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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 17, 2009

In GOP primary, voters split on zoning, pick LaGrange, Robinson

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — Democrats were as present as Republicans on Tuesday night while GOP hopefuls tallied primary election results.

Incumbent Councilman Douglas LaGrange and his running mate, Charles Voss, got their party’s endorsement in May for the two town board seats on this November’s ballot.  Roselyn Robinson and Timothy Stanton, though, forced a primary since their views regarding the future of development in town differ from the other candidates in the race, including LaGrange and Voss.

Robinson, a lawyer, awaited the outcome in her sister's kitchen, with a spice-scented candle on the counter next to wine and cheese for the coming guests.

LaGrange, a farmer, and Voss, a planner, were in the midst of a couple of dozen supporters in the basement of the American Legion Post in Voorheesville.

Around 9:30 p.m., people began pouring in to Annie Brill's neatly kept kitchen from the eight election districts with results.  Among them were some prominent Democrats, including Councilwoman Margaret Neri with her husband, Louis Neri, who is the planning board's attorney; Cynthia Elliott, who sits on the planning board; and Marsha Carlson, who had been a member of the citizens’ group New Scotlanders 4 Sound Economic Development, but has since adamantly rejected their approach.

Brill wrote each candidate’s vote tallies on a poster taped with a grid of printed-out sheets listing the four names in each district on the kitchen wall.  District four was the first to come in and set a tense tone in an already nervous atmosphere. 

“We got creamed in the Heldervale district,” Robinson said.  That area includes the commercial district, which has been at the center of development debate recently and many residents there support the cap on the size of retail stores that LaGrange and Voss have pushed for rather than the laissez faire approach taken by Robinson and Stanton.

Although Sphere Development has recently shown signs that it will abandon its plans for a large retail center anchored with a Target, its proposal over a year ago caused the town to re-evaluate its current zoning.

As more favorable numbers came in, the tension was punctuated with bursts of applause.

In the Legion Hall, LaGrange sat at a table, littered with empty pizza boxes and beer bottles, surrounded by a milling group of onlookers, while he took calls from the polling stations and tallied the numbers in a scribble on a blank sheet of paper.

“This makes no sense whatsoever,” he said as he got the results from the third district.  “That’s what I call bittersweet by a mile,” he said.  The third district encompasses the Unionville and Feura Bush area.

Voss stood by, leaning in to see the numbers as the changing cast of supporters around the table alighted.  Many Democrats active in NS4SED were there, including Edie and Saul Abrams, Joseph Pofit, and Dean Sommer and Holly Cheever.

Those in the hall were deflated as a split ticket emerged, with LaGrange and Robinson as the Republican candidates for town board.  Roughly 30 percent of the party’s 1,674 members in New Scotland voted in the primary, according to unofficial numbers from Town Hall.

“It’ll make it interesting,” LaGrange said when asked about the coming campaign, since he and Robinson differ on a major issue — the shape of development in town.  “It’s going to be a struggle,” he said.

LaGrange, a Republican, got the Democratic line at that party’s June caucus — he shares that line with Daniel Mackay, a founding member of NS4SED.

“If we hold the Conservative line, I’ll be on the ballot,” Voss said.  That party had an opportunity to ballot on Tuesday, but the results won’t be calculated until Thursday, said John Graziano, the Republican commissioner at the Albany County Board of Elections.  As for the Republican campaign, Voss said, he’ll put all his support behind LaGrange.

“I’m in there right to the end,” said Stanton yesterday.  A farmer, he was asleep when the results came in on Tuesday since he wakes up early, he said.  If the New Scotland FIRST party line is on the ballot in November — it is currently being challenged and the court hasn’t yet ruled — he’ll be on that line, Stanton said.  Robinson, Stanton, and Republican candidate for Supervisor Michael Fields formed the line last month.  If it is thrown out, Stanton said, he’ll wage a write-in campaign.

“I’ll be there one way or the other,” he said.

Voss, disappointed with the outcome of his party’s primary, concluded, “Politics is crazy out here.”

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