Two city Republicans are mounting write-in candidacies for the Independence Party nomination.
Mayoral hopeful Shauna Sutton and accounts commissioner candidate John Arpei are trying to wrestle the nominations of the Independence Party away from Democrats Joanne Yepsen and John Franck, respectively, who were endorsed by the party this spring. Because none of the candidates are enrolled in the Independence Party, they all sought a waiver to appear on the line, but it was granted only to Yepsen and Franck.
Franck is an incumbent and had the backing of the Independence Party in 2011.
In order to force their way onto the ballot, Sutton and Arpei filed opportunity to ballot petitions earlier this month, which will allow Independence Party voters to choose their candidates in the Sept. 10 primary.
The catch is that only Yepsen and Franck will appear on the primary ballot, along with blank spaces where voters can write in the name of another candidate.
Because Sutton feels Yepsen was backed by the top of Independence Party rather than its base, she said she believes her campaign for the nomination can be successful. One sign of hope, she highlighted, is the fact that it took her only five days to collect about 100 signatures, almost twice the required amount to mount her write-in candidacy.
Saratoga County Independence Party Chairman Ed Miller countered that the endorsements were the result of a committee process that involved local party members. He said that prior to making endorsements in the spring, the committee interviewed any candidate who wanted the party’s support.
Moving forward, he said the county Independence Party would rally behind Yepsen and Franck to ensure their hold on the party’s nomination.
“The reason why we will protect our candidates is we feel they are by far the best candidates to represent Saratoga Springs,” he said.
Because Arpei got into the race so late in the season, he missed the opportunity to interview for the Independence Party endorsement. He said mounting a write-in candidacy “will give members of the Independence Party a chance to consider my candidacy.”
Sutton said she will be actively targeting Independence Party voters to remind them there will be a primary.
Voters who do choose to write in a name don’t have to spell it exactly right, but they need to be pretty close in order for it to count.
Arpei acknowledged any write-in campaign is an uphill battle.
The Independence Party has mounted a legal challenge to the Sutton and Arpei petitions and has until Monday to file specific objections. Sutton is confident the signatures she collected will withstand legal scrutiny.
“I did my homework with those names,” she said.
Regardless of the fight for the Independence line, Yepsen and Franck will likely appear on the Democratic and Working Families lines in the general election and Sutton and Arpei will appear on the Republican and Conservative Party lines.
In 2011, Mayor Scott Johnson squeaked to re-election by a margin of roughly 300 votes, including 279 on the Independence Party line. Sutton said the line is important in a general election because both independent and Independence Party voters identify it as a legitimate third-party option.
There are currently about 20,000 registered voters in Saratoga Springs and 1,300 enrolled in the Independence Party.