The Schenectady County Republican Party needs to get its house in order as soon as possible, especially in a year of three key state races, GOP officials said.
The party is in free-fall after losing control of Rotterdam supervisor position and seats on the Town Board, a key stronghold, during the November election and from the New Year’s Eve defection of Republican Angelo Santabarbara of Rotterdam to the Democratic Party.
Santabarbara’s switch leaves just two Republicans on the 15-seat Schenectady County Legislature: James Buhrmaster and Robert Farley, both of Glenville.
Buhrmaster said Republicans are struggling in Schenectady County. “We have to sit down and decide where we want to go,” he said.
The Schenectady County Republican Party’s executive committee plans to hold a strategy meeting this week to evaluate its options, said Chairman Tom Buchanan. “Priority number one is how we will deal with the threat in the western portion of the district,” he said, referring to the No New Tax Party.
Buchanan said, “Our options are allowing the No New Tax Party to run the Republican Party, shutting them out or picking something in between. All options are on the table.”
Said Buchanan, “Any no tax, low tax group that can garnish 17 percent to 18 percent of vote has a place at the table.”
Brian McGarry, who helped form the No New Tax Party last year, said he was heartened to hear of Buchanan’s olive branch. “If we can match energies, we are unbeatable. This could be a threshold moment for the Republican Party. The path to victory is with the Republican Party. We are looking to work with them.”
Brad Littlefield, another No New Tax Party organizer, said he would welcome a shift in the Republican Party toward embracing the party’s fiscally conservative wing, as represented by the No New Tax Party.
“If we saw such a shift, it would eliminate the necessity for independent challenges,” Littlefield said.
McGarry and Littlefield said people remain interested in the No New Tax Party and want to run under its banner this year or in 2011. The No New Tax Party existed only for the November election. Organizers have to collect between 700 and 1,000 signatures each year to reactivate the party for each election.
The No New Tax Party formed in August to field candidates for Rotterdam seats and for a seat in District 4 of the county Legislature, which comprises Rotterdam, Duanesburg and Princetown.
The party’s candidates pledged to vote against any new taxes. It was particularly vocal against a proposal by Rotterdam Republicans to form a special taxing district to assist the Rotterdam Emergency Medical Services. Town Republicans later decided to put the matter to public referendum, helping to deflect the new party’s platform.
While none of the No New Tax Party candidates won in November, they attracted more than 17 percent of the vote in local Rotterdam races. Buchanan said the new party siphoned votes away from Republicans and helped Democrats to win in the town.
Buhrmaster said the No New Tax Party has split the GOP in Rotterdam, causing infighting that threatens to hurt the party as it prepares for key races for state Senate and the Assembly, all of which are currently controlled by Republicans. The seats belong to Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, of the 44th Senate District; Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville, of the 110th Assembly District; and George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, of the 105th Assembly District.
“Rotterdam right now is terribly messed up, and they have to decide who is who and where it is going,” Buhrmaster said.
Democrats contested Amedore’s seat twice before; the seat belonged to a Democrat for nearly 25 years. Farley and Tedisco have faced token challenges at best.
Some Republicans view Santabarbara’s switch to Democrat as a bid to run for Amedore’s Assembly seat. “He is looking for other places to go, he is not going to stay a county legislator,” Buhrmaster said.
Santabarbara said he did not change parties to run for the Assembly.
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