Some of the Capital Region’s most high-profile races this fall could be settled Tuesday in party primaries.
The winners of Democratic primaries for Schenectady County Family Court Judge and Albany mayor and Republican primaries for mayor in Johnstown and Gloversville, sheriff in Saratoga County and town supervisor in Broadalbin and Oppenheim are the prohibitive favorites in their general election contests, as they will face no opposition or will have the benefit of an overwhelming enrollment advantage.
Republicans Jeff Gildersleeve and Michael Zurlo are both vying to be the top law man in Saratoga County, where Republican James Bowen has decided to hang up his star after more than four decades. Both candidates have pledged to modernize the department, but have agreed on little else.
Gildersleeve, 56, a former Marine who served 26 years in the state police and most recently worked for the Warren County Sheriff’s Department, has focused his campaign primarily on opposition to the state SAFE Act, a sweeping package of controversial gun-control measures ushered into law earlier this year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His opposition to the law, which he promises not to actively enforce, has netted him the endorsements of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association and former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino.
Zurlo, 59, a 32-year veteran of the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department who recently retired as Stillwater town justice, has more traditional Republican support, with the backing of the Saratoga County Republican Committee and local Republican state legislators. He has downplayed the importance of the SAFE Act in the race, instead focusing a lot of his campaigning on the creation of a teen advisory council, which is part of his youth outreach effort.
Gildersleeve has his own ideas about youth outreach, promising to bring back the cancelled DARE program if he is elected.
The winner will face off against Conservative Phil Lindsey, who was also nominated by the Democratic Party, and independent candidate Jason Longton. If Zurlo loses the Republican primary, he will still be an option in November, as his name will appear on the Independence Party line.
It’s a crowded field of Republicans in the Glove Cities vying to be mayor, with three-way primaries scheduled in Gloversville and Johnstown.
In Gloversville, incumbent Mayor Dayton King, endorsed Republican Michael Ponticello and James E. Handy are squaring off. Complicating the race, where this is no Democratic candidate, is a side battle for the Conservative line between King and Handy.
This internal battle is not new in Gloversville, where there was a Republican primary in 2009, which King lost before going on to win the general election.
In Johnstown, where the current mayor, Sarah Slingerland, is retiring, Scott Jeffers, Helen Martin and Larry Razzano want the party’s nomination to go against Democrat Michael Julius in November. The Republican enrollment advantage in the city is almost two to one over Democrats.
Fulton County also has Republican primaries for supervisor of Northampton, Oppenheim and Broadalbin, with incumbents challenged in each race, and for town board in Caroga, Johnstown, Mayfield, Broadalbin and Northhampton.
It’s possible to look at the intra-party challenges as a sign of division, especially with incumbents fighting for their jobs, but Fulton County Republican Chairwoman Susan McNeil argued the large number of primaries are born out of an increased level of interest people have in becoming public servants.
“I think more people are getting involved,” she said.
In races where this is a primary, the local party is expected to rally around the candidate who emerges victorious, even if another candidate was endorsed.
That’s likely the case in the city of Albany, where city Treasurer Kathy Sheehan or former Albany Common Council member Corey Ellis will likely cruise to a mayoral victory in November if they win the Democratic primary.
One race where wounds might not heal so easily is in Montgomery County, where Republican Thomas Quackenbush, Minden town supervisor, and Republican Brian Sweet, Palatine town supervisor, are both vying to represent their party and the Conservative Party in the second district of the reconstituted county Legislature.
There is also the potential for multiple contests between Jill Polk, a senior attorney for the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, and Kevin Burke, the chief prosecutor of abuse and neglect cases for the county’s Department of Social Services, who will square off in the Democratic and Working Families primaries to become Schenectady County Family Court’s next judge. There are no Republican challengers, but Polk could win both primaries Tuesday and still have to face Burke in November, as he has the Conservative and Independence lines.
On the other side of the political aisle are challenges in Duanesburg, where the town Republican Party’s endorsed candidates, Roger Tidball for town supervisor and Charles Leoni and Randy Passonno for two Town Board spots, are facing off against William Park for supervisor and Daniel Houlihan and Laurie Meyer for Town Board. They are also all competing for the Conservative Party line.
Other notable races include:
• Malta supervisor: Peter Klotz will challenge incumbent Paul Sausville for the Republican line. Klotz is also vying for the Conservative line, although voters can write in another candidate.
• Mohawk town supervisor: Edward Bishop and James Hoffman are vying for Republican line.
• Schenectady County Legislature, District 3 (Glenville and Niskayuna): Rory L. Fluman, Martin S. Finn, Cathy A. Gatta and Nicholas J. Gerace are competing for three spots on the Independence line.
• Wilton Town Board: Republicans John McEachron, Robert Rice and Scott Kingsley are competing for two Republican spots in November.
• Saratoga Springs mayor: Republican Shauna Sutton has mounted a write-in bid against the endorsed Democrat, Joanne Yepsen, for the Independence line.
• Saratoga Springs accounts commissioner: Republican John Arpei has mounted a write-in bid against the endorsed Democrat, John Franck, for the Independence line.
• Republican State Committee 113th Assembly District: Voters will choose between Robert Arrigo and Theodore Kusnierz or Shirley Needham and Elaine Gerber.
Because of New York’s elections laws, voters can only participate in a primary for a party they’re registered with. Voters who aren’t affiliated with any party can’t vote at all on primary day.