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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 3, 2009

Nelligan’s party self-destructs

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — Matthew Nelligan’s attempt to create a new party in his run for town board has failed because his petition had too many invalid signatures.

Nelligan, who is running on the Republican line, filed a petition with the Albany County Board of Elections two weeks ago to create a party named Guilderland’s Taxpayers First.

The town board now has a Democratic majority, 3 to 2, so a GOP victory would change the balance of power.

“I think it’s clear that this is the work of the Democratic Committee to undermine the will of the people,” Nelligan said this week.

Marcia Scott, the Guilderland resident who filed the objection, said the Guilderland Democratic Committee had nothing to do with it.

Both of the election commissioners — the Republican and the Democrat — said it was clear the petition hadn’t met legal requirements.

Scott, a Democrat, said she felt that, if Nelligan ran on a second line, he would have the potential to receive more votes.

“I really don’t want to see him in office,” she said.

According to Scott, she did some research and learned the facts, before she made her objection. She said she did have some others who worked with her and helped her out, but that no one from the Guilderland Democratic Committee was involved.

“I did this as a concerned citizen,” said Scott.

“I was a Republican all my life. I am now a Democrat because I don’t want to be associated with the Republicans in this town,” Scott told The Enterprise in April, when she wanted to organize a letter-writing campaign in support of Democratic Supervisor Kenneth Runion after he briefly considered bowing out of the race for re-election in the fall.

Nelligan, who resigned as a Guilderland social studies teacher last year in the midst of controversy, now works for the State Senate Republicans. He collected over 850 signatures for the petition; the minimum number of signatures required by the Albany County Board of Elections is 702. That number is arrived at using a statutory formula — 5 percent of the number of votes cast for the governor in Guilderland during the preceding gubernatorial election, according to Matthew Clyne, the Democratic commissioner with the board of elections.

Clyne, and the Republican Commissioner, John Graziano, both said Nelligan’s petition was declined because many of the 852 signatures were invalid.

A number of different factors could make a signature invalid. Clyne said Nelligan’s petition had 19 signatures of people not registered to vote in Guilderland, 19 signatures from people who had signed a prior designating petition, and at least 113 signatures witnessed by people who had signed a prior designating petition. Each of those issues makes a signature invalid, he said.

“Attention to detail is critical. You have to have many more signatures than the required amount,” said Graziano. “Even if someone put the wrong address or forgot to put the date, it would mix things up.”

Nelligan said he is sad and disappointed about the declination of his party, because he felt that the people who signed his petition did so in good faith, and that the number of signatures clearly indicated the people’s desire for reform.

“The crux of the matter is that, in my mind, we had valid signatures, but the Democrats went out and got some lawyers to go over the list and point out technicalities,” Nelligan said.

“There is no question and no room for interpretation — less than 702 of the signatures were valid,” said Clyne.

A person has the right to appeal the board of elections’ decision if he feels it is unjust, and Nelligan said he considered it, but ultimately decided it would be wrong to tie up the court and use funds that could be better spent elsewhere.

Despite his disappointment over the decision, Nelligan said he is still feeling optimistic about the November election.

“I’m still running on the GOP line.  The support and feedback I got while gathering signatures for the petition was great, and I’m going to look at this as a positive experience rather than a negative,” said Nelligan.

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