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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 8, 2009

Distinct factions emerge from divided GOP

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — Nearly half of the Republican Committee has resigned and the remaining members have stripped one of their candidates of support.

Incumbent Councilman Douglas LaGrange, a long-time Republican, won a spot on the Republican line for one of two seats on the town board in the party’s primary on Sept. 15 and resigned from the committee a week later.

“The divide between us appears to be too wide to bridge,” LaGrange wrote in his letter of resignation, referring to Michael Fields, the party’s candidate for supervisor, and Roselyn Robinson, who won the other spot for town board in the primary.

Robinson and Timothy Stanton challenged LaGrange and his running mate, Charles Voss — both had gotten the GOP’s endorsement in May — in the primary, which yielded a split ticket when Robinson and LaGrange were the two highest vote-getters.

New Scotland has been divided over a vision for the future of development in town since Cazenovia-based Sphere Development proposed building a Target-anchored shopping center at the intersection of routes 85 and 85A almost two years ago.  The same issue divides the GOP and has defined this election.

Sharing similar views on that subject — and supporting a limit on the allowable size of retail buildings — LaGrange has joined a slate with Democrats Daniel Mackay, running for town board, and Thomas Dolin, the incumbent running for supervisor.  LaGrange won the Democratic line in that party’s June caucus.

The trio is supported by The New Scotland Committee for Responsible Zoning, which is orchestrated by former New Scotland Republican Committee Chairman Joseph Defronzo, who left that post in July.  The committee hasn’t yet been registered with the state’s board of elections, but Defronzo said on Tuesday that he planned to send in the paperwork.  “It was just created last week,” he said of why it hadn’t yet been registered.

Of what prompted him to enter politics again, Defronzo said, “People are being deceived by the other side,” referring to Fields, Robinson, and Stanton, who strongly oppose a limit on the allowable size of retail buildings but maintain that they don’t want big-box development.

“It’s what I would call a Trojan horse,” he said of the Republican candidates.  Referring to Sphere and its recent passivity, he concluded, “If the other side gets elected, they’ll be back.” (See related story.)

After a unanimous vote from the nine remaining members of the Republican Committee, Chairman Lance Luther said this week, the committee withdrew its endorsement of LaGrange, who is still a member of the Republican Party, although he has resigned from the committee.  That means that he will not get campaign or financial help from the GOP — he will still appear on the Republican line in November.

“We’ve had a cleansing of the party,” Luther said when asked what the exodus of members and their formation into a new committee means for the party.  “It’s an opportunity for us to start fresh again,” he said.

Luther stressed that those who remain are long-time committee members while many of those who left were relative newcomers.

“Perhaps, once the election’s over, some of the members will be welcomed back,” Luther said.  He added, “You’re going to have division in the party from time to time and I believe that, in the end, we’ll end up stronger for it.”

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