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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 10, 2011

Highway Super Oliver the only elected Republican
Dems take back Guilderland Town Board

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — After four years, the Democrats once again have complete control of the town board.

Brian Forte and Allen Maikels beat out Republicans Peter Hubbard and Michele Coons for two spots on the town board, according to preliminary results from the Albany County Board of Elections. They join Democratic council members Paul Pastore and Patricia Slavick, and Democratic Supervisor Kenneth Runion, who ran unopposed for his seventh two-year term.

Incumbent Democratic judge John Bailey also prevailed, garnering more than twice the number of votes his Republican opponent Howard Koff received.

“Oh my God! Hallelujah!” proclaimed Democrat Rosemary Centi, who was unopposed for town clerk, as the town’s Democratic Chairman, David Bosworth, read off the preliminary election results. She threw her arms up in the air and stomped her feet in glee. In her speech, she said she was glad to see the “dissension” of the last four years come to an end.

Her reference was to the presence of Republican councilmen Mark Grimm and Warren Redlich on the town board beginning in 2008, who ousted Bosworth from his board seat. The two Republicans were often at odds with the Democratic supervisor. Redlich moved out of state and resigned his spot on the board, and Grimm did not run for re-election.

The GOP controlled the town for over 150 years, but lost ground to the Democrats in the 1990s. It was an upset when Grimm and Redlich won seats in 2007.

“I’m happy that we have returned to a five-zero board,” said Runion on Tuesday night.

One Republican did manage a victory in the election — Steven Oliver received almost double the number of votes of his Democratic opponent, Charles Cahill, for highway superintendent. Oliver has been deputy highway superintendent since January, when his predecessor, Todd Gifford, also a Republican, retired.

Some of the races were closer than others. Forte had a decisive victory for his spot on the town board, with 32 percent of the votes, but Maikels and Coons were separated by a small margin of roughly 1.5 percent.

“I’ve come in second in a lot of races,” said Maikels, a runner. “But in this race, I’m more than happy to come in second.”

Guilderland Republican Committee Chairman Matthew Nelligan called the election “bittersweet.”

“I was very happy to see Oliver win so handily, and I think the highway department is the most visible aspect of town government,” Nelligan told The Enterprise yesterday.

“I’m not worried about working with a Democratic board at all,” said Oliver, as the only elected Republican in town. “I’m friends with most of them.” He said overall, he just wants to “get the job done.”

Some last-minute negative campaign literature sent by the Democrats featured Cahill as a manager and took a quotation from Oliver in an Enterprise interview out of context to make it look as though he had no management experience. But Oliver seemed unfazed by the jab.

“The campaign was a lot of work, but I met a lot of wonderful people; I’m just relieved to have won,” Oliver said. 

Nelligan said he actually thinks the absence of a Republican on the town board will work in the party’s favor during the next election.

“I think residents will be able to see what it’s like to have a blank check on the board and it will serve us well going forward,” said Nelligan.

The town’s GOP chairman admitted that he was disappointed, but said he felt his candidates had run a good campaign, as evidenced by the close race between Maikels and Coons.

“We’re the underdogs, since there are roughly 2,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in town,” Nelligan said.

Bosworth said the election results proved that the town was “solidly Democrat.”

“This is a very difficult economy, and everyone is concerned with taxes; even with those concerns, the turnout for voting was huge, and I think it shows that people are confident in the Democrats,” said Bosworth on Tuesday night.

A big focal point for all of the Democratic candidates, particularly during their victory speeches, was having run a positive campaign, and ignoring the negativity of their challengers.

The Republican campaign featured several mailers and print ads that some characterized as attacks but Nelligan said were fact-based.

Forte said he would have liked to respond to Nelligan’s campaign literature assertion that he would be collecting too much taxpayer money between his pension as a retired police officer, and a town board salary, as well as the idea that he would be unable to participate in discussions about the police department as a former union president.

“It’s over now; I won, he lost,” Forte quipped. Maikels said he thought he and Forte had fared well because they were running on their records; Maikels as a former county legislator, and Forte as a member of the Guilderland Police Department for nearly 30 years.

“This is a great town, people love living here,” Maikels said. “Now we just need to improve it a little and fill in some spaces on Western Avenue.”

“It was a long campaign, and we worked hard to spread a positive message,” Bosworth concluded. “People responded to that positive message.”

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