QUEENSBURY — The Warren County and Queensbury Republican Committee chairmen ran an unwilling candidate for a Queensbury Town Board position in November. Voters were so incensed that they voted in the entire slate of Democrats instead, giving the Queensbury Town Board a Democratic majority for the first time.
In the wake of that election, Warren County Republicans reorganized. They decided to reactivate a county executive committee to help guide their chairman, who said he would spend more time on “other hobbies and ventures.”
The executive committee will help the chairman understand the wishes of the entire committee, said new Vice Chairman Ron Conover.
“It broadens the input on decision-making. It provides different points of view,” he said. “Only time will tell how all of this will work through. But it’s a very positive step.”
It all started with a simple issue: In July, Queensbury Ward 1 candidate Hal Bain decided he didn’t want to run for office. It was too late to take his name off the ballot. Rather than announce the situation, Republican leaders decided they should ask committee members to campaign for Bain and told him he could resign after he won. Then they would pick someone else to serve in his place.
Bain told many people that he wasn’t running. But he also twice told The Post-Star, in writing, that he was running. He ran a political ad as well to ask the general public for support. After emails detailing the true situation came out, he said he actually dropped out of the race in July and the rest of the campaign was under the control of “some” leaders.
Based on emails acquired by the Democratic town committee through a Freedom of Information request, those leaders were town Republican Committee Chairman and then-Councilman Doug Irish, Town Attorney John Aspland and county Republican Committee Chairman Mike Grasso. All three exchanged emails in which Irish proposed running Bain despite his unwillingness and Aspland endorsed the plan as the “optimal” thing to do.
Top Republicans offered three different explanations to try to cast the emails in a better light.
When interviewed after the emails were released, Irish said the plan was commonplace.
Aspland did not return calls for comment from The Post-Star. But later, after increasing public criticism, Irish and Aspland resigned their leadership positions in the town Republican Committee. In a resignation letter, Aspland said he was just advising Irish and Grasso on election law in the controversial emails.
After the election, Grasso said the emails were really a virtual meeting of Bain’s vacancy committee — although the emails begin with the understanding that it was too late for a vacancy appointment. Committees can “fill a vacancy” on the ballot if a candidate drops out before a certain date. After that, it’s too late to switch names.
It all led to a calamitous election for the local Republican Party, in which all their Queensbury candidates lost.