Despite write-in campaign, Knox Dems keep party line

KNOX — The Democratic nominees in Knox kept their party line following Tuesday’s primary election that had a third of the votes going to write-in candidates. Candidates running on the Republican line ran a write-in campaign, attempting to get their names, come November, on both the Republican and Democratic lines.

Republican candidates have been making inroads in getting Democratic endorsement since Supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis, a Democrat, first tried and failed to get backing at the Democratic caucus in 2015. At that time, the Republican Party wouldn’t back a Democrat so Lefkaditis ran on the Conservative line and won.

At the next Democratic caucus, in 2017, Lefkaditis got 44 percent of the vote and won the general election on the Republican line along with his two GOP running mates for town council.

This year, the town’s Democratic committee broke from their long-standing practice of holding a caucus in favor of a primary, saying that past incidents of intimidations at caucuses led to the decision and that a primary would be more inclusive.

The Knox Democratic Committee nominated Russell Pokorny for supervisor, incumbents Earl Barcomb and Dennis Barber for town council, and Joan Adriance for town clerk, all Democrats who were elected in the primary, according to unofficial results from the Albany County Board of Elections. Write-in votes took about a third of the vote in each category, with the total votes cast for each candidate between 250 and 300.

Candidates running on the Republican line in Knox, which includes three Democrats, objected to a primary being held, saying that little notice was given for other candidates to put their names on the ballot. While no other candidates petitioned to have their names on the ballot, a petition was filed for an opportunity to ballot, which allowed for the write-in campaign.

Knox has 702 enrolled Democrats; around 300 voted in the primary. The town also has 469 registered Republicans, 72 registered Conservatives, 132 enrolled in the Independence Party, 12 in other parties, and 528 not enrolled in any party.

Pokorny said on Wednesday that he believed Democrats felt more comfortable voting privately in a primary rather than in a caucus, which has in the past counted votes either by paper ballots collected by hand or by counting the number of hands raised.

He said he had been concerned about the primary and whether the write-in campaign by Republican candidates would be successful, saying that the GOP had worked hard to campaign.

Campaigning included a half-page advertisement in The Enterprise instructing voters on how to write in the Republican candidates: Lefkaditis for supervisor; Dennis Cyr, a Republican, and June Springer, a Democrat, for council; as well as Traci Schanz, a member of the Independence Party, for clerk.

The Democrats ran a half-page ad, too, picturing the committee’s chosen candidates.

Lefkaditis said in an email Wednesday evening that he and the other candidates were “happy and humbled with the results,” adding that while the write-in votes were significant there is still more work to be done.

“ … It also indicates that the residents are happy with the town’s direction,” he added.

“I’m very hopeful for November,” said Springer.

Springer told The Enterprise Wednesday that the petition for an opportunity to ballot was to ensure everyone could have a chance at the Democratic line. She said she was disappointed with the Democratic Committee’s choice of candidates that only filled four of the seven open positions and said that new people should have been selected.

Springer said she campaigned by herself starting a couple weeks ago by putting up lawn signs and sharing information on Facebook.

“The four of us are very busy individuals,” she said, referring to herself and the others who ran on the write-in campaign. “So if we had time we did what we could.”

Springer said she was proud of the results of the vote and thankful to the people who took the time to vote for a write-in candidate.

The Republican Party chairman, Gary Salisbury, did not return calls seeking comment on Wednesday.

Pokorny questioned why Republican candidates would want to run on the Democratic line.

Democratic Committee Chairwoman Dolores Woessner said that she hopes even Republican voters will find Democratic candidates to be a better slate, citing incidents that have taken place during Supervisor Lefkaditis’s term such as a continued effort to rezone property at the intersection of Routes 156 and 157.

The Republican slate also includes Bonnie Donati, a Republican, for town justice. Salisbury is running to keep his position. Deputy tax collector Elizabeth Walk, a Democrat, will be running this year on the Republican line for tax collector.

Dana Sherman is running for town justice on the independent body known as the Knox Unity Party. The Democratic candidates are also running on this line as well. The Republican candidates are also running on the Independence and Conservative lines.

Other Hilltown primaries

Handfuls of write-in votes were cast in other Hilltown primaries that did not include any nominated candidates. In Berne, there were two write-in votes for town councilman and one for town assessor in the Working Families Party Primary.

In Westerlo, there were 17 write-in votes cast for town supervisor and 15 write-in votes for town clerk in the Conservative Party Primary; 12 write-in votes were cast for town supervisor and 11 for the town clerk in the Independence Party Primary.

The Albany County Board of Elections has not yet released the names of write-in candidates.

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