Squeaker: Barber beats Forte for super, board race too close to call

The Enterprise — Anne Hayden Harwood

Pointing the way to victory: Peter Barber, center, with his wife Catherine, right, chats with current town board member Al Maikels at an Election Night event at TGI Fridays in Stuyvesant Plaza.

GUILDERLAND — In a very tight race, Democrat Peter Barber edged out current town board member and fellow Democrat Brian Forte — who was running on the Republican ticket — for town supervisor.

The results for the town board are too close to officially call before counting the absentee ballots; there are only 277 votes separating the top vote-getter, Republican Lee Carman, and the bottom vote-getter, incumbent Democrat Al Maikels.

Democrat Rosemary Centi, a former town clerk, is currently in second place, and Republican Michele Coon is in third.

Guilderland’s Democratic Committee Chairman David Bosworth said on Tuesday night that more than 300 absentee ballots are expected.

Barber, an attorney and the current chairman of the zoning board of appeals, garnered 4,050 votes — 52.5 percent — to Forte’s 3,651, and said he is looking forward to “governing as a Democrat.”

The two candidates were vying for a post being vacated, after 16 years, by Democrat Kenneth Runion, who is retiring.

“I want to be fair and just,” Barber said during his victory speech. “I want to get to know every town employee and as many residents as I can.”

Forte, a retired Guilderland Police Officer, said on Wednesday that he feels he lost the election, in part, due to some negative campaigning by the town’s Democratic Party.

A flyer went out the week before the election saying that Forte was guilty of “drinking and driving” and “pay to play.”

Forte called the flyer deceitful.

Last December, Forte was arrested in Herkimer County for operating a snowmobile while under the influence of alcohol. In January, he issued a public apology at a town board meeting, where he called it a “stupid mistake” and said it would never happen again.

Forte also took campaign contributions, for a total amount of $1,750, from developers who had a proposal before the town board. Forte voted in favor of the project — which has since been pulled — without recusing himself due to a conflict of interest.


Roundtable: Lee Carman, left; Brian Forte, center; and Mark Grimm, right, wait for results with other Republicans in Tesoro’s restaurant on Election Night. Forte lost the race for Guilderland supervisor to Democrat Peter Barber. The Enterprise — Michael Koff


Barber said he did not pay for the flyer — the Democratic Committee did — but he was aware of it.

“Everything in it was factually correct,” he said on Wednesday. “As much as Brian might feel it is unfair, I’ve been told by residents that his party was spreading rumors that the Democrats were targeting the jobs of town employees.”

“We ran a legitimate, upfront campaign,” said Forte this week. “I thought we would do better than we did.”

During a candidates’ forum last week, Barber said, after Forte, along with his running mates, stressed redeveloping “eyesore properties,” “I’ve been hearing about blight. Mr. Forte has been on the town board for four years and proposed nothing.”

Forte rejoined, “I proposed a number of things that were shot down by the current administration. It’s been like hitting a brick wall.”

The Democratic Committee chose Barber over Forte to back for supervisor, at which point Forte sought the post on the Republican line.

“I’m thrilled,” Barber said on Wednesday. “My plan is to follow through on my promises and the biggest one is enacting the new zoning code.”

Centi, who, as of Tuesday night looked to be the highest vote-getter in the town board race, said, “We are the people who know what is best for the town; let’s not forget who we are.”


All smiles: Rosemary Centi is happy to be the front-runner in the race for town board on Tuesday night. The Enterprise — Anne Hayden Harwood


She said she had worked hard in her campaign and hit every door in Guilderland that she could without collapsing.

According to the Albany County Board of Election’s unofficial results posted on Wednesday, Carman bested Centi by a margin of 91 votes.

“I just hope I will stand as a victor,” said Centi on Wednesday.

Coons, who was shy of Centi by 77 votes, said she believes once the absentee ballots are counted, she and Carman will be taking their seats on the board together.

Carman, a county legislator, did not seek re-election to the county post so he could run for the town job.

“I knew it would be close but I thought Lee and I would prevail,” Coons said. “We worked hard, we knocked on doors, opened our ears, and I’m just proud of the race we ran.”


Waiting on paper ballots: Republican Michelle Coons is, according to unofficial results, third out for four in the race for Guilderland Town Board.  The Enterprise — Michael Koff


There was a lot of name recognition involved in the race, said Coons, who works for the Retail Council of New York State, with Carman having been a county legislator and Centi a former town board member.

“I am interested to see what happens with the paper ballots,” said Coons.

“I long ago made peace with the idea that this would be my last campaign, win, lose, or draw,” said Maikels, an accountant, who received 3,633 votes, just 114 votes less than Coons, and 191 votes less than Centi.

Jean Cataldo, who ran unopposed for her second term as town clerk, said the Democratic Party should “remain hopeful that the numbers will be better than we expect and then we’ll have it all.”


Crunching numbers: Jean Cataldo, left, who ran unopposed for a second term as town clerk; Patricia Slavick, center, a current councilmember; and Lynne Buchanan, right, the receiver of taxes, huddle around a computer Tuesday night as the election results roll in. The Enterprise — Anne Hayden Harwood


“We are a small group of people who have soldiered on, even when we were getting numbers that were laughable,” said Bosworth on Tuesday. “When we finally made the change 16 years ago, the town saw our vision.”

Up until the year 1999, when Runion was elected supervisor, the town had long been controlled by the Republican Party. For the past 16 years, the Democrats have held the majority of elected positions.

If Carman remains the victor in the town board race, he will be the only Republican, aside from Highway Superintendent Steve Oliver, to hold town office.

Enrolled voters in Guilderland are 38 percent Democrat and 25 percent Republican; enrolled Conservatives number just 450, or 2 percent. The remaining 35 percent are enrolled in other small parties or as independents.

“We don’t want to be over-confident,” said Bosworth on Tuesday after the polls closed. “But, I think this is a good night for the town.”

Ellen Graziano, the deputy Republican commissioner at the county’s board of elections, said the absentee ballots are set to be counted beginning on Tuesday, Nov. 10.

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