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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 24, 2009

Conservative line tied in a knot

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — As a deeply divided town battles over its future and the Republican Party splits, the race for the Conservative line — for two seats on the town board — is too close to call.

Four candidates were within three votes of each other, with two tied for the second spot, according to unofficial numbers from the Albany County Board of elections.

Running mates Douglas LaGrange, a farmer currently on the town board, and Charles Voss, a professional planner on the planning board, each garnered 35 votes in last Tuesday’s opportunity to ballot.  The pair was endorsed by the Conservative Party and the Republican Party, to which they both belong.  But they were challenged to a primary on the GOP line by Republicans Roselyn Robinson, a lawyer, and Timothy Stanton, a farmer.  The GOP ticket split, with LaGrange and Robinson winning the line.

According to the county’s unofficial results for the Conservative line, tallied yesterday after the absentee ballots were opened, Robinson came in first, with 36 votes, and Stanton came in last, with 34 votes, leaving LaGrange and Voss tied in the middle — each with 35.

The decision on who will be on the ballot in November’s general election will fall to the chairman of the county Conservative Party, Richard Stack, and its committee, which will convene after receiving written notification from the county, Stack said yesterday.

“It could have a bearing on the decision,” Stack said of the fact that LaGrange will appear on the Republican line but Voss will not.  If he isn’t on the Conservative line, Voss won’t be on the ballot at all in November.  LaGrange also has the Democratic line.

“She had a lot of help from a lot of Democrats,” Stack said of Robinson’s win.  He named three Democratic families — the Neris, Biscones, and Reillys — the last of which has several members enrolled in the Conservative Party, who he called “interlopers,” because they try to control that line, he said.

“Those are the people supporting Roz Robinson,” he said.  Democrats Richard Reilly and Margaret Neri, both of whom are currently on the town board, share a similar vision for development in town with Robinson, a life-long Republican.  Since a proposal to build a shopping center at the corner of routes 85 and 85A came up almost two years ago, development has been a major issue in town and is the defining issue in this year’s campaign.

“It really speaks volumes,” Stack said of the Democratic support for Robinson.  “They have in-kind thoughts,” he said.

“I find that quite ironic, since he nominated a Democrat for supervisor on the Conservative line,” Robinson responded through The Enterprise.  The party, which has 177 enrolled voters in New Scotland, endorsed incumbent supervisor Thomas Dolin, a Democrat, in May with Voss and LaGrange.  The Albany County Conservative Party had endorsed all three candidates in past elections, Stack said in June, and decided to do so again because of their shared stance on development in New Scotland.

“Perhaps I got some Reilly votes,” Robinson said.  “I know a lot of true Conservatives… who said they were going to support me.”

Robinson was the only candidate present during the opening of the absentee ballots yesterday morning and she came away with different vote counts than the county.

“I have Tim and I as one and two,” she said.  “I’m thrilled that, either way, I’ve won the Conservative line.”

Robinson’s count keeps her as the top vote-getter, with 37; Stanton as second, with 36; LaGrange in third, with 35; and Voss in fourth, with 34.

“I don’t know where the disparity is, it’s kind of peculiar,” she said.

“The reason for the discrepancy is related to write-in votes,” said Matthew Clyne, the Democratic commissioner at the county’s board of elections.

Some Republican write-in votes were wrongly added to the Conservative tally, he said.  In District 1, Robinson and Stanton each got one vote that had been mistakenly submitted to the Conservative count and in District 2 Stanton was credited with three votes, but it should have been two, Clyne said.

“Roz often comes up with different opinions of things,” said LaGrange yesterday.  “I’d just defer to the county.  If they came up with Tim and Roz winning, I’d respect that.”

LaGrange was disappointed that he and Voss didn’t win the ticket together and isn’t sure what he’d like to see happen.

“I’d like to see Chuck have an opportunity to be on the town board,” LaGrange said, but he’s not sure if Voss could win a seat with only a small-party line.

“It’s very interesting,” Voss said yesterday after hearing the vote count.  “I’m just curious to see how it goes.”

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