For Guilderland super: Barber v. Forte — again

Brian Forte

GUILDERLAND — As Republican candidates for town posts petition for an opportunity to ballot on small-party lines, Republican Committee Chairman Douglas Breakell has accused his Democratic counterpart of attempting to “block this democratic process.”

Meanwhile, Jacob Crawford, acting Democratic chairman, says that, far from an effort to block the democratic process, his objection had been “the exact opposite, to further the democratic process, to ensure that I had enough time to review the signatures on the petitions that were filed.”

One of the challengers is Brian Forte, a Republican running for town supervisor for the second time. He lost narrowly to Guilderland’s current supervisor, Peter Barber, in 2015. Both were making their first run for that office after longtime Democratic incumbent Kenneth Runion announced his retirement.

The others are registered Conservatives Kathy Burbank and Michele Coons, who are both running for the town board. They are facing Democratic incumbents Patricia Slavick and Paul Pastore.

Forte is petitioning to be a write-in on the Conservative and Independence party ballots. Burbank and Coons, as registered Conservatives, can automatically appear on that primary ballot, but they are petitioning to be write-ins on the Independence Party primary ballot.


Peter Barber

Michele Coons
Patricia Slavick


Kathy Burbank


Paul Pastore



Party enrollment in Guilderland breaks down this way: 40 percent of the town’s voters are enrolled Democrats; 25 percent are Republicans; 26 percent are unaffiliated; and the remainder are enrolled in other parties.

Crawford says that he was up against the three-day deadline when he found “a dozen or a dozen-and-a-half questionable signatures” on the challengers’ petitions; he filed an objection with the Albany County Board of Elections in order to see if there were anything more than the “issues” he found on Friday afternoon. If nothing further had been found, he said, the general objection would have “gone away after six days.”

Crawford stepped into the post of acting chairman of Guilderland’s Democratic Party following the death in April of longtime chairman David Bosworth.

By “questionable,” Crawford said, he meant cases such as “a person that wasn’t on the voter rolls that signed, or an address that didn’t match the voter rolls, or a member of the Conservative Party who had signed an Independence Party petition, or vice versa.”

Rachel Bledi, the board of elections’ Republican commissioner, said that, after filing a general objection, which Crawford did on July 21, he would have six days — until July 27 — to file “specific petitions,” outlining his reasons for the objection.

However, Bledi also said she plans to reject Crawford’s general objection, because he titled it “general objection to independent nominating petition.” The petitions filed by the Guilderland challengers are opportunity-to-ballot petitions, she said, and not independent-nominating petitions.

The body of Crawford’s objection read as though he was referring to independent-nominating petitions, but the problem was with the title, Bledi said. There are no Guilderland candidates with independent-nominating petitions on file with the board of elections, she said, adding, “I don’t think he really knows what he’s talking about.”

Crawford cannot file a new objection, she said, since a general objection must be filed within three days of the petition.

Normally, she and Democratic Commissioner Matthew J. Clyne would both need to rule on an objection. But, she said, “If no specific objection is filed, there’s nothing for us to rule on. Thus far, no specific objection was filed.”

Clyne said, referring to Crawford’s error, “I don’t believe that that’s critical. I think that’s a matter of form. But he hasn’t submitted specifications yet, so it might be immaterial.”

Small parties

Reached on vacation in Italy, Albany County Independence Party Chairman Paul Caputo said that the party had endorsed all of the Democratic incumbents. He said that he understood that opportunity-to-ballot petitions had been filed with the board of elections. The last time there had been an Independence Party primary in Guilderland was when Warren Redlich and Mark Grimm ran, he said.

Conservative Chairman Richard Stack called it a “tricky business,” selecting which candidates to endorse. “You’ve got to give me a reason to change jockeys on the horse when the horses are already running,” he said.

He said that Democrats in Guilderland, starting from Ken Runion and continuing through the current incumbents, had had a “stellar record of not raising taxes.” He said that Democrats in the suburbs were conservative “Corning Democrats.” Among their accomplishments he cited the extension of sidewalks and the plan to have the golf course paid off in two years at no expense to the taxpayers. “These are very progressive ideas that take strong leadership,” he said.

Stack noted that the Conservative Party has endorsed, in Berne, Republicans and Democrats; in Westerlo, all Republicans; and in Rensselaerville, Republicans and Independents.

Big parties

Crawford mentioned that all of the incumbents had received “unanimous support” at the Democratic caucus held on July 20.

He told The Enterprise, “I’m more than happy to see the democratic process go forward. I look forward to a wonderful campaign. We have absolutely wonderful candidates seeking office this year, and I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for folks in Guilderland to choose amazing candidates, especially the ones we have running on the Democratic ticket.”

Breakell said that, issues with Crawford’s objection aside, the challengers’ petitions were gathered lawfully, with twice the number of signatures that were required.

“These candidates deserve the right to primary anybody. That’s what the democratic process is all about,” he said, adding, “Allowing a primary is good. It allows the voters to decide.”

In the Conservative primary in 2016, Breakell said, more people wrote in Forte’s name than voted for Peter Barber, making Forte the Conservative nominee, although Barber then went on to win, narrowly, in the general election. “It was a close election, but Mr. Barber had more votes at the end of the day,” Breakell said.

Breakell noted that members of his party were proud that the only two Republicans running countywide are both from Guilderland this year. They are, he said, Howard Koff, who is running for county clerk, and Scott Snide, a registered Independence Party member, who is running for county coroner.

Breakell also said the Conservative Party is backing the two justices running for re-election, Denise Randall and Richard Sherwood. “We believe that they’ve done a good job,” he said.

Editor’s note: Howard Koff is the father of Enterprise photographer Michael Koff.


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