Upsets, incumbents in Hilltown primaries
Awaiting results: In the lobby of the Knox Town Hall, people anxiously listening to the results read for Tuesday’s primary election include, from left, Councilman Dennis Decker, Supervisor Michael Hammond, and Councilman Nicholas Viscio, behind Hammond. On the right, town Clerk Kimberly Swain looks on. Pamela Fenoff won the Independence line for Knox supervisor in the November election, beating Hammond’s six votes with 19.
HILLTOWNS — Nineteen Independence Party voters rebuffed the party’s endorsement of incumbent Knox Supervisor Michael Hammond Tuesday, choosing party member Pamela Fenoff, according to unofficial results from the Albany County Board of Elections.
The incumbent supervisor in Berne, Kevin Crosier, 55, ran Primary Day as well, winning the Conservative line against William Keal, 53. Twenty votes were cast for Crosier, a Democrat, and eight for Keal, a Republican. Three were write-in votes.
According to an unofficial tally by board of elections Republican Commissioner Rachel Bledi, Donna Kropp, a Republican, and Kathryn Wank, enrolled with the Independence Party, won the Conservative and Independence lines, respectively, for the two Rensselaerville assessor posts to be decided in the November election.
Bledi noted the ballots could be contested.
Kropp was the only candidate named on the ballot for both lines. Chairman of the Rensselaerville Conservative Party, Robert Bolte, said Wank decided to run after interviews had been conducted.
Bledi counted the votes for the Rensselaerville primary including emergency ballots, used when a machine breaks down. The emergency ballots are fed into a separate envelope, instead of the machine.
Thirteen Conservative votes went to Kropp, 12 to Wank, eight to Jeffry Pine, and two to Michael Weber; Kropp and Wank each received 11 Independence votes, Bledi said.
Pine and Weber are both running on the Democratic line for town assessor in November.
According to 2012 board of elections enrollment figures, 629 voters in Rensselaerville are enrolled as Democrats, 281 as Republicans, 58 as Conservatives, 97 with the Independence Party, 4 with the Working Families Party, and 265 are non-affiliated; a total of 1,388 residents are registered to vote in Rensselaerville.
Weber, one of three current assessors in Rensselaerville, told The Enterprise he filed with the Albany County Board of Elections too late to secure his name on the ballot for the primary.
Weber filed for a change to his enrollment from Republican to the Independence Party, which will not take effect until after the election. He said he switched his enrollment amid his disagreement with Robert Bolte, a town councilman, after a board of ethics review of the assessor’s office when Jeffry Pine was in office. The complaint was determined unfounded by the board of ethics.
Bolte said this week he does not speak to anyone about the board of ethics case conducted in executive sessions, meetings held away from public view under special circumstances given in the state’s Open Meetings Law.
Of Weber’s assertion that Bolte “runs” the Conservative Party in Rensselaerville, and the Republicans follow, Bolte denied it and said, “I don't believe in politics, period. I believe in good people.” He noted that the Conservative Party in Rensselaerville had endorsed both Democrats and Republicans this year.
Hammond, an enrolled Democrat, has had the Independence Party line in recent elections and received six votes in the primary this week. At 70, he has been supervisor in Knox for the past 40 years. Fenoff, 49, is making her first run for supervisor with backing from the GOP, although she is enrolled in the Independence Party.
“We did interview her,” Paul Caputo, chairman of the Albany County Independence Party, said of Fenoff in July. “Our committee felt very strongly that Mike Hammond has had our endorsement every time he’s run, and he’s doing a great job. Our committee was particularly impressed with the town hall that he did in Knox.”
Fenoff won the Independence Party line with 19 votes over Hammond’s six. Fenoff’s challenge forced the primary.
“I think she campaigned more effectively,” Hammond said, adding the vote didn’t concern him in his bid for another two-year term. He noted how many more residents could vote in the November election.
According to 2012 enrollment numbers, there are 109 Independence Party members in Knox, 71 Conservatives, 421 Republicans, 738 Democrats, and 15 in other parties. More than 500 registered voters in the town are unaffiliated. A total of 1,869 Knox residents are registered to vote.
During the Knox Town Board meeting on Tuesday, Fenoff asked Hammond why other candidates for political office in the town were allowed to post campaign signs, citing the town’s zoning law.
Town attorney John Dorfman responded that political signs could be put on private property anytime of the year and that it would be unconstitutional to prevent this.
“We all petitioned for participation in the primary,” said town board member Nicholas Viscio, who chairs the local Democratic committee, after Fenoff said he wasn’t in the primary.
The zoning ordinance does not specify its application on private or public land, nor whether posters are allowed for candidates only in periods of their respective elections.
The law states: “Posters: Temporary, non-permanent posters, covering such things as political events, sporting events, shows and elections, shall not be displayed until 4 weeks prior to the event and must be removed within 4 days after the event. No such sign shall be attached to a street or utility pole.”
Hammond has retired from a career as a high school technology teacher. He owns Mountain Woodshop, a carpentry business on his property.
Fenoff works as a part-time office manager for Alan Krieger Solutions, a leadership coach and training consultant. She was formerly an advertising representative for The Altamont Enterprise. Fenoff also works part-time as the town’s planning board secretary.
Keal expressed excitement for his campaign ahead because his message will be “fully implemented” on the Republican line, with the primary campaigning on an individual basis. Keal is a Republican and works as a real estate agent for CM Fox Real Estate.
“Whether it was his campaign strategy or his message, I’ve got to hand it to him. He did get the Conservative party voters out to vote,” Keal said of Crosier.
Crosier, who is a retired Albany firefighter and is currently in his 10th year as Berne supervisor, said people approve of his fiscal responsibility, keeping taxes low, and including residents’ ideas.
“One thing we did not have fully implemented was literature going out for the Conservatives. I didn’t have literature,” said Keal. “I pretty much went out with a business card and a happy handshake and, for those who are true Conservatives, I felt that they would come out and vote. They didn’t and I’m disappointed. There’s no question.”
In Berne, 946 voters, or 48 percent of registered voters, are enrolled as Democrats, 320 as Republicans, 119 as Independents, 67 as Conservatives, five with the Working Families Party, seven with the Green Party, and 504 are not affiliated, according to enrollment figures from the county. Registered voters in the town total 1,968.