RFK Dem Club inflames last days of Guilderland judge race

In a Facebook post that has since been taken down, the RFK Democratic Club equated current Guilderland Town Justice Christine Napierski to the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, because she’s running on the Conservative Party line.

GUILDERLAND — Supporters of Christine Napierski were shocked and dismayed this weekend to see that a self-described “progressive Democratic” organization had posts about Napierski on its Facebook page, including one aligning her with the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh because she is running for Guilderland Town Justice on the Conservative Party line.

The post by the Robert F. Kennedy Democratic Club of Albany & the Capital Region read, “Because she chose to align herself with a party that … well look at just this weeks news. Or wait. Today’s news. Hint. Google tree of life synagogue. Those are the conservatives of 2018. We do not condone hate groups.”

The page also featured an ad, posted on Oct. 27, that had two pictures: one of Napierski in judge’s robes and the other of President Donald Trump embracing Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The text said in red capital block letters, “Christine Napierski is running for Guilderland town judge on the Conservative Party line. The same folks that support this pair.”

Another post from the Robert F. Kennedy Democratic Club said, presumably in response to posts objecting to the ad and to the earlier post, “So everyone here knows. Your party registration and voting history is a matter of public record. And in our database. You all know that. Right?”

The ad and both posts have since been taken down.

Democratic candidates in Guilderland have traditionally sought the endorsement of the Conservative Party and other smaller parties. The current town supervisor, Peter Barber, and town board members Patricia Slavick and Paul Pastore were all endorsed by the Conservative Party when they ran for re-election in November 2017, as were town justices Denise Randall and Richard Sherwood.

Reached by phone Tuesday, club co-chair Maureen O’Brien said she had been out of town for a few days and had not seen the post about the synagogue shooting. She said that the club has a lot of site administrators who are able to post to Facebook.

When The Enterprise read O’Brien the content of the post, she said, “I don’t totally disagree with that. I think the party you ask to endorse you says a lot about who you are, in this day and age.”

She continued, “For a Democrat to ask for the endorsement of the Conservative Party? Go take a look at their party platform. And it just makes absolutely no sense.”

When asked about the tradition in Guilderland of Democrats seeking the Conservative line, O’Brien said, “The RFK Club does not ever endorse the Democrat who takes the Conservative Party line.”

O’Brien said she did not think it was reasonable to equate Napierski with the synagogue shooting. She added, “But I do think it’s the rhetoric of those groups that are stirring up all this hate. Look at their ads: ‘We totally support Donald Trump and his message.’ Well, what’s his message? ‘Beat ’em up. Shoot ’em.’ That’s not a Democratic Party value. And it’s certainly not an RFK value.”

O’Brien said she needed to get off the phone, and she did not return messages left later, asking if the RFK Democratic Club’s Facebook page had a policy of deleting rebuttal comments and making veiled threats against those who comment that they might vote for candidates the page does not support.

Bryan Clenahan said “absolutely not” when asked if he had anything to do with the post. Asked for a comment about it, he said, “Ethically speaking, I’m not going to comment about anything about my opponent or unrelated third-party pages.”

He was reminded that his mother-in-law, Guilderland Town Justice Denise Randall, and the entire Democratic ticket had accepted the Conservative endorsement this fall, and asked if there were any problems with their doing so. He again declined to comment.

Libby Post works for Clenahan, he said, handling some of his communications. She was asked if she wrote the post or whether she has a current connection to the RFK Democratic Club. She said she was a founding member but that she has no connection anymore: She is no longer a member, and she has not donated money in years.

Albany County Conservative Chairman Richard Stack said that the Democratic Party in Guilderland has governed in a fiscally conservative way over the past two decades, and has made “tremendous capital improvements” including sidewalks, parks, trails, and infrastructure. “There hasn’t been a lot to criticize,” he said.

But he will have to keep an eye on the direction the current leadership is going, he said, because of ”the mixed message of endorsing Christine at the board meeting, and then turning around and doing a full 360 and then going against her.” He added, “I’m a little leery of what’s going on.”

Napierski was unanimously appointed in April by the town board to fill out the remainder of Richard Sherwood’s term after he was charged with stealing millions of dollars from family trusts he oversaw in his work as a private attorney. In June, however, the Guilderland Democratic Committee unanimously backed Clenahan for the post, and he then secured the Democratic line at the party’s caucus.

Napierski testified in federal court in July, when she brought a lawsuit attempting to stop the caucus process, which she said was designed to favor the party candidate, that town Supervisor Peter Barber had encouraged her to attend the Conservative Party dinner in May and that he had told her, “We need the Conservative Party endorsement.”

Barber said this week in an email responding to Enterprise questions, “At the interviews for the Town Justice candidates, the Town Board and I made it clear to each interviewed candidate that the Town Board was making an appointment only through this year and that if any candidate wanted to seek election in November, she or he would have to make their own arrangements with a political party. When later asked for details, I let Judge Napierski know that she could contact other political parties, including the Conservative, Independence and Working Family Parties.”

Barber added, “Judicial candidates are different than non-judicial candidates and cannot take a position on issues, whether deemed liberal, conservative or in between.”

Stack said candidates who seek the Conservative Party line are interviewed and asked questions about, for instance, budgeting, municipal shared services, and whether they plan to seek higher office in the future.

Judicial candidates are usually not able to answer many of the questions, Stack said, other than those about past endorsements.

They are asked, he said, if they have ever had the endorsement of the Working Families Party. “They’re our polar opposite,” he said.

Joined: 07/27/2018 - 12:21
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Thank you for writing this story and particularly for pointing out the hypocrisy of what I say happening. Personally I think they should change their name. Robert F. Kennedy would be shocked and dismayed by their tactics. It’s very telling that no one will come forward and claim responsibility for posting it. That’s the real story.

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