Guilderland judge candidates vie for Conservative line

GUILDERLAND — As Republican Stephen R. Chesley, an attorney, gears up to challenge incumbent Guilderland town justice John W. Bailey, a Democrat, in the November elections, the two are vying for the Conservative party line in the June 25 primaries.

The town’s 529 enrolled Conservatives will have a chance to vote for either one.

Additionally, Chesley’s name is on the ballot for the Working Family Parties line. The 46 Guilderland residents enrolled in that party may fill in the oval for Chesley or write in another name.

The busy Guilderland Town Court has three part-time judges; each is paid $53,760 annually. The term is for four years.

Bailey has been the Conservative Party candidate since 2003, when he first ran for town justice.

Chesley made his first run for town judge last fall after Richard Sherwood resigned following his arrest, to which he has pleaded guilty, for stealing millions of dollars from family trusts he oversaw in his work as a private attorney.

Christine Napierski had been unanimously appointed by the town board in April 2018, chosen from among the 14 lawyers who had applied, including Chesley and Bryan Clenahan, to fill out the remainder of Sherwood’s term, and she planned to run in the fall elections.

But in June, the Guilderland Democratic Committee unanimously backed Clenahan instead. Clenahan secured the party line at the Democratic caucus, a process Napierski had challenged in federal court — and lost — alleging that the caucus was designed to favor the committee’s candidate.

Napierski then ran on the Conservative Party line, trying to keep her job as judge. Chesley ran on the Republican and Reform Party lines. Clenahan won decisively on the Democratic, Independence, Working Families, and Women’s Equality lines. Chesley garnered the second-highest number of votes.





Chesley had attended New York University for his undergraduate degree and then graduated from New York Law School. He currently works as in-house counsel for AmTrust.

Training in mediation has assisted Chesley, he told The Enterprise during his campaign last year, “in resolving disputes through agreement as opposed to forcing a decision.”

He added, “Certainly a judge can’t force the parties to agree. But you can certainly facilitate a forum where it’s permissible to resolve issues amicably and by agreement.”

His courtroom philosophy would be, he said, “Fairness.”

Chesley continued, “There are a host of issues for which you might appear in town court: vehicle and traffic violations, small claims court, there’s a limited landlord-tenant role there, and every one of those requires a town judge who is entirely impartial and entirely fair, and who is only looking to interpret the law as it’s written, and not legislate from the bench.”

The role of a judge, he said, “is to not take sides, and apply the law equally.”

Chesley told The Enterprise this week, “I’m really looking to appeal to any and all voters.”

He noted that the town justice post is “judicial and not political.”

He also said that he had sought to be in the primary for the Independence Party line but some of the signatures on his petitions were challenged. Chesley said that he had secured the Green Party line for the November election.





When he was elected in 2003, Bailey was the first Democrat to serve as town justice in over 200 years. Now both of the other Guilderland judges — Clenahan, and his mother-in-law, Denise Randall — are also Democrats.

Bailey graduated from the University at Albany and Albany Law School, and is an attorney at Bailey, Kelleher, and Johnson, P.C.

“The first obligation of a judge is to preside over a courtroom fairly and impartially. I am confident I have met this critical obligation,” Bailey wrote in a letter to Conservtive Party members, which he shared with The Enterprise in response to questions about his thoughts on the upcoming primary.

When Bailey ran four years ago, he told The Enterprise, “The biggest problem facing local courts was overcrowding.”

He wrote in his recent letter to Conservatives, “The Guilderland Justice Court has a very busy vehicle and traffic calendar and an equally busy criminal calendar. Our traffic court is so busy that I have conducted court on Tuesday mornings in addition to Monday evenings.”

He also said in the letter that he was “working hard to alert all drivers, and especially young drivers, of the consequences of distracted driving,” noting that, especially with texting, serious accidents have “increased dramatically.”

Finally, Bailey wrote, “We are very much on the front lines in the war against addiction and illegal drug use.”

He explained, “Many of the people who appear before me charged with crimes have serious addiction problems. If the offender does not address his or her addiction issue their inappropriate behavior is almost certain to continue.”

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