Moriah supervisor out of county chair race

PORT HENRY - Just how fractured is the Essex County Republican Party?

The GOP has rallied to endorse a Democrat as the next chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors.

Republican Tom Scozzafava, Moriah supervisor, announced Dec. 10 he has withdrawn his bid to become county board chairman.

That leaves Democrat Randy Douglas of Jay as the lone remaining candidate for the post.

"I decided to drop from the race for the sake of unity on the board," Scozzafava said. "It's time we move forward."

Scozzafava claimed to have the support of nine supervisors for the chairmanship. Douglas also had nine votes on the 18-member board.

In the event of a tie, the deciding ballot would have been cast by the county clerk, Joe Provoncha.

Although Republicans still hold a 2-1 edge in voter registration in Essex County, GOP fortunes have been in decline. Local voters supported Kristin Gillibrand and Bill Owens, both Democrats, in the most recent congressional races. They favored Barrack Obama over John McCain for president in 2008. This past fall two incumbent GOP supervisors were upset.

At the January 2010 organizational meeting Douglas will become the first Democrat county board chairman in memory.

The term of current board Chairwoman Cathy Moses expires Jan. 1, and the board will convene to elect a new leader at the annual organizational meeting on Jan. 4.

Scozzafava acknowledged he did not have the support of his own party. He was a supporter of Julie Garcia last fall, who was denied the GOP nomination for re-election as county district attorney. Garcia eventually lost a close race to GOP candidate Kristy Sprague.

"The party is definitely divided after the DA race," Scozzafava said. "But we need to heal the party or die as individuals."

Republican St. Armand Supervisor Joyce Morency acknowledged the GOP would rather elect a Democrat chairman than back Scozzafava.

"I think it somewhat boils down to the recent election and Tom's support of Garcia," Morency said.

Scozzafava was recently elected to his 11th term as Moriah supervisor. He is chair of the county finance committee.

Douglas was recently appointed to the executive committee of the New York State Association of Counties. He is chair of the county transportation sub-committee.

As of Jan. 1, Republicans will hold a 10-5 edge over Democrats on the 18-member board.

Jonathan Alexander contributed to this report.

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