After a contentious race for town justice, Clenahan wins decisively

The Enterprise — Elizabeth Floyd Mair

Bryan Clenahan, center, is congratulated by Guilderland’s Democratic Party chairman, Jacob Crawford, at left, after the results of Tuesday’s vote are announced. Clenahan’s wife, psychiatrist Dr. Griffan Randall, at right, applauds. Behind Clenahan is town Supervisor Peter Barber.

GUILDERLAND — A long and contentious three-way race for town justice in Guilderland ended with Bryan Clenahan, who had the backing of the Democratic Party in a Democratic town, the clear winner; he garnered more than half of the vote.

Clenahan told The Enterprise on Election Night that he was “very excited, very honored and humbled.” The court is one of the most important community services, Clenahan said, and he looks forward to the opportunity and the challenges of being a judge.  

Republican Stephen Chesley came in second and Judge Christine Napierski, who ran only on the Conservative line after the Democratic Party backed Clenahan instead, came in third.

Unofficial results from the Albany County Board of Elections show:

— Clenahan garnered 7,444 votes, or 50.91 percent;

— Chesley got 4,131 votes, or 28.25 percent; and

— Napierski got 3,037 votes, or 20.77 percent.

“I’m very happy with the campaign I ran — it was clean,” Chesley said on Wednesday morning. “I made no attack on anybody at any time. Obviously, it wasn’t the outcome I was hoping for. I knew the odds were against me, registration-wise.”

Guilderland is primarily Democratic. The town has 22,967 registered voters, of whom 16,898 are enrolled in a party. Forty percent of the enrolled voters, or 9,338, are Democrats. Twenty-four percent, or 5,618, are Republicans.

Five percent, or 1,295, are members of the Independence Party, while 2 percent, or 510, are affiliated with the Conservative Party. Other small parties each have less than 1 percent of the registered voters.

Chesley concluded, “But I’m a contender, next time around, hopefully. I don’t think I’d run against John Bailey, but if he retires, I’ll seek my party’s endorsement and run again. I’m picking up lawn signs right now, and I’m going to store them.”

“We knew the whole time were in a David-and-Goliath situation,” Napierski said on Wednesday.

She added, “We were hoping for a much closer outcome. We had a lot of excitement going into it and until the results started coming in, because I had such positive feedback from canvassing. I think that the people I reached did go out and support me at the polls. I think it’s hard to reach every Democrat, in a town this size. I think 3,000 votes on the Conservative line is pretty good.” The town has 510 enrolled Conservatives.

Before results came in on Tuesday night, Guilderland Supervisor Peter Barber, who had gathered with other Democrats at Maria’s Tailgate Tavern, said, “I think that usually, if someone has three or four lines, they usually win. It’s hard to win with just one line.”

Clenahan had four lines: not only Democratic (6,729 votes), but Working Families (332 votes), Independence (264 votes), and Women’s Equality (119 votes).

Chesley had two: Republican (4,050 votes) and Reform (81 votes).

Napierski had just one: Conservative (3,037 votes).

“It’s one of the highest turnout years I’ve ever seen,” said Guilderland’s Democratic Committee chairman, Jacob Crawford.

He said he had heard polling places in Altamont were running out of ballots and were using provisional ballots until the board of elections dropped off more.

Albany County Democratic Committee Chairman Jack Flynn said ballots were low at sites throughout Albany County.

Christine Napierski is currently one of Guilderland’s three town justices. She started in the job after being selected by the town board over 13 other candidates, including Clenahan and Chesley.

The post was vacated by Richard Sherwood after he was was arrested for stealing millions of dollars from elderly clients whose family trusts he oversaw in his work as a private attorney. Sherwood has pleaded guilty to several charges and is currently awaiting sentencing in both federal and county courts.

In June, the Guilderland Democratic Committee announced it was backing longtime committee member Clenahan rather than Napierski. It was too late at that point to force a primary. Napierski sued in federal court, charging that the caucus system Guilderland uses is designed to favor the party’s candidate.

She was unable to stop the caucus from going forward, but she did shine a spotlight on the question of whether a primary system would be fairer and more open. (See related story.)

Guilderland’s three justices each serve in alternating weeks, with each judge handling the courts, arraignments, trials, and other matters every third week. During that week, a judge is on call 24 hours a day.

The part-time post pays $53,760 annually.

The other two justices are:

—  Denise Randall, Clenahan’s mother-in-law, whose current term ends in 2021; and

— John Bailey, whose term ends next year. He told The Enterprise earlier that he has not decided if he will run again.

Highway super

Highway Superintendent Gregory Wier, an enrolled Conservative, ran unopposed. The town board had appointed him in April to fill a vacancy left when Steve Oliver retired before finishing his term. Oliver had been in the position since 2011.

Wier received more votes than any other Democratic Party candidate in Guilderland ever, said Barber.

Wier garnered 12,234 votes: 8,907 Democratic, 2,490 Conservative, and 837 Independence Party votes.

He will fill out the year remaining in Oliver’s term and will need to run again in 2019 if he wants to remain in the position.

Wier said on Election Night, “It is exciting. I don’t have an opponent, so I don’t have the anxiety of having to look at the numbers.

Wier had previously been head of Parks and Recreation as well as overseeing the town’s golf course.

Four candidates had applied to be appointed highway superintendent in April. The position pays $92,500 annually.

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