Schenectady County

Rhinesmith pays for failed coup

Kelly Rhinesmith is about to pay the price for a failed insurgency.

Kelly Rhinesmith is about to pay the price for a failed insurgency.

Rhinesmith, leader of an unsuccessful effort to take over the Schenectady County Conservative Committee, will lose her position on the committee’s executive board, the chairman said Wednesday.

There is further fallout from her failed attempt to gain a majority of committee seats. The primary challenge has led to a split between the committee leadership and the regional leadership of the Republican Party.

County Conservative Party Chairman Randy Pascarella said Rhinesmith will not be reappointed as recording secretary to the executive board during the reorganization meeting later this month.

“The board is dissolved. As for Kelly, I don’t even have to comment on that,” Pascarella said.

Rhinesmith did not return a phone call for comment; she said previously that she thinks The Daily Gazette is biased against her.

Pascarella said he will remain chairman but was unable to say who the other officers would be.

“We are not sure yet. The current administration hasn’t met to discuss changes to the new administration,” he said.

The Rhinesmith faction came close to its goal, capturing 90 seats; it needed slightly more than 100 for a majority. The Pascarella group retained control with 110 seats. All results were unofficial Wednesday.

Had they gained control, they would have ousted Pascarella and the other executive board members. The Rhinesmith faction claims that the executive board is controlled by police unions and by the Schenectady County Democratic Committee and that it endorsed candidates who do not share Conservative values.

The current board consists of David F. Battaglia, vice chairman of legislative District 4; Michael Della Rocco Jr., a retired fire lieutenant and party vice chairman of the city; Peter Rakvica, president of AFSCME Local 1130, which represents 28 workers in the Niskayuna highway and parks departments, and party vice chairman in Niskayuna; and Mark LaViolette, a detective with the Schenectady Police Department and vice chairman of the party in Glenville.

Robert Hamilton is Conservative Party club president. He also is president of the Schenectady Police Benevolent Association.


Pascarella also said the executive board remains at odds with Schenectady County Republican Committee Chairman Tom Buchanan and Bill Sherman, chief of staff for Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Schenectady.

“There are certain Republicans we will not talk to, but we have relationships with the Republicans,” he said.

The committee will not blacklist Republicans, Pascarella said. “If we interview a good Republican and he is the right guy, we will do that. We will still endorse the right candidate in our views,” he said.

Pascarella blasted Buchanan and Sherman, saying they attempted to take over the county Conservative Party. He contended that Republicans at the county and state level paid for a high-priced attorney during a court challenge over designating petitions and paid for literature and mailings sent to county Conservatives.

In addition, Pascarella said Republicans, led by Buchanan and Sherman, spent several hours Monday delivering literature throughout the county to support the Rhinesmith faction’s committee choices. He said Rotterdam Town Board member John Mertz and Michael Cuevas, counsel for Assembly Republicans and a candidate for mayor of Schenectady last year, participated also.

The Rhinesmith faction said they used their own money for the court case and mailings. Also, Sherman said he and the other Republicans helped Rhinesmith Monday at the faction’s request. Around 30 Conservatives allied with Rhinesmith assisted in the canvassing effort, he said.

Sherman said Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco’s office was not directly involved in helping Rhinesmith.

“I volunteered my time and took time off from my job. The same applies to everyone else,” he said.

Sherman said he witnessed Democrats supporting Pascarella’s committee choices during canvassing efforts prior to the primary. He cited Chris Gardner, former Democratic Committee chairman and current county attorney, as being involved. He said Gardner was distributing literature containing Pascarella’s name, the name of Martin Finn, a Democratic incumbent in District 3 of the county Legislature, and two pro-Pascarella committee members.

Gardner denied working on behalf of Pascarella. He said he was helping with the 21st Congressional District campaign of Paul Tonko.

Schenectady County Democratic Committee Chairman Brian Quail said Gardner was working on behalf of Finn, who was facing an opportunity to ballot challenge for the Conservative line.

Sherman, nonetheless, said he was pleased the faction came “just 10 seats short of our ultimate goal. This is the first chapter in a long novel, so I think there is more to the story to write.”

The goal now is to work for compromise between the Rhinesmith faction and the current leadership, Sherman said.

“The current party leadership can’t disregard what happened during Tuesday’s primary. It is a message that there is a need for compromise on the committee.”

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