Democrats snubbed City Court Judge Mark Blanchfield’s run for state Supreme Court justice in the 11-county 4th Judicial District, despite him appearing to be a favored candidate for the nomination last summer.
Blanchfield failed to land crucial votes from Schenectady County and Saratoga County — two counties previously endorsing him — leaving him far short of the necessary votes for the nomination during the district’s convention on Saturday. Instead, the party endorsed Schenectady County Family Court Judge Mark Powers, who initially appeared to be the odd man out in a field of four judges seeking candidacies for state Supreme Court. Powers joins Chestertown attorney John Silvestri, Saratoga Springs City Court Judge Jeff Wait, and Schenectady County Family Court Judge Christine Clark in the running for the four judicial posts.
Republican committee members are expected to endorse Montgomery County Court Judge Felix Catena, state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Sise in Montgomery County, Tom Buchanan, a private attorney who lives in Rotterdam, and John Ellis, a Family Court support magistrate who presides in Saratoga Springs.
Powers secured more than 50 votes during the convention. This stood in stark contrast to the 23 votes Blanchfield accrued for the nomination and came as a surprise to some of his supporters, as the candidate was ramping up his campaign for the seat.
“I think he would have been an excellent choice,” said Edmund Jasewicz, chairman of the Fulton County Democrats, who momentarily nominated Sise in protest after Blanchfield lost his bid. “It’s just that two counties controlled the whole process.”
The snub also came on the same evening Blanchfield intended to seek the Working Families Party line. The party had scheduled its own convention Saturday, but cancelled it once Blanchfield failed to win a spot on the Democratic ticket.
Blanchfield announced to his followers he would abandon his campaign Monday. In a statement posted online, he indicated that he looks forward to continuing as a city judge and lamented the selection process.
“The outcome might have been different if voters had the opportunity to vote in an open primary — as they are allowed to do in almost every other election — but New York Election Law requires state Supreme Court candidates to be chosen through the convention process,” he wrote. “Of course, I am disappointed in the convention’s decision, but I thank the delegates for their service.”
Committee members attending the convention said there was no floor debate before Blanchfield’s nomination was put to a role call vote. Montgomery County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Bethany Schumann-McGhee said she supported him, but couldn’t speak for the rest of the convention.
“[The Working Families Party nomination] was not a concern of mine,” she said.
Brian Quail, chairman of the Schenectady County Democratic Committee, declined to discuss the reasons behind the apparent change in support for Blanchfield. He said the results of the convention voting can sometimes seem surprising when taken into context among the support candidates receive from the individual committees.
“Sometimes the results of the process can be surprising,” he said Tuesday. “And sometimes the party chooses to go in a different direction than was expected.”
Quail said Blanchfield seeking the Working Families Party nomination was immaterial. He acknowledged the party’s decision to go another route was a tough one, considering that Blanchfield had already started campaigning throughout the district.
“The party went through a process and made a decision,” he said, “Now we’re moving forward.”
Saratoga County Democratic Committee Chairman Todd Kerner said Blanchfield failed to garner support in other counties, as well. He acknowledged there were some questions raised about his candidacy in the run-up to the convention, but declined to elaborate.
“There were some various issues that I’m not going to comment on,” he said. “At the end of the day, we have four great candidates.”