City Court Judge John Clo is working with Democrats in the city and county to broaden his appeal as he seeks to retain the judgeship in the Nov. 6 general election.
Clo is a Republican who lost the Republican and the Conservative primaries to Traci DiMezza in September by a combined 117 votes. He has remained in the race on an independent ballot line called Truth and Honor.
Ed Jasewicz, chairman of the Fulton County Democratic Committee, said Clo approached his county committee after the primary. “He has asked for party support and we have told him we would help as best we can,” he said. The party can’t officially endorse Clo because he has no Democratic line on the ballot.
By working with the Democrats and reaching out to non-affiliated voters in the city, Clo can tap a further 2,444 and 1,298 registered voters, respectively, said Mayor Dayton King.
Republicans number 3,141 in the city. The other parties in play are Conservatives, whose members number 81; the Working Families Party, with 62 members; and the Independence Party, with 371 members.
King appointed Clo to the bench in December following Vincent DeSantis’ retirement. King also interviewed DiMezza and Matthew Trainor for the spot and said Clo was the best fit. Trainor dropped out the race after losing in the September primaries.
King said he won his election as mayor three years ago using a similar approach. “All those people who voted for John in the primary will vote for him in November. If John can get out to all those people who did not vote in the primary, he can get a lot of people to vote for him,” he said.
Clo was not available for comment. There are no Democratic candidates in the race for the judgeship, which carries a 10-year term and pays $127,400 annually.
The alliance between Democrats and Clo came to light recently when the Gloversville Democratic Committee announced it was sponsoring a candidates’ forum for the position of City Court judge. Committee Chairwoman Robin Wentworth asked both Clo and DiMezza to appear, but only Clo said he would.
The forum is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 25 at City Hall. Pat Beck, publisher of The Leader-Herald, will serve as moderator.
DiMezza said she cannot attend, citing a conflict that night. She said that even without the conflict, she most likely would not have attended, saying the format is biased. “It is essential that the forum is impartial. There should be an independent moderator. With all due respect to Pat Beck, I would not consider her to be an independent moderator,” she said.
DiMezza cited The Leader-Herald’s editorial endorsement of Clo prior to the September primary. Beck is a member of the newspaper’s editorial board.
“I would choose someone not associated with the paper that endorsed John Clo to be the moderator,” DiMezza said.
Beck was not available for comment Tuesday.
DiMezza also said Wentworth supports Clo. “I feel Robin is trying to put the weight of her chairmanship behind Clo’s candidacy. It has the appearance of the party’s support,” she said.
Wentworth said the city Democratic Committee is not officially supporting Clo in the race, but that she is personally supporting him. She has donated to his campaign and had worked with him when he was city attorney. She currently is a city councilwoman.
She said the committee is sponsoring the forum “because no one else has conducted a candidate’s forum, not even the Republicans.” She also said the forum has nothing to do with Democrat or Republican politics, “but has to do with a position that is extremely important to the city. Be as it may, there are only Republicans for the position.”
Jasewicz also echoed Wentworth’s position that Democrats are sponsoring the forum because the position of City Court judge is non-partisan and is “for all the people of Gloversville.” He added the party has sponsored forums in the past where “we had candidates from other parties” attend.
Wentworth denied the forum would be biased. She said the questions that will be asked of the candidates are those used in similar forums as developed by the non-partisan League of Women Voters. She said there will be no questions related to the candidates’ pasts or which would be otherwise inappropriate.
“It will be similar to a job interview. The forum will be a forum. It will not be a debate,” Wentworth said. “You would not hire a person without knowing their qualifications. This gives both candidates a chance to answer those questions and put them out there for people.”
Wentworth disagreed with DiMezza’s decision to forego the forum. “It is unfortunate that someone running for a judicial position that has a 10-year term feels she should not have to answer questions about her qualifications that are important for voters to be aware of,” she said.
DiMezza’s response is that she has participated in six public forums and attended at least a dozen appearances where she outlined her qualifications. “I have knocked on close to 800 doors in the city and answered questions at those doors and met a thousand residents, and I have participated in ‘Talk of the Town’ [on radio station AM 1340 WENT]. I have a website, an email address and I encourage people to contact me all the time with comments and questions,” she said.
DiMezza also said she would love to appear with Clo in a forum, but in a forum where the candidates had direct input into the format. “I have no problem appearing with John Clo. I enjoy appearing with John Clo because it shows the stark differences between us. That is important for people to see,” she said.