Recanvass results show good Election Day performance for New Scotland GOP

NEW SCOTLAND — While it wasn’t history-making, as the two previous presidential elections have been, the 2021 races for town offices in New Scotland were a big deal locally.

Voter turnout on Election Day was higher than it had been in any of the previous five municipal elections — 45 percent of enrolled voters cast ballots on Nov. 2. For perspective, during the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, off-years for local elections, 77 and 81 percent of enrolled New Scots voted.

On Election Night, three of the four incumbent Democrats facing Republican challengers were still facing uncertain futures as a number of absentee ballots had yet to be counted. The Albany County Board of Elections on Nov. 17 released the absentee counts and New Scotland Democrats breathed a collective sigh of relief.

But the recanvass results recently released by the Albany County Board of Elections should give Democrats pause as they show Republicans — there are six for every 10 Democrats in town — are competitive in large swaths of the town. 

With most small parties in the state fading into irrelevance, unable to meet the election threshold imposed by former Governor Andrew Cuomo, Nov. 2 illustrated the importance of winning the Conservative line in future races, which itself could be a fraught undertaking. 

New Scotland was the only local municipality to hold a Conservative primary in June. The race was marred by dueling endorsement letters from the party’s recently-stepped-down-but-long-serving chairman, Richard Stack, and its new-and-not-unfamiliar-to-controversy county committee head, Thomas Spargo.

Stack backed Democratic incumbent Supervisor Douglas LaGrange, formerly a Republican, which the Conservative Party had backed “seven times over the years,” Stack wrote.

Spargo in his letter highlighted zoning violations related to a sign with a political message that is protected by the First Amendment as a reason to withhold Conservative backing of candidates the party had previously endorsed.

Spargo wrote that his “personal favorite was the sign left up all last summer and fall on Mason Lane at New Scotland Road that boldly stated on a seven foot square suspended sheet that ‘White Silence is Violence’ for all travelers on New Scotland Road to see.” 

Stack in his June 4 letter stated, “Freedom of speech is one of those Amendments that has no boundaries,” and that he had been “surprised to see that Doug LaGrange was being challenged by an opponent this year due to his support of a Town resident’s right to free speech.”

After the primary votes were counted on June 23, Republican town board candidates Peter Drao, Charissa Mayer, and Erik Grissell, who ran for supervisor, took the Conservative line for the general election. 

The party had previously backed the Democrats in a number of races, against Republicans:LaGrange, seven times; Councilman Adam Greenberg, twice in two runs; and Councilman Dan Leinung, once in his first run.

Whether the New Scotland GOP is the beneficiary of apathy toward two decades of near-one-party rule, it hustled its way into revilitzation, it’s capitalizing on a polarizing political moment of its own making, or this is just another example of a strong showing in a single off-year election that will be followed up by a campaign clunker, what’s clear is Republicans in town have faced tight losses and which-way-is-up defeats, often in the same year.

But, in 2021, the Republicans were able to closely challenge their Democratic counterparts for residents’ votes in nearly every part of town.

 

 

 

And nowhere was that more evident than in Voorheesville, in the vote-rich and overwhelmingly Democratic election districts 7 and 8 that make up the village, where Voorheesville resident and Conservative candidate for town clerk Lori Dollard was able to effectively neutralize incumbent Democrat Lisa Williams.

For comparison, Williams received 55 more votes than Dollard in the 7th and 8th; LaGrange received 149 more votes than Grissell in those two districts; while Leinung and Greenberg’s average vote count was 113 more in the village than Drao and Mayer. 

Williams ended up with a 25-vote victory after all the votes were counted, receiving 1,616 votes compared to the 1,591 cast for Dollard. 

 

 

 

 

Dollard’s performance looks more impressive considering there are over 430 more enrolled Democrats and Working Families Party members (totaling 975) than there are Republicans and Conservatives (550) in the seventh and eighth election districts — however, that observation should be considered in light of the over 700 voters of the seventh and eighth who are either unaffiliated or enrolled in a small party. 

There’s just one election district in New Scotland, the 3rd, in the southernmost part of town, which shares approximately 10.7 miles of the 12-mile border with Coeymans and Westerlo, and the townline with Bethlehem up to Route 32, where there are more Republicans and Conservatives than Democrats. District 3 also has the lowest enrollment among the eight in town. At 452, third election-district enrollment is well under two-thirds the size of the next smallest election district, the sixth, and its 752 voters.

Of New Scotland’s 7,256 enrolled voters, there are 2,881 Democrats; 20 members of the Working Families Party; 1,722 Republicans; 240 Conservatives; 366 small-party enrollees; and 2,027 unaffiliated voters. 

 


 

 

 

 

 

LaGrange had a comfortable Nov. 2 win — 1,763 to 1,451 — over Grissell compared to the other candidates, but you wouldn’t know that by talking to him. 

Asked on Election Night if the outcome was closer than he thought it would be, LaGrange said it was “closer than it should have been.” Because, he said, “an unknown comes to town and runs on what we’ve already done; it shouldn’t have been that close,” he said, adding he thought turnout might have been an issue as well.

A resident of Election District 4, LaGrange won his home district by the skin of his teeth on Nov. 2, by 15 votes. There were 189 ballots cast for LaGrange and 174 for Grissell in the fourth district on Election Day. 

In previous competitive elections, when he was running for town board over a decade ago, LaGrange received well over 200 and then an aberrational 400 votes (when he appeared on both the GOP and Democratic tickets in addition to the Independence Party and Conservative lines) from his home district.

It’s likely LaGrange would be happier with a closer-than-it-should-have-been victory than with a we-almost-had-it loss. In an unsuccessful run for supervisor, as a Republican in 2007, he received just 187 home-district votes.

 

 

 

 

In the 2007 election for supervisor, then-Republican LaGrange ran and lost to the Democrat Dolin by 30 votes. 

 

 

 

In this year’s race for town board, Democrats Greenberg, with 1,612 votes, and Leinung, with 1,620 votes, bested their Republican rivals, Drao, who received 1,518 votes, and Mayer, with 1,524 ballots cast in her favor. 

The GOP was able to really challenge the Democrats in the comparatively more rural election districts of 1 through 4, where the Republican town board candidates were strongest. 

Please note in the associated map that the average vote advantage is just that, an average of each party’s two candidates’ vote total for the given election district.

 

 

 

In 2019, Republican Tim Stanton won the same four districts, but three of them were by fewer than 13 votes each. This year between them, Drao and Mayer were able to grow the Republican tally in each of the election districts Stanton won two years ago, tacking on an additional 81 ballots to the 71-vote aggregate vote advantage Stanton had over Bridigit Burke in the four districts.

While Republicans in 2021 increased their election-over-election vote advantage in what’s becoming a bit of a GOP stronghold (depending on the candidate and the year), the Democrats were able to do much of the same in other parts of town, chiefly election districts 5 through 8. 

Leinung on Election Night said he was interested in seeing the Republican turnout, noting the party in general is “very motivated across the country” right now.

Voter turnout on Nov. 2 was higher than any of the previous five local elections. There were 3,269 ballots cast on Election Day 2021; compared to the 2,566 votes candidates received two years ago; in 2017, there were 3,126 ballots tallied in New Scotland; up from 2,552 in 2015; which was an increase over 2013, when 2,288 residents voted; while in 2013, there were 2,765 residents who voted. 

 

 

 

A special election in 2015 for town board was simultaneously the culmination of one era and the start of a new era for the town. 

That year, in a 1,222-to-1,168 vote, Greenberg bested Craig A. Shufelt, the son of a former town board member, to fill out the remaining two years of the seat vacated by Daniel Mackay.

Greenberg had previously served as planning board chairman before being term-limited. He was quickly appointed by the town board to the study advisory committee for the zoning plan being prepared for the hamlet of New Scotland.

The town was in upheaval in 2010 after a citizens’ uprising against plans for a big-box mall in the hamlet of New Scotland. After two election cycles, the town board had enough votes to pass zoning limiting the size of a commercial building, which led to the establishment of the advisory committee to which Greenberg was appointed. 

The town adopted a stand-alone New Scotland Hamlet zoning law in 2018, which was in addition to a new comprehensive plan adopted later that year. 

But for every Burke v. Stanton and Greenberg v. Shufelt race, there’s Greenberg v. Shufelt 2017 or William Hennessy in 2019 (he received a third more votes than Stanton) running away with the vote.

Or, as was the case in 2015, while Greenberg was eking out a 54-vote win over Shufelt, Hennessey and Patricia Snyder, doubled the vote total of their Republican opponent.

 

 

 

But for every Burke v. Stanton and Greenberg v. Shufelt race, there’s Greenberg v. Shufelt 2017 or William Hennessy in 2019, when he received a third more votes than Stanton. Or, as was the case in 2015, while Greenberg was eking out a 54-vote win over Shufelt, Hennessey nearly doubled the vote total of his Republican opponent while Democrat Patricia Snyder’s vote tally was a third higher than Republican Christopher Frueh’s.

 

 

 

Coming off of a razor-thin win over Shufelt, Greenberg’s 2017 re-election bore little resemblance to what happened just two years prior. 

In his first run for public office, Leinung, a member of the town’s planning board at the time, was the top vote-getter with 2,177 votes; incumbent Greenberg was second with 1,987 ballots cast in his favor; and Shufelt was a distant third with 1,174 votes.

The small-party-line wins gave Leinung and Greenberg the overwhelming victory. Leinung received 476 votes on the Conservative line and 194 votes on the Independence Party line; Greenberg received 306 votes from Conservatives and 175 votes from Independence Party voters.

2017 was also the rare case of a monochromatic results map in a local town election, which was last seen in New Scotland a dozen years earlier, and it wasn’t blue.

 

 

 

 

First elected in 2001, Ed Clark, who was mayor of Voorheesville for 17 years, ultimately served three two-year terms as New Scotland’s supervisor. In his first race for supervisor, Clark became a Republican. By the end of his tenure, he was no longer enrolled in the party, but continued to run on its line. 

In his last campaign for supervisor, Clark, in a 1923-to-1315 vote, soundly beat his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Stewart. 

2005 was rare for another reason: Voters split their tickets.

 

 

 

In 2005, LaGrange, then a Republican, was the top vote-getter among four candidates running for two seats on the town board. 

He received 1,682 votes while Democrat Margaret Neri received the second-most votes with 1,636. Coming in third and fourth were Republican Andrea Gleason, with 1,551 votes, and Democrat Wayne LaChappelle, with 1,426, votes. 

Please note in the associated map that the vote advantage is a party average, which, in comparison to the 2021 town board race where candidates of the same party had similar vote totals in each of the election districts, can be skewed because of large differences in total election district votes between same-party candidates.

 

 

More New Scotland News

  •  “They say 83.28-percent complete,” Councilman William Hennessy said during the Jan. 12 town board meeting of the Hilton Barn’s new slate roof. “Whereas they’re really more like probably 90-percent done.”

  • Voorheesville Superintendent Frank Macri noted not everything on the previous five-year condition survey got done. “I know we looked at two five-year [surveys] previously,” he said, “and there were still things that were on those five-year plans that weren’t accomplished … So just because they’re on a five-year plan doesn’t mean they have to get finished.”

  • “As marketed, it has not generated a buyer,” said Chuck Marshall of Stewart’s Shops of the former Smith’s Tavern. 

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