Bob Godlewski says he was snubbed by the Rotterdam Democratic Committee when it gave Steve Tommasone, the former Republican town supervisor, its endorsement to run for supervisor again.
Democratic Party leaders, however, say they had reason to believe Godlewski, a former Town Board member, wasn’t interested in the job.
Regardless, Godlewski says he’s running a primary challenge against Tommasone, who switched to the Independence Party last year.
“I’ve been a Democrat almost 50 years, I’ve put my time in, and I don’t even get a call?” said Godlewski, 68, who served on the Town Board for five years before losing the Democrats’ endorsement to run for re-election in 2013. “If they don’t want to endorse me, fine. But I have the right to primary.”
Godlewski is encouraging voters not to sign a petition with Tommasone’s name on it.
“Democrats should support Democrats,” he wrote in an unpublished letter to The Daily Gazette.
Schenectady County Democratic Chairman Joe Landry said he had heard Godlewski was seeking the Republicans’ endorsement. Recently elected Rotterdam Democratic Chairman Dan Garrow said it’s unfortunate that Godlewski feels disenfranchised “when that’s not really the case.”
“I had no clue that he was interested in running for office,” Garrow said. “I didn’t reach out to anybody. People come to me with interest in running, and then we set up a date.”
He also stood by the committee’s decision to endorse Tommasone, “a strong candidate” and one of three non-Democrats endorsed by the committee.
“A little diversity is good for the town,” he said.
Godlewski said he interviewed with the Republican committee, but only after hearing Tommasone would be the Democrats’ pick. He said Democrats made an assumption in not calling him.
“They [the town Republican committee] called me and I said ‘What the hell? I haven’t heard from anybody else,’ ” he said.
Tracy Donovan, the town Republican committee chairwoman, said she first met with Godlewski over coffee in March, and Godlewski was interviewed by the committee in late April. The Republicans gave their endorsement in early May to Yvonne Cleveland, a first-time candidate with nearly 30 years of experience working in the banking industry. Cleveland is a Conservative Party member.
“We didn’t have a candidate for supervisor, and I heard through the grapevine that he was interested, and I had called to see if he was interested,” Donovan said, adding that it’s not uncommon for the committee to reach out to potential candidates when the well is dry.
Godlewski criticized the Democrats for endorsing a former Republican whom they were “instrumental in throwing out of office almost five years ago.”
“It is hypocrisy at its greatest,” he said.
Tommasone served on the Town Board from 2003 to 2009, including four years as supervisor. He said he left the Republican Party to join the Independence Party last year because, at least in Rotterdam, “it’s not about party affiliation anymore. . . . I believe the Republicans have made the town government a mockery, and it doesn’t sit well with me.”
He said he didn’t switch parties with the intention of running for supervisor, but decided to seek the Democrats’ endorsement after being asked by residents who were fed up with the town government’s dysfunction to run again.
“It’s not because they’re blindly loyal to me, it’s because they remember how we were running the government,” he said.
The supervisor’s race is wide open because Democrat Harry Buffardi is not seeking re-election. Deputy Supervisor Wayne Calder, another Democrat, also declined another term, and a third seat on the Town Board has been open since October when Mike Viscusi, a Conservative who often voted with the Democrats, resigned.
Viscusi’s resignation left the board split politically and gave Republicans Joe Villano and Rick Larmour, who are not up for re-election, the power to vote down the Democratic leadership’s proposals.
The Republicans only need to win one of three open seats on the board to take back the majority. In addition to Cleveland, they endorsed Stanley Marchinkowski, a former president and chief negotiator for the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Benevolent Association, and Ryan DeBrino, who works for state Sen. Catherine Young, R-Olean, for Town Board.
The Democrats endorsed Evan Christou, a Conservative, and Samantha Miller-Herrera, a Democrat, to run for Town Board. Christou is president and CEO of Tops American Grill, Bakery and Bar and Miller-Herrera is a deputy county attorney who prosecutes neglect and abuse cases in Schenectady County Family Court.
To challenge Republican-endorsed Highway Superintendent Larry LaMora, the Democrats tapped Jim Longo, a Democrat who served as highway superintendent from 2003 to 2013 after starting a career in the department in 1975.
They endorsed Jim Bradshaw, a retired Schenectady police detective and a Conservative, to run for town justice, a seat being vacated by Democrat Kevin Mercoglan. Bradshaw will challenge the Republican-endorsed John Mertz, who is counsel to the state Assembly’s Minority Ways and Means Committee and previously served on the Town Board.