryEllen Odell last week.
Denbaum, a Republican, confirmed in an interview, his campaign had reached its conclusion, leaving Odell, a Republican, to face Democrat and Kent Supervisor Maureen Fleming for the top post in the county. Denbaum was knocked off the ballot last month after enough signatures on his petition sheets were ruled out because of an array of technicalities by the county board of elections. He sued the board of elections in hopes of getting enough signatures back on to reach the 1,000 benchmark, but New York State Judge Malone dismissed his case last week and he doesn’t plan on appealing to the state appellate court.
“The campaign is essentially over,” he said. “I don’t really see a path for victory.”
Denbaum was 59 signatures short of getting on the ballot.
Denbaum could’ve still campaigned for the conservative line this September where Conservative Party voters could write his name in instead of voting for Odell or Fleming, but even if he won that election, it would have remained nearly impossible to win the general with only one minor party line.
“To put my life on hold for another four months with maybe there only being a 15-20 percent chance of victory, it’s not fair to my family,” Denbaum said. If he brought forward an appeal, he would have needed to hire an elections attorney for at least $15,000.
Denbaum said he’s disappointed he would not get to campaign against Odell, who he was hoping to push “to the right” of the political spectrum. While he chose to not back Odell or Fleming at this time, he believes Odell has raised taxes too high as county executive the past seven years.
While Denbaum takes the brunt of the blame for enough signatures getting thrown out, he called getting removed from the ballot “frustrating” because at least 1,000 Republicans signed his petition. An incomplete address or the printings of a name instead of a cursive signature were a couple reasons signatures were removed.
“MaryEllen Odell and the Republican Party made sure they would do everything they could to keep me off the ballot,” Denbaum said.
Still, he said he should’ve tried to get another 30 signatures or so to cement his place on the ballot for primary. He conveyed his appreciation to the people that did take the time to sign his petition sheet.
“To all the volunteers that worked very hard, I’m sorry I didn’t get the job done,” Denbaum said.
Odell, when reached for comment, said it was great for the Republican Party that a primary would not occur and everyone can come together now. She thanked her volunteers and the more than 2,000 people that signed her petition.
“I think it sends a good message that the Republican Party is strong and united,” Odell said. “I’m running on my record. Putnam County’s come a long way in seven years.”
Odell said the county has paid off enormous amounts of debt during her tenure and helped revitalize the Putnam County Golf Course in Mahopac and Tilly Foster Farm in Southeast. She said she has also been an advocate against the opioid crisis in the county and region.
When asked about Denbaum stating he wanted to move her further to the right, Odell argued her administration has been fiscally responsible and kept taxes under the tax cap each year while meeting contractual obligations and rising medical insurance costs.
Putnam has the lowest tax rate in all 62 counties in the state, Odell stressed.
Fleming once again repeated the fact that Denbaum was able to get at least 1,000 signatures from Republicans, which she believes indicates discontent with Odell among Republicans.
She said she and Denbaum were preaching a similar message of fiscal discipline and pointed out Kent has not raised taxes during their tenure on the town board together. The county golf course and the farm should not be subsidized by taxpayers, Fleming argued.
When asked if Denbaum out of the race would help or hurt her chances, Fleming said she wasn’t sure.
“But I’m just hoping people are hearing the message that we can do better in this county,” Fleming said. “We can’t just spend beyond our means on things we don’t need to spend on.”