BALLSTON SPA — Village leaders are hoping to take some of the nastiness out of the March village elections by taking political parties out of the process.
Ballston Spa Mayor Larry Woolbright said the local Republican and Democratic parties have agreed to let the March 16 village election be a non-partisan contest, with neither party endorsing candidates.
That means neither party will need to hold a caucus in January to select candidates for two village trustee seats and a village judgeship — but Woolbright said he wanted to change the village election system since before concerns about spreading COVID-19 made activities like party caucuses problematic.
“I felt that in the last several village elections, the nastiness and craziness of national elections has been seeping its way down to the local level,” said Woolbright, a registered Republican who was cross-endorsed by village Democrats when he ran for mayor two years ago. “National politics should not be part of village elections, they have nothing to do with national politics.”
Currently, Woolbright, who is in his first four-year term, is the only Republican on the Village Board, serving with four Democratic village trustees. Incumbent Noah Shaw isn’t seeking re-election to another four-year term, while Trustee Shawn Raymond is running again. Village Justice Michael Morrissey is seeking re-election.
Under state law, most village elections are held on the third Tuesday in March. This year, that’s March 16.
Other villages in Saratoga County hold non-partisan elections in which candidates circulate their own nominating petitions and run without parties backing them, but Ballston Spa — by far the county’s largest village, with about 5,600 residents — has been an exception.
Woolbright thinks a change in how the village’s elections are run would be beneficial, though he acknowledges it won’t remove all of the “nastiness” from electioneering. “The issues at the village level are about snowplowing and street paving, things that have nothing to do with national politics,” he said.
Ballston Spa Village Democratic Chairwoman Ellie Dillon said she supports the idea.
“Village elections can be rather contentious and I feel the two party system had brought out a negative element,” she said. “It’s our hope that when politics are not involved people who come out who really want to work for the village. The village is a small entity and I feel the best candidates will come forward if they’re not tied to a political party.”
“I think that’s a good approach,” said former mayor John P. Romano, who has run past Republican village caucuses but is now retired from politics. “Take the national politics out of it. You’ll get people to run for office who really care about the village.”
Candidates must be village residents, registered voters, and at least 18 years old. Woolbright said Friday he’s aware of five people circulating petitions to run for trustee, but none has filed a petition yet. The filing deadline is Tuesday, Feb. 9.
Despite the elections being run as non-partisan, Woolbright said he expects the village trustee races to be contested.