Dems go for Pokorny 82 to 65

The Enterprise — H. Rose Schneider
Waiting for the vote: Knox Supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis, left, and town councilwoman Amy Pokorny, right, chat before the Democratic caucus on Tuesday. Lefkaditis, an enrolled Democrat, has received the Republican nomination for re-election. Pokorny, who is running against him, received the Democratic nomination Tuesday night.

KNOX — Knox’s town hall, the site of the town’s Democratic caucus Tuesday night, was packed with party members and tense with apprehension. A slate of candidates, nominated mostly by members of the town’s Democratic Committee, won by a score of votes against a slate nominated by Supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis and party members in the gallery — a group that had already clinched the Republican nomination.

Although Lefkaditis is enrolled as a Democrat, he has fought against the Democrats running the town party and has Republican backing.

The Knox Democratic Committee nominated:

— Current Councilwoman Amy Pokorny, a Democrat, for town supervisor:

— Brett Pulliam, a current planning board member who is not enrolled in any party, and incumbent Dan Hanley, a Democrat, for town council;

— Incumbent Tara Murphy, a Democrat, for town clerk;

— Incumbent Jean Gagnon, a Democrat, for town justice;

— Incumbent Diane Champion, a Democrat, for tax collector;

— Incumbent Gary Salisbury, a Republican, for highway superintendent; and

— Dee Woessner, former councilman Eric Kuck, and former long-time supervisor Michael Hammond — all Democrats — for the committee to fill vacancies, in case a candidate drops out of the race, said Woessner, the party’s co-chair.

“I was concerned it would be very close,” said Pokorny, after the 82-to-65 vote.

Pokorny said she would run on a platform “to bring respectfulness to our meetings and for our employees and volunteers.”

“I think we’re losing sight of that,” she added.

Lefkaditis was nominated for supervisor but did not get more votes than Pokorny. He told The Enterprise on Wednesday that he was pleased with the outcome.

“In 2015 we had 26 votes,” he said. “This time we had almost 70...this bodes very well for Knox’s future.”

Knox government has been largely run by Democrats for decades. Two years ago, Lefkaditis couldn’t get the party’s backing and so ran against 42-year incumbent Democrat Michael Hammond, on the Conservative party line. Lefkaditis ousted Hammond, running on a platform for change and growth.

He has frequently frequently clashed with the other board members — all Democrats — on substantive issues.

“The small group of people that are in charge forever do not represent the community,” said Lefkaditis, on Wednesday.

Party line became meaningless in the Hilltowns during the last presidential election. Dominated by Democrats, the four towns had gone for Democrat Barack Obama in 2012 but last year went instead went for Republican Donald Trump.

Lefkaditis criticized the Knox Democratic Committee’s scripted procedures at the caucus, and said he thought those attending were confused by a lack of explanation of the procedures. Lefkaditis asked the committee a few times to explain what was being done that night.

“These are professional politicians,” he said. “The slate that I’m running on are not professional politicians.”

He said he would be running on his record of saving money for the town and lowering taxes.

At the Democratic caucus, Lefkaditis nominated several people already on the Republican slate who did not get the Democratic nomination.

“I was giving the room a choice,” he said.


The Enterprise — H. Rose Schneider
Reaching for a vote: Ed Ackroyd casts his ballot for nominations for the Democratic slate on Tuesday night. Some ballots already had names written in before candidates were nominated.


For town council, Hanley received 86 votes and Pulliam 81 votes. Lefkaditis had nominated Karl Pritchard and Ken Saddlemire, both on the Republican line, for town council; Pritchard received 59 votes and Saddlemire 67 votes. The two town council seats — one currently held by Pokorny — are for four year terms to be filled by the top vote-getters.

Murphy received 88 votes for town clerk, and Traci Schanz, nominated for the seat on the Republican slate, had 53 votes at the Democratic caucus. Gagnon received 97 votes for town justice; Tim Francis, an enrolled Republican nominated for the seat on that line, had 45 votes from the Democrats at the caucus.

Both town tax collector Diane Champion and highway Superintendent Gary Salisbury were nominated for their posts with no contest, and were voted in by a show of hands.

A committee to fill vacancies (should a candidate drop out of the race) was the last vote taken, and was one of the more confusing ballots for voters. Pokorny nominated Dee Woessner, Eric Kuck, and Michael Hammond.

After Lefkaditis asked Kuck to explain the committee’s position, an audience member then nominated June Springer. Lefkaditis nominated Ernie Cupernall and Tiffany Schneider.

Woessner received 81 votes; Kuck, 85; and Hammond, 84. Springer had 60 votes; Cupernall had 53; and Schneider, 55.

Kuck, who had been nominated the chair of the convention, initially said a vote would be taken for one group of three nominees or another, and then corrected himself to say it could be any three of the six nominees. With ballots on scraps of paper passed out at the last minute, people standing in the back shouted for it to be voted on by a show of hands, to no response.

GOP picks varied slate

The town’s Republican Party held its caucus on July 13, and chose a slate of candidates from a variety of parties. Only two of the nominees are enrolled Republicans.

According to Gary Salisbury, the town’s highway superintendent and chairman of Knox’s Republican party, the nominees are:

— Lefkaditis, who is enrolled as a Democrat, for town supervisor;

— Ken Saddlemire, who is enrolled as a Democrat, and Karl Pritchard, who is not enrolled in a party, for town council;

— Traci Schanz, who is enrolled in the Independence Party, for town clerk;

— Salisbury for highway superintendent;

— Diane Champion, who is enrolled as a Democrat, for tax collector; and

— Timothy Francis, who is enrolled as a Republican, for town justice.

“The slate that we’re running on sees Knox’s vision, sees Knox growing responsibly,” said Lefkaditis. “I don’t think it’s a Republican slate, it’s a slate, a community oriented slate.”

“It’s not a slave to any party, it’s here to serve the rest of Knox,” he added.

Knox has a higher number of Democrats than Republicans; 37 percent of residents are enrolled as Democrats, and 24 percent are enrolled as Republicans; 28 percent are not enrolled in any party, 4 percent are Conservatives and 7 percent are in the Independence Party.

Salisbury said he himself is not a very political person, and that the varying parties of the slate of candidates was not a concern.

“I’ve always tried to look at the people,” he said. He noted that the group of nominees were supported by nearly everyone at the caucus.

At the caucus, Salisbury said his fellow Republicans had expressed sentiments of trying to lower taxes and keeping Knox from changing.

“A lot of people kind of feel they’re losing their town,” he said, though he noted he doesn’t feel the same.

“I try to run on doing the best I can,” he said. “I can only speak for myself.”

“The community is fed up with the status quo,” said Lefkaditis this week. “They spoke out in 2015 with electing me and they’ll speak out in 2017 by electing the entire slate.”

“We need to get back to basics,” said Saddlemire. Although he could not attend the Republican caucus as an enrolled Democrat, he said he interpreted the sentiment expressed there as a lack of openness to others in town.

“I don’t think that all the voices are heard,” he said.

Saddlemire had received the Republican nomination when he ran in last year’s election for a seat on town council, despite being an enrolled Democrat. His nomination was ruled invalid after the Knox Democratic Committee brought it to Albany County State Supreme Court on the grounds that the caucus that nominated Saddlemire had not been advertised properly. Democrat nominee Daniel Hanley then won the council seat last November, despite an exhaustive write-in campaign carried out by Saddlemire.

“The Democratic party has never supported me,” Saddlemire told The Enterprise on Tuesday, pointing to last year’s election as well as denied appointments to positions in the town government that Saddlemire said he applied for.

“We have an incumbent supervisor who is an enrolled Democrat and the party doesn’t support him,” he added. Speaking before the caucus was held, Saddlemire said the party’s allegiances were indicated in a previous article in The Enterprise, in which Knox Democratic Committee Co-chair Dee Woessner said she personally felt that Pokorny, who had just announced her candidacy, would be endorsed by the town Democrats.

Saddlemire said he would attend the caucus as an enrolled Democrat but said he did not expect a nomination.

He emphasized that the Republican slate in Knox, like Berne was important because it transcends party lines.

“Instead of going with party, they’re trying to put forth the best candidate,” he said. “Everyone’s done with the political affiliations.”


More Hilltowns News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.