May 15 Meeting

Last night’s meeting was well attended by members, guests, candidates…and insects. I think our next meeting will be indoors!

Stephanie DeZalia Republican and Independent candidate for Essex County Clerk, and current North Hudson Town Supervisor, led off the meeting. She outlined her years of county clerk’s office experience in every office position including permits, title searching, and supreme court case scheduling. She brings a solid knowledge of how the office operates and where to make improvements. An example is the outsourcing of title searches, which has cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars since 2016. Stephanie thinks that can be assumed by the clerk’s office again. Another involves facilitating business licenses and partnering with other agencies, such as ANCA, which could provide small businesses with resources as they get started.

Stephanie is running against another Republican, there are no Democratic candidates for Essex County Clerk this year. So there will be a county-wide primary June 27 to decide the Republican candidate. Both candidates are petitioning for another line on the ballot, regardless of the primary outcome, both will appear on the general election ballot on November 7. Note that both elections will have 9 days of early voting, in June that’ll be at the Lake Placid Beach House. Also note that Jay Democrats cannot vote in the June 27 primary, it’s only for registered Republicans.

Marie-Anne raised a question regarding “open primaries” such as in Vermont. In an open primary, any registered voter can obtain a ballot for any party. The Vermont voter registration system does not require voters to declare a party affiliation. There was some discussion on the merits and drawbacks of this system – for the record, I am in favor of both. Also, I support non-partisan blanket primaries (such as those in California, Washington and Alaska) and ranked choice voting (as practiced in Maine, NYC and Alaska). The links define the systems, the pros and the cons.

Maggie Bartley, ECDC chair, summarized the May ECDC meeting and the ideas for ‘Pints and Politics’, whereby the local Dems gather and discuss politics at restaurants around Essex County. We were asked to come up with a venue, too. Maggie also described recent petitioning challenges by the county Republicans – all were denied, one in court. County Dems do not typically file petition challenges for local candidates, as most involve trivial technicalities that could result in candidate exclusion. In my opinion it’s a form of disenfranchisement.

Maggie was impressed at the renewed interest of the NY state Democratic Party in rural counties. There are a few notable examples, one involves a quick and detailed response to the petition challenge that ended up in court. The case law precedents, and excellent work by a local attorney, allowed the candidate to prevail.

I’m interested in exploring the caucus system for town candidates as this process doesn’t require petitioning. We’d meet as a caucus, the candidates would present their background and qualifications, and we’d select the Democratic candidate for the general election. North Elba, Chesterfield and most Clinton County towns use this system. We’ll discuss its suitability for our towns as we learn more. Petitioning in rural areas is becoming dangerous, as some residents aggressively react to strangers approaching their homes. That, plus the unnecessary legal challenges to petitions – and the legal cost of defense – discourages good candidates from running for elected office.

Olivia Dwyer, Democratic and Independent candidate for Jay Town Council, circulated petitions and updated us on her campaign. Olivia is a native to this area, an Upper Jay resident and among other roles, chairs the town’s park committee. (There’s an upcoming event at Douglas Park, near the covered bridge, this Saturday morning, btw!)

We discussed our social media presence (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and upgrades to the ECDC website (and this one!).

Finally, we will have a Jay candidate forum in mid-October and we will have a table at Jay Day (August 19).

Next meeting will be Juneteenth (June 19).