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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 26, 2011

Enemies within
GOP chair colludes with Dem super?

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — The GOP Party chairman is blasting the only two elected Republicans in town as the party is on the brink of choosing candidates for the fall election.

The Guilderland Republican Committee might not run a candidate for town supervisor in the fall election.

Republican Councilman Warren Redlich said he thinks it’s because the committee chairman, Matthew Nelligan, is making “backroom deals” with Democratic Supervisor Kenneth Runion.

“Warren’s kind of crazy,” responded Nelligan.

After decades of Republican dominance in town, the Democrats gained ascendancy in the 1990s. Four years ago, though, Redlich and Grimm won seats on the town board in an upset victory, ousting the county Democratic chairman.

Redlich’s accusations stem from recent town appointments made to two boards — the Board of Assessment Review and the Ethics Committee.

Nelligan put forth candidates for each board, and Redlich and fellow Republican Councilman Mark Grimm — whose terms are up in 2012 — voted against the Ethics Committee appointments, and argued against the Board of Assessment Review appointments but eventually approved them. 

At the time of the Board of Assessment Review appointments, in late March, Redlich said he believed there were “backstage politics” going on with Runion and Nelligan, citing the fact that Nelligan knew about open positions before anyone on the town board did.

Redlich had dated e-mails from Nelligan to prove it. Nelligan responded to The Enterprise at the time that it is “well documented” that Runion has issues with councilmen Redlich and Grimm. Nelligan said that, when Runion “reached out” to him about upcoming openings, he was willing to recommend candidates.

“I was trying to help along the process, not to slight Mr. Redlich or Mr. Grimm,” said Nelligan. “I wanted to put forth qualified people to fill the vacancy.”

In a letter to the Enterprise editor this week, Nelligan writes, “It is a sad day when I am forced as Republican chairman to speak out against members of our party, particularly elected officials.” He said the oppositional votes for the Ethics Committee went against the idea that the ethics rules should be enforced.

“We voted against the appointments, not because of the people, but because of the process,” said Redlich this week. The town board members were not made aware that there were positions open on the Ethics Committee, Redlich said. However, there were two résumés put forward by Nelligan.

“To me, it’s kind of a crazy vote; it is impossible for us to understand, not just as Republicans, but as citizens,” Nelligan said this week.

“When you are looking for people to run for an appointment, you go to the committees, that’s the protocol,” said Runion in response to why he solicited candidates from Nelligan.

Redlich, however, said he thinks Runion has agreed to appoint Nelligan’s candidates to various committees, in exchange for Nelligan’s promise not to run a candidate for supervisor.

“That’s a total fabrication,” responded Runion, who is running for his eighth two-year term. He said he thought Grimm planned to run for supervisor.

“We have had applications for supervisor, but we’re not going to run just any candidate…We’re going to run people that we think have the best chance to win. I don’t think they’ve built the kind of record that would give them the best chance to win,” Nelligan said of Grimm and Redlich.

Redlich said he had personally overheard Nelligan say he did not believe a Republican candidate would win out over Runion, and that, if the Republicans didn’t run a supervisor candidate, Runion would not campaign as hard against Republican candidates for other elected positions.

“We absolutely want to hold our two seats on the town board, and we are dedicated to holding the highway superintendent position,” said Nelligan. He wrote a letter to the Enterprise editor in April, putting out an open call for candidates.

“I think it’s foolish not to run a candidate in every position…Voters might like to have a choice in the supervisor race,” said Redlich. He asserted that Nelligan does not know the true interests of the Republican Party, or understand town policies.

“It’s pretty hard to take criticism about the interests of the Republican Party from someone who ran for governor as a Libertarian,” Nelligan said. Nelligan, himself, made a failed run for town board last fall and was subsequently named party chairman. A former social studies teacher, Nelligan works for the state senate Republicans.

Redlich, a lawyer, said he would like to challenge Nelligan to a televised debate on policy issues in the town, which Nelligan called an example of Redlich and Grimm’s attempts to turn town politics into a “big circus.”

“I won’t be a clown in his circus,” said Nelligan. Redlich is an elected official, and Nelligan is a party official. Nelligan said he saw no point in debating Redlich, since neither is running for an elected position for 2012; Redlich’s term on the town board will expire, and he plans to move to Florida.

“Sure, I have had conversations with the supervisor, and I’m not embarrassed about it, but to imply we’re making some secret deal to put people on boards that pay nothing…you’d have to think I was dumb,” Nelligan said.

“I don’t want to get involved in any political bickering between the Republicans,” said Runion, but Redlich said he thinks the opposite is true.

“Runion is trying to time these appointments to show discord in the Republican Party right before we have to pick candidates for the election,” said Redlich. Normally, he said, these appointments would have been made in January.

Nelligan said he thought Redlich and Grimm were in discordance with the rest of the Republican Party anyway.

“They demonstrate a lonewolf mentality that is absolutely inappropriate,” said Nelligan. Runion agreed.

“Redlich and Grimm seem to think they are their own political party. They don’t seem to be able to get along with anybody,” concluded Runion. “It sounds like the Republicans are learning that they’re crazy.”

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