FULTON COUNTY — The Fulton County Republican Committee announced 45 candidates for county, town and city elections Friday, including District Attorney Chad Brown for county judge and surrogate and Scott Jeffers for city of Johnstown mayor.
Fulton County Republican Chairwoman Sue McNeil introduced the candidates at a rally in front of the county’s historic courthouse building in Johnstown. Despite frigid temperatures in the teens and nearly everyone in attendance wearing masks due to the coronavirus pandemic, the rally was well-attended by approximately 50 people, a good portion of whom were current or former elected officials.
“About 80 seats are up this year, and we will just make this one big unified team of Republican candidates,” McNeil said.
McNeil’s announcement comes amid a time when Republicans are attempting to prevent the party from fracturing amid national controversies such as the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, which led to a split among New York state’s eight Republican members of Congress. U.S. Rep. John Katko, R-24th Congressional District, joined Democrats in voting to impeach President Donald Trump for allegedly inciting the riot. The rest voted against it, including North Country Republican U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik. Stefanik was among the 139 House Republicans, three from New York, who voted to reject electors from two states won by President Biden in November.
No such split was evident Friday, however, in the Republican stronghold of Fulton County, where Republicans hold strong majorities on all elected councils, boards and hold all countywide elected offices. McNeil, who also serves as the New York State Republican Party’s vice chairwoman, joined city and town party leaders to announce 45 Republican candidates in total Friday, 32 of them incumbents. The first McNeil announced was District Attorney Chad Brown, who is running to fill the Fulton County judge and Surrogate Court seat, which will be open due to the recent retirement announcement of Judge Polly Hoye.
“Judge Hoye has been on the bench for the past two decades and will leave with the respect of judges and lawyers locally and throughout the Capital Region,” Brown said. “Following her is not something I take lightly, and, should I be elected as the next County Court judge and surrogate, I will work to continue what has been done by those who have come before me as I serve the people of Fulton County with fairness and justice.”
Brown began his career as a prosecutor in Fulton County working under Hoye when she was district attorney in 2001 and then under former district attorney and county Judge Louise Sira, who died in October.
If elected, Brown will follow in the footsteps of Hoye, Sira and current Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino, each of whom progressed from the job of district attorney to County Court judge.
Brown said when he was younger his “Grandpa Brown” always predicted he would become a judge and continued to say he would be one despite Brown’s “protestations” that his job was to be a prosecutor. Brown said his experience leading the District Attorney’s Office gives him the right background to serve as judge.
“I have handled well over 1,000 cases in County Court, prosecuting every type of crime and working on over 50 trials, over 30 of those I worked as the lead prosecutor,” he said. “I have presented over 400 matters to the grand jury, which is a role that requires the prosecutor to fill the role of the judge to ensure that evidence is properly submitted in accordance with the laws.”
The slate of candidates introduced by McNeil did not indicate an endorsement by her committee, as she introduced two candidates for county treasurer Cindy Albertine and Heather Scribner, who will face off in the Republican Party primary June 22.
Some of the candidates announced for city office in the cities of Johnstown and Gloversville showed an expansion of the Republican Party with former independents and Libertarian Party candidates announcing GOP primary candidacies.
City of Johnstown Republican Committee Chairman Craig Talerico, who also serves as councilman-at-large, announced Scott Jeffers will be running as a Republican candidate.
Jeffers, who works as a special education teacher for the Greater Johnstown School District, has a history of running for office in the city of Johnstown, sometimes against establishment Republican candidates.
He first ran for councilman-at-large in 2007 as an independent at the age of 23, but was defeated. Then he ran for mayor in 2013 at age 29 and lost to Democrat Michael Julius, who then died in office in 2016. During that time period he also served as Johnstown Republican Committee chairman and as a member of Johnstown’s elected Water Board from 2009 to 2019, when he was appointed to fill a vacancy in the 4th Ward Common Council seat, which he then lost in an election against current 4th Ward Councilman Max Spritzer, a Democrat.
Jeffers almost ran for councilman-at-large in 2016, but had to withdraw his petition or else face the threat of legal jeopardy from a Republican opponent who correctly challenged a flaw to his petition.
Jeffers said his past experience as both a party insider and outsider, as well as serving a former Water Board president, make him a strong candidate to fill the job of Johnstown’s mayor.
“I feel that the best way to give back to the city is through civic service,” Jeffers said. “I also feel that I have plenty of experience since I’ve served on city committees, the Water Board, and on the council.”
Incumbent Johnstown Mayor Vern Jackson, as well as incumbent City Treasurer Mike Gifford, both announced recently that they would not seek re-election. Talerico on Friday said the city Republican Committee has not yet found anyone to run for city treasurer, and two more members of the city Common Council aren’t running for re-election either: 2nd Ward Councilwoman Kathi Iannotti and Talerico himself.
“I am not running, at this point,” he said, indicating the committee does not have a councilman-at-large candidate yet.
Talerico said the Republican City Committee would like to find a qualified certified public accountant to run for city treasurer, but if they can’t, and nobody runs and wins the office, the Common Council can appoint someone to the job.
Talerico said Johnstown 3rd Ward Supervisor John “Jack” Callery, who is currently serving as chairman of the Fulton County Board of Supervisors, is running for re-election, as is 4th Ward Supervisor Michael Bowman and Johnstown 1st Ward Supervisor Jared Goderie.
Gloversville Republican Chairwoman Karen Smith did not attend the rally, but McNeil announced former Libertarian Party candidate for Gloversville mayor Dale “Hank” McGrath will be running for the 4th Ward Council seat, currently occupied by Republican Ellen Anadio.
“We need to change some of the blood,” McGrath said of his candidacy. “I have a different kind of politics. Our ward, in particular, and our neighboring wards have a lot of overdoses, and we’re such a small city we shouldn’t be having this problem, and it’s not because law enforcement isn’t doing their job, it’s because the design of municipal government isn’t really involved, and I’ll have direct involvement, if I’m in municipal government.”
Joe DiMatteo was announced as the Republican candidate challenging incumbent 1st Ward Councilwoman Marcia Weiss.
Gloversville Councilman-at-large William Rowback Jr. was in attendance at the rally. He said he has not yet decided whether he will run for mayor or run for re-election as councilman-at-large or whether he will decide not to run at all. He said he will likely make an announcement “within a few days.”
In January, the Common Council initiated a rare council-led investigation of Rowback pursuant to section C-24 of the Gloversville City Charter, which allows the council the power to conduct investigations into the affairs of any city department agency or office, subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony and gather evidence.
Incumbent Republican Gloversville city Supervisors Charlie Potter (4th Ward), John Blackmon (3rd Ward) and Warren Greene (6th Ward) are all running for re-election.