To the Editor,
“It was the intent of the committee to fill vacancies to make those two substitutions, and the petition filed by Harder and Morin is completely invalid. They’re trying to deprive the voters of their right to choose in the September 12 primary…” – Dan Coffey, The Spotlight July, 28 2017
The above is Dan Coffey’s comment to a lawsuit filed by Democrats Dan Morin and George Harder that sought to remove Coffey, candidate for Town Board, and Giles Wagoner, Candidate for Highway Supervisor, from the September Democratic Primary ballot. On Tuesday, Judge Michael Mackey ruled in favor of Morin and Harder, finding that certificates of substitution are invalid “because the members of the committee to fill vacancies neglected to execute the requisite affidavit.”
In essence, Judge Mackey ruled that failing to sign the documents is not a “technicality.” Although a strong advocate for ballot access, this particular ruling doesn’t get my “Irish up.” Here’s why.
On May 11, 2017, the Bethlehem Democratic Committee (BDC) met and endorsed candidates for Town offices; among them were Maureen Cunningham and Giles Wagoner for Town Board and Brent Meredith for Highway Superintendent. There have been no meetings of the BDC since.
However, a July 12th press release, authored by BDC Chairman Jeffrey Kuhn refers to Coffey and Wagoner as “endorsed” Democratic candidates. That statement was not true. The BDC-at large never endorsed Coffey for Town Board or Wagoner for Highway Superintendent. Instead, a “committee to fill vacancies” (BCD Chair Kuhn, First-Vice Chair Coffey and Second-Vice Chair Pam Skripak) selected these candidates.
This is not nitpicking. There is an important distinction between an endorsement by the 60-person BDC, and a candidate who is selected by three people. Further, this is not the first time Kuhn and Coffey have done end-run around’s or misrepresented a BDC position.
In 2014, without consulting the Committee, Kuhn, Coffey, and other members of the BDC leadership undertook a secret campaign to support hand-picked candidates for Committee seats in advance of the September primary. They published campaign literature, financed with Committee monies, in support of their candidates.
In 2015, again without first consulting the Committee, Kuhn and Coffey in a letter to Judge Kahn dated April 17, 2015 interjected the BDC as “Interveners” into the Albany County voter rights settlement, a matter of no business to the BDC. Legislative districting lines were, however, a matter of keen interest to Kuhn, who earlier announced he would be running for county legislature.
Voters do want choice at the ballot box. Bethlehem Democrats also want and expect clarity and honesty from the leadership of the Bethlehem Democratic Committee.
What’s next? Chairman Kuhn and the BDC leadership are now appealing Judge Mackey’s decision to the Appellate Division. We’ll see how that plays out.
Regardless of that decision, let two things be clear: Responsibility for the current fiasco rests squarely with Chairman Kuhn and the BDC leadership. And, the Bethlehem Democratic Committee-at large never endorsed the candidacies of Dan Coffey and Giles Wagoner.
— Sean Raleigh,
Member, Bethlehem Democratic Committee