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The race for the assembly, 1965

John Conway
Posted 9/8/23

For many years, September meant primary day in political circles, and often the campaigns waged in anticipation of those elections were more heated— and sometimes more consequential— than …

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The race for the assembly, 1965


For many years, September meant primary day in political circles, and often the campaigns waged in anticipation of those elections were more heated— and sometimes more consequential— than in the general election.

In Sullivan County, the 1965 Republican primary for New York State Assembly was a case in point.

The county was part of a brand new assembly district in 1965, the 110th, which was formed under a redistricting plan passed by the Republican controlled state legislature. The plan, which erected new districts mostly favorable to Republicans, had been declared invalid by the New York State Court of Appeals, but valid by a statutory Federal Court. In addition to Sullivan County, the 110th Assembly District included four towns in Ulster County and six towns in Orange, as well as the city of Port Jervis. Because of the legal controversy, the new districts elected representatives to the assembly and state senate for just one year in 1965 while a permanent reapportionment plan could be adopted in time for the 1966 elections. 

Despite an overwhelming victory for the Democrats in the wake of Lyndon Johnson’s resounding win at the top of the ticket in 1964, and a resulting groundswell of new Democratic registrations, most political pundits were conceding the 1965 Assembly race in the 110th District to the winner of the Republican primary. The newly formed district’s lines, they reasoned, were drawn favorably enough to the GOP to more than offset the growing strength of the Democrats overall.

Democrats in the district had already settled on Ellenville mayor Eugene Glusker as their candidate in the race to succeed veteran Assemblyman Hyman E. Mintz of South Fallsburg, who was retiring due to ill health and an ongoing investigation into his involvement in the licensing of an upstate harness racetrack. The Republican nomination, however, was still very much in doubt right up until the ballots were counted.

Monticello attorney John S. “Jack” McBride, who had grown up in Goshen, which was also part of the district, had the backing of Mintz and political powerhouse Luis de Hoyos II. His opponent, Woodbourne attorney Louis B. Scheinman, was supported by the county’s Republican Chairman, Harold Cole, as well as many of the Republican chairs in Ulster County, where he had been raised.

Although he did not receive an official endorsement, Scheinman also had the backing of the influential Liberty Register newspaper, which gave considerable coverage to his campaign, and ran regular stories in the weeks leading up to the September 14 primary, outlining his position on virtually every issue of interest to Sullivan County voters, something the paper regularly criticized McBride for avoiding. Instead, the handsome and charismatic former assistant District Attorney ran a “person-to-person” grass roots campaign that emphasized his personality at least as much as any of the issues.

“McBride’s campaign has been featured by coffees, teas, parties, social hours, small meetings and auto cavalcades,” the Register reported in its September 9 edition, just a few days before the primary. “Scheinman has met with many groups in the three county district, kept in close touch with key GOP personalities and committeemen, but put his principal emphasis on bringing his background and experience and his stand on the issues he considers vital to the people through widespread publicity and public declarations.”

Barely hiding its preference, although steadfastly refusing to actually take sides, the Register noted that “McBride has leaned heavily on the ‘personality’ approach, since he is concededly an attractive, good-looking young man, although a comparative newcomer in politics in Sullivan County, where he has lived for only the last five years. Scheinman has been active in GOP politics, has been a committeeman for ten years, and is now his town’s GOP chairman.”

The Register also pointed out that the McBride-Scheinman primary might also decide the future of the Republican Party in Sullivan County, since a victory for McBride might well mean the end of the Harold Cole era as county chairman, with a coalition of Mintz and de Hoyos assuming the reins of power. That, they not too subtly implied, would not be a good thing for the county.

When the votes were finally counted on Primary Day, McBride had won fairly handily, carrying the towns of Mamakating and Thompson in Sullivan County and Goshen in Orange County by large margins to win overall by 1194 votes. Scheinman carried the four Ulster County towns, and five of the six Orange County towns as well as the city of Port Jervis. He carried the town of Liberty by a 3 to 1 margin, and the town of Fallsburg, but except for the latter, the turnout was much lighter in the towns he carried than in the McBride strongholds, where the turnouts were unusually high.

Despite the defeat of its obviously preferred candidate, the Liberty Register managed to put a positive spin on the result.

“McBride, an anticipated winner by 2-1 or 3-1, triumphed by a margin of 4-3, with 57 percent of the vote,” the paper pointed out.

McBride went on to a resounding win in the general election, but with the districts redrawn in time for the following year, Sullivan County had been aligned with Delaware and Schoharie Counties and Republican Edwyn Mason of Hobart became the new Assemblyman.

John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian and a founder and president of The Delaware Company. Email him at jconway52@hotmail.com.  


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