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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, July 15, 2010
New town chair
By Anne Hayden
GUILDERLAND Ted Danz has relinquished his role as the chairman of Guilderland’s Republican Party, and former vice chairman Matthew Nelligan has filled the spot.
Danz is running for the 21st Congressional District on the GOP line, and said it is important for him to be able to focus solely on his campaign. He is challenging the Democratic incumbent, Paul Tonko.
Danz was a newcomer to politics when he made an unsuccessful run for Albany Legislature in 2007; he was defeated by the Democratic incumbent William Aylward. He subsequently was tapped to chair the town’s party.
Under Danz’s leadership, the Republicans fielded a slate for supervisor and two town board seats in last November’s election. They were defeated 2-to-1 as the Democrats maintained their 3-to-2 majority on the board.
“My territory includes seven counties, so I’ve been traveling a lot; I’m out on a regular basis giving talks, organizing petitions for the candidacy nod, and going to meetings,” Danz told The Enterprise this week. He said he felt the town’s Republican Party needed a chairman who could concentrate on its needs full-time.
Nelligan, a long-time, popular social studies teacher at Guilderland High School, was transferred involuntarily to the middle school, in the midst of what the school superintendent said was a move to reconfigure a “hostile work environment” at the end of the 2008 school year.
Massive protests dominated board meetings over the summer as students rallied behind the two teachers slated for transfer. The board ultimately backed the superintendent’s decision. Nelligan believed he was being punished for his conservative views, and resigned in September 2009, just a few days into the school year.
Nelligan currently works for the New York State Senate, as the director of the Energy and Telecommunications Committee. He ran for a seat on the Guilderland Town Board last November, but was defeated by the Democratic incumbents, and has served as the vice chairman of the GOP committee since December 2008.
“I am absolutely not considering running for public office again, but I’m looking forward to building up the party from the inside so we can offer candidates the support they need,” Nelligan said. He believes a political party must focus on three things maintaining a strong group of volunteers, gathering resources, and sending out a consistent, positive message.
“A lot of people in town used to be Republicans, and we need to show people that we are a strong party again,” said Nelligan. Several suburban towns in Albany County, once predominantly Republican, have elected Democratic leaders in recent years. In Guilderland, voter enrollment is roughly one-third Democrats, one-third Republicans, and one-third un-enrolled or enrolled in small parties.
Nelligan said the town shifted toward a Democratic majority during Jerry Yerbury’s administration, and since then, people have lost faith in the Republican Party.
Yerbury was elected town supervisor in 1997, and served one turbulent term, riddled with a series of odd events, including the purchase of badges for public officials, and his allegations that a former co-worker may have broken into his office and left photographs of dog excrement in his drawer.
Yerbury had a hidden surveillance camera installed. It turned out the photos were taken by a citizen pushing for a pooper-scooper law and were left behind in the desk of the supervisor Yerbury succeeded, Democrat Aylward.
Current supervisor Kenneth Runion is a former Republican; he defeated Yerbury in 1999, after he became a Democrat. The Democrats have held the majority on the town board since 2001, and Nelligan said that, prior to that, he thought the Republicans had slowly come to rest on their laurels over the years.
“People have turned more Democratic because they have lost trust,” Nelligan said, but he is confident he can restore that trust. He said he plans to heavily recruit volunteers, raise funds, and send out the message that the party can offer candidates strong support.
“In the past couple of years, candidates have sort of been on their own, and that’s not a good place to be,” said Nelligan. He said he would build up the party from the inside in order to be able to offer candidates the proper resources.
“Stepping aside as chairman was a big move for me, but it’s time to get some new energy in there, and Nelligan has a lot of integrity,” said Danz. He said he is encouraged by his campaigning, and believes that the people are ready for a change.