GOP dominates Glove Cities’ mayoral races

JOHNSTOWN – Sometimes, Fulton County Democrats, outnumbered by registered Republicans, have few candidates in local races.

This is true of the races for mayor in Gloversville and Johnstown this year. Republican candidates are dominating those races.

Three Republicans are running for mayor in each city. There are no mayoral candidates running on the Democratic Party line in Gloversville, and only one candidate running as a Democrat in Johnstown.

The primaries are scheduled for Sept. 10. Potential independent candidates can file petitions starting Tuesday. The deadline is Aug. 20.

The general election is Nov. 5.

Gloversville Mayor Dayton King faces a Republican primary battle for re-election against Michael Ponticello and James Handy. The city’s 2,465 Republican voters get to cast their ballots in that contest.

In the city of Johnstown, there will be a three-way Republican primary for the city’s 1,851 registered Republicans to vote in. Helen Martin, Larry Razzano and Scott Jeffers are seeking the Republican nod.

The winner will face Democrat Michael Julius in the general election. The city has 1,066 Democratic voters.

Martin also will be on the Conservative ballot in November.

In Gloversville, King and Handy also will face each other in September in a separate Conservative primary. There are 87 registered Conservative Party candidates in Gloversville. If King wins both the Republican and Conservative primaries, Democrats who want to vote will have no choice in November but to mark their ballots for King for re-election, unless an independent candidate emerges.

Fulton County Democratic Election Commissioner Lynne Rubscha said Democrats who can’t vote in the primaries should cast votes in the general election.

“They need to review all the issues and vote for the best candidate,” Rubscha said. “You need to vote. The worst thing you can do is not vote because there isn’t a Democrat [candidate].”

Gloversville 4th Ward Supervisor Charles Potter, president of the Fulton County Republican Club, said he sees a level playing field any way you slice political affiliation in the county.

“Obviously, both parties have a chance to promote any quantity,” Potter said.

Countywide, registered voters in the GOP hold an advantage by a ratio of 2-1. The latest figures from the Fulton County Board of Elections indicate 16,430 registered Republicans and 8,337 registered Democrats. Seventeen primaries are scheduled this year, almost all Republican.

In many of the high-profile local races for decades, the GOP primary basically has decided the election before the November general election.

Fulton County Democratic Committee Chairman Ed Jasewicz said some Gloversville Democrats considered running for mayor this year, then backed off.

“We talked to several people who expressed interest,” Jasewicz said.

He said the general state of politics, ethics and gridlock nowadays associated with running for political office has turned off a lot of potential candidates. Jasewicz said it’s tough running for office today.

“There are a lot of people who are very nervous,” the Democratic official said.

But Jasewicz said his party always continues to look for “good quality candidates” anywhere across Fulton County.

Fulton County Republican Chairwoman Susan McNeil says “opposition is fine” and having a Democratic candidate keeps a GOP nominee “on his toes.”

Some countywide races such as sheriff, district attorney, clerk and treasurer, or other judgeships, haven’t featured a Democratic candidate for decades.

Republican dominance has led some Democrats over the years to switch registration to Republican just to vote in key races, officials have said.

The late Anthony C. Buanno, who served as a longtime Gloversville Republican supervisor and died in 2010, had said he switched from Democrat to Republican in the 1960s just to make it in local politics.

Republican County Deputy Election Commissioner Linda Madison, in her 25th year of service, said the Board of Elections has handled many requests by people changing parties over the years. She said the previous year saw 295 such changes, but she wasn’t sure whether the majority was people switching from the Democrat Party to Republican Party.

“We see it all the time,” Rubscha said of party switching.

Election law prohibits a person from immediately switching parties. That process takes about a year.

Madison said the number of registered voters in both major parties has decreased in the past 10 to 15 years.

She and Jasewicz pointed to an increasing number of people who have started with or switched to the Conservative and Independence parties. The enrollment totals 1,726 Independence Party members and growing in Fulton County.

Madison said people also register “blank,” or with no party. Some young people have become disenchanted with the established Republican and Democratic parties, officials said.

Rubscha said people deciding to seek election have become “very picky.”

“It’s very hard to get people to run for office,” she said.

Rubscha said many younger voters gravitate toward the Independence and Conservative parties’ lines, but the end result is only bad news for the established parties.

“It just splits the vote,” Rubscha said.

Jasewicz said the answer for Democrats feeling out of the election loop is not to switch parties.

“People should continue to support their party,” he said.

Michael Anich can be reached at