Republican respite leaves New Scotland elections Democratic by default
NEW SCOTLAND — Citing recent leadership changes, past defections, and a need to solidify the party’s message, the New Scotland Republican Committee has declined to endorse any candidates in this year’s municipal elections so it can regroup, said Albany County Republican Commissioner Rachel L. Bledi.
“It’s fair to say it’s because we’re in the process of reorganizing,” said Bledi about the lack of Republican candidates.
Longtime Republican Committee member Glenn Schultz added to the sentiment saying, “For the sake of running someone, I’d rather spend the time letting people know who we are and then, in two years, run strong.”
All the Democratic incumbents — the supervisor, a councilman, the clerk, the highway superintendent, — are seeking re-election, as well as an independent incumbent councilman.
Enrollment in New Scotland breaks down this way: 37 percent of voters are enrolled Democrats, 25 percent are Republicans, 27 percent are unaffiliated and the rest belong to other parties.
Bledi said some possible Republican candidates who where considering a run were either unable to dedicate enough time due to personal reasons or their politics didn’t necessarily represent the positions of the local party.
Either way, the party has chosen to let this election cycle pass without it officially endorsing any candidates. Petitions are due at the County Board of elections today.
Bledi said Tim Danz recently took over as Republican Committee chairman; he could not be reached for comment. Bledi was selected as the party’s commissioner eight months ago and, at the time, there were vacancies on the New Scotland committee, she said.
She also cited some defections from the committee, singling out current Councilman Doug LaGrange, who left the Republican party in the face of a development controversy involving a large commercial project in New Scotland.
The controversy began in 2008 when a developer became interested in hundreds of acres of land at the intersection of routes 85 and 85A, which was zoned for commercial development but had only ever been used for agriculture.
Cazenovia-based Sphere Development proposed building a Target-anchored shopping center there. The area is comprised of cornfields and woodlands and includes the former Bender melon farm. It has been owned by a group of private investors since 1971.
After two previous failed attempts, the town board successfully passed the law, which limits the size of large-scale commercial development at the intersection. Democratic and independent candidates ran on platforms of limiting large-scale development and, after two election cycles, they won a supermajority on the board to pass the new law in 2012, which board members where keen to recall when voting in favor of the legislation.
“There were some defections in the party due to the big-box development issues,” said Bledi. “It wasn’t, in fact, that they supported big box stores coming into New Scotland but they didn’t believe in a size-cap law.”
The commissioner said the party’s position over the issue had been taken out of context and exaggerated.
“The tax base in New Scotland is completely dependent on homeowners,” said Bledi.
She recommended voters, “Just look over the border in Slingerlands at the Vista Tech Park,” as an example of creating a sound commercial tax base in the area, one she said New Scotland has missed out on.
About 20 percent of the tech park lies in the Town of New Scotland, the rest is in the neighboring town of Bethlehem.
However, Bledi said the Republican party would run a strong campaign in the next election. Asked why the party didn’t support any of those considering a run this year she said, “The question becomes [the party] doesn’t just want to run an individual for the sake of an individual. We want to reorganize and energize to offer the public valid solutions.”
Meanwhile, Democratic incumbents are seeking reelection without any opponents. Each of the incumbents has already filed his or her petitions.
The deadline to appear on the ballot is today, and the petition deadline to launch a write-in campaign is July 18. By the end of Wednesday, the Albany County Board of Elections reported no other petitions had been filed.
New Scotland Supervisor Thomas Dolin is seeking a two-year term; Councilman Daniel Mackay is seeking a second four-year term; town Clerk Diane Deschenes is seeking a two-year term and Highway Superintendent Kenneth Guyer, who was elected in November to complete the remaining year of a partial term following a departure of the previous superintendent, is seeking his first, full, two-year term.
Also Councilman LaGrange, a Republican turned independent, is also seeking re-election with the endorsement of his Democratic colleagues and their party. Dolin, Guyer, and LaGrange are also being endorsed by the Conservative Party.
While Dolin said reorganization might be a factor for the opposing party, he had a different take on the circumstances.
“The bigger problem they have,” he said of the Republican committee is, “The incumbents have done a good job and people are satisfied with them.”
“Last election, they did run two people for the town board and a candidate for clerk,” said Dolin of the last regular municipal election in 2011. He added, “They lost.”
“I think the big box affected the last two elections but the problem, I think, is it’s hard to challenge the incumbents. I don’t think [the Republicans] have a serious issue to challenge them on. Government on this level is not so much party politics as it is taxes, zoning, keeping costs low and services provided. That’s what people in the town care about, not parties,” said Dolin.