GOP rematch no match for Dems this time

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer

Election Night glee: Bridgit Burke, left, who won re-election to the New Scotland Town Board, laughs with Deb Engel, the town’s liaison for seniors.

NEW SCOTLAND — After a squeaker two years ago, the incumbent Democrats on the New Scotland Town Board — William Hennessy and Bridgit Burke — won handily on Tuesday.

At 9 p.m on Election Night, the two Republican challengers, the same pair who had come so close last year, were hopeful as they waited for results at Track 32.

Charissa Mayer, a nurse with a business degree, was there with her 12-year-old son, Caleb, who had campaigned with her. She said she would consider running for a third time. “I have a passion for the town,” said Mayer.

Peter Drao, a CPA and veteran who has worked for state Senate Republicans for two decades, was waiting with his wife, Julie Homer-Drao. He said he would not run again after two losses. “It’s community service,” Drao said of being a council member. “You think of other ways to do it.”

Meanwhile, at the American Legion Hall in Voorheesville as results started coming in, the Democrats were happy. It was clear very early that they were victors.

Democratic Chairman Daniel Leinung projected numbers on the wall from his laptop. By the time all seven districts had been tallied, unofficial results from the Albany County Board of Elections showed Hennessy as the top vote-getter with 1,446 on the Democratic line and 206 on the Conservative Party line for close to 30 percent of the vote.

Burke came in next with 1,420 votes on the Democratic line for close to 26 percent.

Mayer was third with 1,007 votes on the Republican line and another 291 on the Conservative line for about 23 percent of the vote.

Drao was fourth with 1,056 votes on the Republican line and 83 votes on the New Scotland Together line, which Mayer had described as an “agnostic” party line, for about 21 percent. There were no write-in votes.

This is despite the Republicans far outspending the Democrats. The New York State Board of Elections shows expenditures for Mayer and Drao since 2021 each totalling about $14,000. Hennessy has zero expenditures since 2019 when he last ran and there is no record for Burke who said she used some of her own money for her campaign.

“It’s seemingly a romp,” said Douglas LaGrange, the incumbent Democratic supervisor, from a generations-deep farm family in town, as the results rolled in.

Unlike in 2021, LaGrange faced no challenger this November. He garnered 1,601 votes on the Democratic line and 587 on the Conservative line. There were 18 write-in votes.

“I feel a lot better than I did a couple of years ago,” said LaGrange. “We’re a team that got things done. There’s no need to replace us.”

He described the 2021 local election as “the perfect storm” with many Republicans still upset about the national election the year before, believing Donald Trump had won. “It inspired the Republican base … We still squeaked it out. It was a much different climate; it’s status quo now.”

New Scotland has 7,181 registered voters: 2,776 are Democrats, 1,693 are Republicans, 228 are Conservatives, 21 are enrolled with the Working Families Party, and 17 with the Green Party — meaning 2,446 are not enrolled with any party.

LaGrange noted that Democrats in New Scotland “normally have the Conservative line” but had it wrested away in 2021. “We’re financially conservative,” he said of local Democrats. “It’s not  like nationally. We’re not going to be voting on Roe v. Wade.”

He said a third-party line is important because many Republicans would never vote on the Democratic line just as many Democrats would never vote on the GOP line.

LaGrange himself was initially enrolled as a Republican before becoming an independent and ultimately a Democrat.

Asked what made him switch, he said, “It was the big box.” Developers had proposed building a Target-anchored mall on land near the center of town that is now a park protected by a conservation easement.

“Most of the town was against it,” LaGrange said of the big-box plan. “The old-school Republicans and the old-school Democrats were for the big box … They chose to be irrelevant for the next 20 years.”

Burke, a lawyer and a strong advocate for combating climate change, said on Election Night, “I’m very glad to feel it’s not as close as last time.” She won a second four-year term.

Burke said she was pleased to campaign with the town clerk, Lisa Williams. “People love her,” she said.

The clerk’s race was a rerun of the 2021 contest when Democrat Williams, newly appointed to the job, was challenged by Lori Dollard, an enrolled Conservative, on the Republican line. Two years ago, Williams won by just 25 votes.

This time, Williams garnered nearly 55 percent of the vote to Dollard’s 45 percent. Williams got 1,396 Democratic votes with 145 on the Working Families line while Dollard got 1,189 Republican votes and 79 on the New Scotland together line. There were no write-ins.

Williams, who previously worked at the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, said she loved to help in the senior program, dispensing walkers, shower chairs, crutches, and wheelchairs to seniors who need them.

Deb Engel, New Scotland’s senior liaison, praised Williams on Election Night.

Hennessy, an engineer, who has his own business in town and has been instrumental in the preservation of the Hilton Barn and in updating the town’s comprehensive plan, won a fourth term.

“It was a busy year,” he said of campaigning. “We were able to hit more homes” partly by using an electronic database, he said.

Two other uncontested races went to Democratic incumbents as well. Town Justice David Wukitsch garnered 1,604 Democratic votes and 612 votes on the Conservative line while Highway Superintendent Kenneth Guyer received 1,620 Democratic votes and 647 votes on the Conservative line.

On Election Night, Guyer said he didn’t go door-to-door or hand out fliers. “I campaign seven days a week,” he said, whether on the job or out and about around town.

At 10 p.m., Leinung made some closing remarks, praising the “great results,” due to not just knocking on doors but to hundreds of phone calls and 1,500 text messages, he said.

He concluded to applause, “Our town has seen the good work our town board and town clerk have been doing. It feels like we’re moving in the right direction.”

More New Scotland 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.