There’s a divisive fight going on among Saratoga County Republicans, with two longtime party stalwarts pitted against each other.
You think I mean Roy McDonald and Kathy Marchione? Noooo. While the combination of McDonald, Marchione and gay marriage make for a combustible spectacle that has gotten statewide and even national attention, the race for McDonald’s state Senate seat isn’t the only game in town — perhaps not even the most important.
The other race, which looks just as hard to predict, is the two-person contest to replace John “Jasper” Nolan as chairman of the county Republicans.
Former County Treasurer Chris Callaghan of Waterford is in the running and so is John Herrick of Saratoga Springs. The decision will come down to a county committee meeting Sept. 29 at the Saratoga-Wilton Elks Lodge. Both men have been picking up backing from local GOP committees, and some of the bigger committees have split.
Herrick this week got the endorsement of the Milton Republican Committee, which represents the fourth-largest town in the county. He also has support from the committees in Malta, Moreau and the town of Saratoga.
“They both have excellent credentials,” said Milton Republican Chairman John Romano. “In my mind, I just felt John was the better candidate.”
The Saratoga Springs GOP split down the middle, even though Herrick is a former chairman of that committee.
On Wednesday, Clifton Park’s committee split, but it will give slightly more of its votes — 53 percent — to Callaghan.
The Halfmoon Republican Committee, meanwhile, doesn’t plan to discuss the race until the final results between McDonald and Marchione — a former Halfmoon town supervisor and town clerk — are known.
Callaghan has been backed by the committees in Charlton, Corinth, Day, Edinburg, Hadley, Galway and Waterford. Small towns, all … the big towns carry a lot more weight in the voting.
“This is becoming a lot more contentious than I thought it would be,” Nolan said Thursday. He’s officially neutral, but clearly favors Callaghan.
This public sorting out of party leadership is new ground for nearly everyone involved, since Nolan has chaired the Saratoga County Republicans — arguably the most successful political organization in the Capital Region — for nearly three decades. (There have been occasional revolts against Nolan from the southern part of the county in recent years, and heads have rolled, but somehow the head that rolled was never his.)
Despite what you might think, Nolan, 77, is leaving voluntarily. The Mechanicville native, who lives in Saratoga Springs, announced in July he wouldn’t seek another two-year term. He’s currently — by far — the longest-tenured major-party chairman in the region.
Like Marchione and McDonald, both Herrick and Callaghan have deep roots in the rather small garden where Spa County politicians play.
Callaghan is a former county treasurer whose biggest claim to fame is having run for state comptroller against Alan Hevesi in 2006. While he lost decisively, Callaghan exposed the fact that Hevesi had his wife chauffeured in a state vehicle — the kernel of scandal that led to a felony guilty plea and Hevesi’s resignation within weeks of his re-election, before he could even start his new term.
But Herrick is no slouch, with 35 years of involvement in local politics. He’s chaired both the Stillwater and Saratoga Springs Republican committees, is a former mayor of the village of Stillwater and is a former Saratoga County personnel director.
Both are centrists, within the margins of Republican thinking at this level, which is broader than you might think given how national Republicans behave. Neither is going to shake up the small-government philosophy local Republicans have always espoused.
“There’s no losers. Both of these men are capable of doing the job,” said Malta Republican Chairman Ted Willette.