By Mark Frost, Chronicle Editor
Periodically an election sends a message loud and clear. That’s what happened in the Town of Queensbury on Tuesday. The voters told incumbent Democrat John Strough, you’re doing a good job. And they told the Republican potentates, you’re out of control and need to be taken down not just one notch but several.
They punished Republicans for falling into a monopoly mind-set that thinks it can dictate to voters instead of respecting them.
Incumbent Republican Ward 2 councilman Brian Clements gave residents no good reason to vote for him, so they didn’t. First-time Democratic candidate Catherine Atherden trounced him.
In Ward 4, Tim Brewer called himself the “incumbent,” but this time around he’d been appointed, not elected, to the seat. He’d lost his last run for office and he’s been eclipsed. By contrast, Democrat Jennifer Switzer is a rising star. Two prior campaigns fell short, but they established her in the public’s mind. Name recognition counts.
Republicans retain all of Queensbury’s at-large seats on the county board, but even here ferment is apparent. Two of the four seats go to newcomers — Brad Magowan and Michael Wild — and incumbent Matt Sokol finished fourth, beating Democrat Dave Strainer only 3,966-3,826. That’s sobering. Only Doug Beaty skates above the fray, as the incumbent leading vote-getter with 4,680.
But if Doug is unscathed, not so his brigade.
Queensbury rejected his county cohort Rachel Seeber — and by extension, Mark Westcott, who led the charge.
Larry Bulman of South Glens Falls, who plays in the Democratic big leagues as Director of Legislative and Political Affairs for the Plumbers and Pipefitters union, explained to me once that, at least in northern New York, voters don’t like to “fire” an incumbent unless they have good reason.
Rachel and the whole Republican hierarchy argued that John Strough provided reason enough with “secrecy” and an overlooked but obscure audit.
The public didn’t buy it. Their verdict found the case against John too weak for words. People know him, like him, and I think they respect what he’s accomplished for Queensbury especially as to parks, planning, cooperation with Glens Falls and making the town a better place.
The Republicans face a colossal rebuild. They’ve lost control of the town board emphatically. Not only will Democrats hold three of the five seats, Ward One Republican Tony Metivier took on the GOP big shots and beat them. He’s a free agent now.
The Republicans will bounce back, of course. Their enrollment advantage is huge, but if they keep behaving as abysmally as they did in this cycle, even that edge could wither. There are Democrats like Claudia Braymer from Ward 3 in Glens Falls and Ms. Switzer in Queensbury Ward 4 on the rise. Smarten up, Republicans, or have your community turn Democratic.
Finally, what I think is also at play in the Queensbury result is a Donald Trump protest vote. Ms. Atherden in Ward 2 comes out and says it was Trump’s election that propelled her into political action. Now, finally, we’re seeing some real impact of all the upset and distress.
Yes, President Trump has his ardent followers, but I think there are many conservative, moderate voters who are appalled by him. The Republicans ignore that reality at their peril. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, are you listening?
More so than for a long while, a Republican who doesn’t stand for things that really matter to people is a sitting duck for a Democrat who does.
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