PRATTSVILLE – Wrangling within the Republican Party in Prattsville will come to a head when the usually quiet primaries are held, next week, with the possibility of a record voter turnout.
Political seasons have become atypically stormy in this rural town along the Schoharie Creek since Tropical Storm Irene brought the worst flooding in memory.
Current town supervisor Kory O'Hara, a Democrat, was defeated by write-in candidate and former supervisor Alan Huggins in November, 2011, three months after Main Street nearly drowned.
Huggins resigned before taking office. O'Hara was returned to the job by the town board for one year and then won a special election in 2012, setting the stage for this coming November.
The intense controversy surrounding both the 2011 appointment and the 2012 special election still simmers throughout the small community and especially inside the GOP.
Committee seats are open and letters have been sent to Party members by the present committee and by a faction within the GOP calling itself the Cooperation Group.
Separate candidates are being supported by each side and language within their mailings is accusatory, each claiming the other has strayed from the true GOP philosophy.
Annie Hull, the current GOP chairperson, held an unusually early caucus this past June, amid rumors of a coup d'etat although she denied knowing an ouster movement was underway.
A very clear divide existed within the Party, however, as Hull asked Greene County Republican Party chairman Brent Bogardus to oversee the caucus and a splinter segment emerged, nominating candidates of their own to run this November, including Democratic Party people.
The splinter segment was led by some of the same individuals who are now candidates for committee seats endorsed by the Cooperation Group, including local businessman Jim Young.
Young, during the caucus, served as the visible voice of the splinter segment which successfully nominated incumbent highway superintendent, Bill Sutton, a Democrat, to run on the GOP line and recommended that the GOP abstain from offering any challenge to O'Hara.
The recommendation was defeated but Frank Cangelosi, the GOP committee's choice to oppose O'Hara, won by a narrow 47 to 40 margin, and Young, following the vote, said, “at this point it will be hard for us to unite behind this candidate.”
Nothing has apparently changed and it is expected the Prattsville polling station will be busy on Primary Day, Tuesday, Sept. 10, with control of the Republican Party at stake.
Unyielding battle lines have been drawn between the GOP committee, represented by Annie Hull, Dennis Hull, David Martin and Greg Cross, and the Cooperation Group, trying to elect Young, Joyce Peckham, Kenneth Maurer and Carol Bellomy.
“This unprecedented bid for our seats makes it necessary for the Republicans of Prattsville to return to the polls,” a committee letter states, in part, offering a “Unite Prattsville” campaign theme.
“At our caucus this year, we had an overwhelming turnout with a great deal of interest in all of the open seats in our town election. The “splinter group” refused to support or endorse Republican candidates during the last two caucuses or last campaign season.
“They disrupted last year's Republican caucus resulting in an impartial caucus leader being called in by your elected committee this year to assure that order and protocol were adhered to. These challengers declared themselves your existing Republican committee though never elected.
“In a blatant attempt to limit your right to choose in November's election, they encouraged fellow Republicans to either nominate the opposing Party's candidate or allow them to run unopposed, securing them a win months before November,” the committee letter states.
“Is this the right direction for the Republican Party of Prattsville? Or do you want an elected Republican committee that will protect your rights at the polls and show a true commitment to the Republican Party and our Constitution?” the committee letter states.
A letter from the Cooperation Group, presenting a campaign theme of Republican Co-Op, states, in part, “Did you get a copy of the Prattsville Republican Party letter this month? If yes, read it carefully. If not don't feel alone, many registered Republicans didn't get it.
“Once again, this letter reflects the current Republican Party leadership character by attacking opposition as bad. At the town level, they attack the opposite party, at the party level it is any opposition. The theme remains the same; create conflict when there is a challenge to their view.
“We don't view ourselves as a “splinter group” which others labeled us. Ask who in the party brings in poll sitters from out of town, posts party notices at the last minute, publishes meeting notices in a distant [newspaper] and then never bother to contact all of the party members?” the Republican Co-Op letter states, referring to issues that have arisen over the past two years.
“Do two family members on the committee reflect strong party leadership? Do you really want more of this brand of Republican “Unite Prattsville” behavior?” the Republican Co-Op letter states.
Democrats are scheduled to hold their caucus tonight (Thursday, Sept. 5) with a full slate of candidates expected to be nominated in addition to supervisor and highway superintendent including two town council posts, two seats on the judiciary, town clerk and tax collector.