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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 3, 2011

GOP chair says ads don’t attack

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — Election ads have been more strident than usual this year in a hotly contested race for Guilderland Town Board.

Although enrolled voters in Guilderland are divided roughly in thirds — Republicans, Democrats, and small-party or un-enrolled voters — the Democrats have dominated the board in recent years. Four years ago, two Republicans won seats in an upset victory, but neither is seeking re-election.

So four candidates are making their first run for town board — Allen Maikels and Brian Forte on the Democratic line, and Michele Coons and Peter Hubbard on the GOP line. (For candidate profiles, go to www.altamontenterprise.com online, under archives, for the week of Oct. 13, 2011.)

The Republicans have sent out fliers and placed ads in The Enterprise criticizing Maikels for voting, as a member of the county legislature, on budgets that raised taxes, and citing Forte’s “taxpayer funded” salary as a Guilderland police officer for nearly 30 years.

“They’re trying to get you to vote against someone, but not giving qualities as to why you should vote for their candidates,” said Guilderland resident Jerry Houser. Houser is running a paid advertisement in this week’s Enterprise, in response to an advertisement run last week, paid for by the Guilderland Republican Committee.

The Republican Committee’s advertisement featured Maikels, surrounded by bats. It read, “Here is a scary thought for Halloween…Allen Maikels is running for town board.” It referenced the years that Maikels served on the county legislature, and asserted that the Democrat had voted to increase property taxes by 37 percent over a period of two years.

“Stop Maikels from treating himself to your tax dollars,” the ad concluded.

Matthew Nelligan, the chairman of the Guilderland Republican Party, said he thought the ad had a “good, funny edge to it.”

“I think it’s important that people know the past records of people running for public office,” Nelligan told The Enterprise this week.

Maikels, however, said the Republican Committee chose to ignore other pertinent aspects of his record.

“They did not mention the two previous budgetary years, when I voted to cut taxes,” said Maikels.

Houser, an enrolled Democrat, has written letters to the Enterprise editor on a variety of local issues. He coordinates Guilderland’s community gardens, for which he receives a stipend of $2,600, most or all of which he said he spends on the gardens.

Houser’s ad, a cartoon of a couple reading and commenting on The Enterprise, features a woman saying, “I thought that new young Republican Party leader was calling for an end to the political bickering.”

Nelligan, the party leader in question, said there is no bickering.

“We’re not bickering, we’re presenting the facts. No one is disputing the figures we put forth in the ad, and no one is coming forward saying a loss of eight jobs is a positive thing,” said Nelligan. The loss of eight jobs is in reference to an ad run by the Guilderland Republican Committee this week, demanding accountability from the town’s Industrial Development Agency.

The Enterprise broke the story in July, after the state comptroller released an audit on local IDAs, which showed that, as of 2009, eight jobs had been lost in Guilderland, rather than the estimated 40 jobs that should have been gained through IDA projects. The IDA had received $21 million for three projects, which should have created the jobs, as of 2009.

“Clearly the Democrats run the town, and the people who serve on the agency board were appointed by the town; it is kind of hard to say it’s not par for the course for the Democrats,” Nelligan said.

“The IDA is made up of all political parties, and in some respects, the performance of the IDA is tied in with the performance of the economy,” responded Maikels through The Enterprise. He echoed Houser’s sentiment, that the Republican Committee is not putting forth the positive qualities of its own candidates.

“They’re not touting their candidates credentials as much as they are focusing on attacking their competition,” Maikels said. “They’re going negative because they don’t have anything positive to sell.”

“I thought the ad last week did not advertise the qualities of their candidates…I think it’s important to put your candidates qualities forward,” said Houser.

Nelligan maintained that it is equally important for voters to know about the candidates’ pasts.

“The best way to predict people’s future behavior is to look at past behavior,” said Nelligan. In a flier distributed to town residents, the Guilderland Republican Committee stated Forte’s salary as a Guilderland Police officer, and said Forte would retire and collect a full pension along with a town board salary. It also said that, as a former union “boss” — he was president of Guilderland’s Police Benevolent Association — Forte would not be able to vote on police personnel matters.

“It’s not a negative commentary on what the police make — it’s about Brian Forte. It’s not about any wider issue, it’s one particular person and situation,” said Nelligan. “He collected an awful lot of taxpayer money last year.”

Forte could not be reached for comment.

Nelligan himself has had jobs funded by the public — formerly as a Guilderland teacher and now working for the State Senate. 

Nelligan said Houser’s ad, and the responses from Maikels, show that the Democrats did not want the Republicans to raise specific issues.

“Political attacks are on individuals and we’re not doing that; this is about the issues,” said Nelligan.

Maikels, however, said he thinks his public record is a positive attribute to his candidacy.

“I’ve got a record of working with people in the public and private sector, and apparently that has them concerned,” said Maikels.

Houser said he was disappointed that the Republican Committee chose to put an inflammatory ad in the newspaper at the last minute, when candidates would have no time to respond. (The Enterprise does not run election letters the week before a vote in order to allow for corrections.)

“Apparently when it comes to election time, anything goes,” said Houser.

“We’ve got an obligation to the voter,” Nelligan concluded. “Elections are about trying to get your message out and make sure it’s received by constituents; I think we’ve been successful in those facets.

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