Schenectady County

Schenectady County GOP struggling to sign up candidates

In a county dominated by Democratic voters, finding Republicans to run for the Schenectady County Le

In a county dominated by Democratic voters, finding Republicans to run for the Schenectady County Legislature is an uphill battle, especially when Republicans with an interest in public service keep jumping ship.

“Boy, have we seen that happen,” said Jim Buhrmaster, chairman of the Schenectady County Republican Committee and the Legislature’s Republican minority leader.

The committee met Saturday and endorsed candidates for five of eight open seats on the Legislature. On Sunday, county Democrats endorsed candidates for all eight seats and had to turn some people away, said Joe Landry, chairman of the Schenectady County Democratic Committee.

“We’re hoping that we do very well, and we think each candidate is capable of winning,” said Landry, who is also Niskayuna town supervisor. “We’re giving a very good choice to the electorate with our candidates.”

Among the Democrats’ endorsements are Richard Patierne, who ran for Legislature in 2011 and 2012 as a Republican and lost both times, and Nancy Casso, a former Conservative Party member and president of the Rotterdam Emergency Medical Services Board of Directors. It’s her first run for public office.

Patierne said he switched to the Democratic Party in August after being asked by Democratic Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy more than a year ago to chair his new Recreation Advisory Commission. He said his political ideals haven’t changed.

“I got working with all these people, and it just felt right,” said Patierne, 48. “I felt wanted, I felt like they appreciated what I had to offer, and I made the decision after talking with my family.”

He also said switching parties could strengthen his chances to win election this time around.

“I certainly hope so,” he said. “My main goal is to serve the people of Schenectady.”

Casso said she became a Democrat before last year’s election when she was considering running for either Rotterdam Town Board or county Legislature.

“My feeling is I want to do the right thing for the right reason, as opposed to being a Democrat, a Conservative, a Republican or independent,” she said.

She added,” “Having a major party line endorsement was important.”

In District 1, which covers the city of Schenectady, Republicans endorsed Mary Ann Ruscitto, a first-time candidate from the city’s Stockade neighborhood, to run for one of two open seats.

“We have a second one, but I can’t divulge it yet because it hasn’t been confirmed,” Buhrmaster said.

Democrats endorsed Patierne and Richard Ruzzo, a Democrat who was appointed by the Legislature in February to fill the seat vacated by Robert Hoffman after he became a Schenectady City Court judge. Democratic Legislator Michael Petta is vacating his seat to move to Florida by the end of the year.

In the other city district, District 2, Buhrmaster said previously interested candidates stepped aside, leaving none to endorse to run against Democratic incumbents Gary Hughes, the majority leader, and Jeff McDonald.

Buhrmaster received the endorsement to seek re-election in District 3, which covers Glenville, Scotia and Niskayuna, along with Jill Dunster, who lost a closely contested Scotia village trustee race in the fall.

Democrats endorsed incumbent Tom Constantine and Bill Levering, senior pastor at First Reformed Church in the Stockade, who also serves as vice president on the Schenectady County Community College Board of Trustees.

In District 4, which spans Duanesburg, Princetown and Rotterdam, Republicans endorsed Lisa Dufek of Rotterdam and incumbent Brian McGarry to run against Legislature Chairman Tony Jasenski and Casso.

Buhrmaster said the committee has until the end of June to file petitions.

“We would like to have a full slate, but you know how difficult that is,” he said.

He said that with the current slate, “our goal is just to gain another seat or two.” The Legislature has 10 Democrats, three Conservatives who caucus with the Democrats, and two Republicans.

“There isn’t any way that there’s going to be any major change in the Legislature,” he said.

As of November 2014, the county had 38,297 registered Democrats, 25,658 Republicans and 6,003 independent voters, according to the Board of Elections.

“By enrollment, we’re at a disadvantage, so finding candidates is that much more difficult,” Buhrmaster said.

The Schenectady City Republican Committee was able to find candidates to run there despite that disadvantage. They endorsed Roger Hull for mayor; Councilman Vince Riggi for re-election; and Michael Cuevas, who is also chairman of the city Republican Committee, Ann Rigley and Tom Verret to run for council.

The Schenectady City Democratic Committee endorsed McCarthy for re-election, council members Leesa Perazzo and Ed Kosiur for another term, and new council candidates John Polimeni and Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas.

Candidates began going door to door seeking petition signatures on Tuesday.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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