Bohl, leader of grassroots group, endorsed by Dems for town board

The Enterprise — Elizabeth Floyd Mair 
Shaking hands: New candidate Laurel Bohl moved from the back of the room to the front after being nominated for town board. She has led the grassroots group Guilderland Citizens for Responsible Growth. 

GUILDERLAND — The Guilderland Democratic Party caucus on April 15 had two surprises as two people who had clashed with the town government or the Democratic committee joined forces with the Democrats who dominate the town.

Laurel Bohl was endorsed as a Democratic candidate for town board. As head of the grassroots watchdog group Guilderland Citizens for Responsible Development, she has often criticized the town’s boards as being too lenient toward developers.

Incumbent Democratic Councilwoman Rosemary Centi and Bohl will vie with incumbent Lee Carman, the only Republican on the town board, for two seats.

“I’ve tried to effect change from the outside, and we’ve had some very good progress, but I feel the residents really need a voice on the inside,” Bohl told The Enterprise.

Retired attorney Eugene E. Napierski was the other caucus surprise. After a close vote, he became a member of the committee to fill vacancies, which selects new candidates if any become unable to run. Less than a year ago, Napierski, with his daughter and law partner, Christine Napierski, filed a lawsuit against the town after the Democrats had not backed her to keep her appointed post as town justice.

The Republicans

For the first time in recent memory, Guilderland Republicans are not putting up a full slate of candidates for town board. The town had been governed by Republicans for over a century when the Democrats started making inroads two decades ago. Guilderland now has about twice as many enrolled Democrats as Republicans.

According to Rachel Bledi, Republican commissioner of the Albany County Board of Elections, the only Republican candidates for town office in Guilderland are Lee Carman seeking re-election to the town board and Stephen Chesley running for town justice. Chesley ran for town justice in November 2018 against Clenahan and Napierski, and received the second-highest number of votes.

Guilderland Republican Party Chairman Douglas Breakell said that because the state legislature had moved the date of primaries up from September to June, the Republicans, who hold a primary rather than a caucus, were at a disadvantage. Candidates were required to hand in petitions by early April, and the time crunch made it hard to convince people to run, he said.

Breakell said he thought Lee Carman would win on his record of service, and that Chesley would run a great race.

Chesley said, “This year, I’m going to try to secure some other lines too, and see if I can’t do it that way.”  

 

The Enterprise — Elizabeth Floyd Mair 
Eye level: Jacob Crawford, Guilderland’s Democratic Party chairman, left, kneels to talk with Eugene Napierski, who uses a motorized scooter, before the caucus.

 

Bohl

At an enclosed pavilion at the Orchard Creek Golf Club Monday night, Democratic Party Chairman Jacob Crawford read out the names of the slate of candidates, and asked the crowd if there were any other nominations.

Laurel Bohl’s husband, Grant Miller, called out that he nominated Bohl for town board.

Crawford then asked if there were any other nominations and, since there weren’t, closed the nominations.

He asked the members of the caucus to hold up their voting cards if they were in favor of endorsing the Democratic slate. He read off the names of Peter Barber for supervisor, Rosemary Centi and Laurel Bohl for town board, Gregory Wier for highway superintendent, John Bailey for town justice, and Lynne Buchanan for town clerk, and the slate passed in one vote overwhelmingly.

Barber, Centi, Wier, and Bailey are all incumbents. Buchanan is currently the receiver of taxes; the current town clerk, Jean Cataldo, is retiring.

Bohl then moved from the back of the room, where she had been standing with her husband, and lined up with incumbent Barber and the other candidates to wait to speak briefly to the crowd.

Bohl said she was running for the residents of Guilderland and that was “the only reason I’m doing it.” She encouraged residents to contact her at any time, adding, “Because your voice is my voice.”

Napierski

John Wemple then read the names of the people nominated for the committee to fill vacancies, and Christine Napierski stood to ask if people could nominate someone else for the committee.

Christine Napierski had been selected last spring by the town board from among 14 lawyers who applied to fill out the term of town justice Richard Sherwood, after Sherwood’s arrest for stealing millions of dollars from clients in his private practice. But after she had been appointed and had started serving on the bench, the Guilderland Democratic Committee endorsed Bryan Clenahan instead for election that fall. Napierski sued over the town’s use of the caucus system, which she said favored the committee’s candidates.

At the caucus on Monday, Crawford replied that he didn’t see why a name couldn’t be added. He said that there would have to be a motion and it would need to be passed. Christine Napierski moved to add her father to the committee.

At first, Crawford asked for a voice vote about adding Eugene Napierski, but since there was a chorus of “ayes” followed by one of “nays,” he said that they would need to move to a show of hands.

People held their cards for, and then against, the appointment as they were counted visually.

The ayes had it, Crawford announced, and Napierski was added to the committee.

This committee selects new candidates for office in the event that an endorsed candidate becomes unable to continue, in the event that a candidate dies, moves outside the jurisdiction, or is nominated for and accepts a different office, Crawford told The Enterprise. This kind of committee is required for candidates nominated by either petition or caucus, he said.

The other committee members are Crawford, Cataldo, Wemple, Herb Hennings, and Betty Head.

Reached on Wednesday in Washington D.C., where Eugene Napierski was set to argue a case before the United States Supreme Court, Christine Napierski said, “We just want to stay involved and know what’s going on with the Democratic committee in Guilderland.”

 

The Enterprise — Elizabeth Floyd Mair 
Holding their cards aloft: About 80 Guilderland Democrats turned out Monday evening at Orchard Creek Golf Club to endorse candidates for election for town offices this fall. 

 

The Democratic ticket

At the caucus, the Democratic committee endorsed the following candidates for town office:

— Supervisor: Incumbent Peter Barber, who has been supervisor since 2015, when he edged out Republican Brian Forte to replace long-time Democratic supervisor Kenneth Runion. Barber started his term early, in December 2015, because Runion had retired. Forte challenged Barber again in the fall of 2017. Before becoming supervisor, Barber had been an attorney in private practice and the chairman of the zoning board in Guilderland, an appointed post;

—  Town clerk: Lynne Buchanan, current receiver of taxes, to replace Jean Cataldo in this two-year post. Buchanan began serving as receiver of taxes in 2014; before that, she had been deputy receiver of taxes. Cataldo, who has been clerk since 2014, is retiring; before becoming clerk, Cataldo was receiver of taxes;  

— Town board: Rosemary Centi, who is completing her first four-year term, having served on the town board since 2016. She was town clerk for 13 years under Kenneth Runion; she retired from that post in 2013;

— Town board: Laurel Bohl, an attorney with the New York State Attorney General’s Office. The Guilderland Citizens for Responsible Growth grew up in response to a proposal to build apartments on a Route 155 golf course but has since grown, Bohl told The Enterprise, to “keep watch over almost all projects in the town of Guilderland.” She estimated that the group, through its email chain, website, and Facebook page, has several hundred people now and is “literally growing after almost every board meeting at the town hall”;

— Highway superintendent: Gregory Wier, appointed highway super last April to replace Steve Oliver, who resigned a year before his four-year term was up. Wier was then elected in the fall. Previously, Wier had been the head of the town’s parks and recreation department; and

— Town justice: John Bailey, one of three part-time justices currently serving in Guilderland Town Court. An attorney in private practice, Bailey, 68, has been a town justice in Guilderland since 2004. The other two justices are Denise Randall and Bryan Clenahan. Guilderland’s three justices each serve in alternating weeks, with each judge handling the courts, arraignments, trials, and other matters every third week; during that week, a judge is on call 24 hours a day. A justice’s term is for four years.

Caucus system continues — at least for now

The Democratic party dominates in Guilderland, with 9,552 enrolled voters, as compared to 5,563 Republican and 1,987 in other parties. A total of 6,005 residents are registered to vote but not enrolled in any party. Guilderland has a population of 35,881, according to United States Census Bureau estimates for July 2017.

About 80 people in total attended the caucus on a cold and windy Monday night at the golf club pavilion, a structure large enough to have held many more. Last year’s caucus, when Christine Napierski was challenging Clenahan, saw hundreds turn out on a very hot July evening at Tawasentha Park, under a much smaller open pavilion. Crawford told The Enterprise this week that caucuses have generally drawn about 125 to 150 people in the past.

The Democratic committee is considering whether to change from a caucus system to a primary system. A committee to research this issue and make a recommendation to the full committee was formed after last summer’s caucus.

Christine Napierski brought a federal lawsuit against the town in June 2018, arguing that the town uses a caucus system rather than a primary so that only those who know about and take the time to attend the caucus — mostly members of the Democratic committee and their spouses — can select the candidates.

The lawsuit went against Napierski, and the caucus went ahead. The committee’s pick, Clenahan, won the nomination at the packed July caucus by 21 votes, and then won decisively at the polls in November.

In September, the town Democratic committee organized a subcommittee to look into the issue, but decided to have its members focus their energies on the November 2018 election and begin their work after it was over.

According to Daniel Centi, a member of the subcommittee and husband of incumbent town board member Rosemary Centi, statewide election reforms passed in January that speeded up the election calendar meant the subcommittee did not have enough time to do its research and make a recommendation to the full committee early enough to make a change. Primaries are now held in June instead of September.

State election law holds that any change from a caucus to a primary system, or the reverse, would require a vote of two-thirds of the municipality’s full committee, and would need to be done at least four months before the date of the primary, to be effective for that year.

This week, Eugene Napierski complained to The Enterprise that the town had not made any provision for absentee or military ballots at Monday’s caucus, as would have been allowed with a primary.

Crawford responded through The Enterprise, “While the state legislature passed a number of significant reforms to the Election Law this year, this part of the law was not addressed.” 

More Guilderland News

  • With a recent $10,000 investment from the Guilderland Industrial Development Agency, the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce is planning to launch a community investor program that will ultimately return funds to local small businesses that apply. In a separate initiative, the chamber plans to expand and diversify its board.

  • The Guilderland Planning Board has 30 calendar days to issue a findings statement on Pyramid’s Rapp Road and Western Avenue projects.

  • Crossgates Mall was locked down after reports of gunfire on Wednesday afternoon. No one was injured, police say, and, as of Wednesday evening, no suspects were in custody.

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