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  • Writer's pictureTommy Zurhellen

“I like Sue. But I’m voting for you.”

Monday, July 24th

Dear Friends:

Last Thursday, I had the privilege of attending a house party in Poughkeepsie, hosted by my good friend Heather. She invited some of her neighbors to meet me for a casual evening of snacks and conversation, but it quickly turned into a standing-room-only dialogue, electric and wonderful, with incredible energy! (If you were there, you know what I’m talking about.) A couple of curious neighbors even came over just to see what the commotion was all about! We were all fired up. At the end of the discussion, one woman threw up her hands in frustration. “Wait a minute, people,” she said in a determined voice. “How are we going to get the word out?”

Great question. I don’t have to tell you we live in a media desert here in Dutchess County. Sure, we may see a local story now and then on Spectrum news, or perhaps a random article in the Albany Times-Union if the story is salacious enough – but here in Dutchess County, we don’t have a lot of choices when it comes to getting real local news. Everyone knows the Poughkeepsie Journal is a shell of its former self, and as a result, most of our local news is now delivered via online sources like Hudson Valley Pilot and Mid-Hudson News.

If you’re a Democrat looking for media coverage, I’ve been told, prepare to be disappointed.

A couple of months ago, I asked Mid-Hudson News if they would consider covering an event at Hudson River Housing where we distributed 10,000 pairs of Bombas socks to local partners in Dutchess County. Giving out free socks is about as non-partisan as you can get, but here’s the response I got back: “Unless I get an apology from … the Dem legislators for saying Mid-Hudson News engages in ‘unethical journalism’, it's highly unlikely that I'll cover anything that local Dems are doing. It's nothing personal...I hope you understand.”

Hmm. I’m no expert, but it seems that if you write your stories based on whether people are nice to you or not, that might be the definition of “unethical journalism.”

Friends, I’m not telling you that story to bash Mid-Hudson News. After all, they do a great job when you need a photo of Rob Rolison standing in front of a hot dog stand. No, I’m telling you that story because it illustrates what we’re up against in this media desert we currently live in.

Let’s return to that woman’s powerful question at Heather’s house party. What do we do? In a media desert, how can we share our message of hope and inclusion with voters?

I understand that frustration. However, I do love the position we’re in right now. Listen, this is certainly not 2019. We are not running against Marc Molinaro. Quite frankly, I do not see anyone getting excited about any of our opponents this year. We clearly have the momentum. And I can’t tell you how many times someone has taken me aside at an event to tell me, “I like Sue. But I’m voting for you.” Many times they say it in a whisper, or add something at the end like, “But don’t tell anybody.” Don’t worry, folks. Your secret is safe with me.

Just this past Friday, I was eating breakfast at the counter of my favorite diner alongside some older gents who probably resemble the gents who hold court at your diner, wherever you live. When I finished my meal, they called me over to chat about the election. I was worried they wanted to get into a debate, but after only a few minutes, we found we had a lot in common. “You know, I like Sue,” one of the gents said, shaking my hand. “But I think you would do a great job, too.”

A solid “maybe” from a guy who has probably voted Republican in the last fifty years? I’ll take it as a sign of real progress.

For the record, I like Sue, too. She is a nice person. But if you think anything will change in Dutchess County if my opponent wins, I have a nice bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. The same people have been in charge of our county for 32 years. That’s too long. It’s time for them to go.

This year the D next to my name stands for Decency. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat, Republican, or Independent – we can all agree we need to bring back common decency and dignity to our county government. That’s a powerful core message we can share with friends and neighbors to kickstart any conversation.

What does the R stand for this year? Well, I have some ideas. But you’ll have to ask them.

In a media desert, we can’t wait for someone to share our story. We have to do the work ourselves to knock on every door and fill every postbox as we share the messages that matter. And we need your help to do it! Joining this fight for decency couldn’t be easier: just send us an email at and let us know what role you would like. We need folks to knock on doors, or write postcards! We need people willing to host a house party and invite their friends and neighbors, just like Heather did. And we definitely need folks to register young voters in Dutchess County and get them excited about voting for the first time! Please email us by August 10th as we get ready to unleash a grassroots GOTV movement Dutchess has never seen before. I’m so excited to walk with you and get those vital discussions going.

Finally, a warm welcome to anyone just joining this weekly conversation! If you haven’t already, please consider a donation in any amount to help our campaign reach everyone in our county. You can donate via the secure Act Blue link below, or you can send a check made to “Tommy for Dutchess” to us at Tommy for Dutchess, P.O. Box 644, Poughkeepsie NY 12602. Your support means so much!

Thanks to my friend Heather for hosting such an engaging and enriching event! And thank you, for listening! See you next time!

Respectfully, Tommy


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