The funeral last week for a moderate Republican official may be the last time for a while that the Columbia County GOP all come together in the same room on a cordial basis. With incumbent sheriff David Harrison not running for reëlection, the upcoming September 10th primary between Capt. David Bartlett and State Police investigator Mazzacano has the potential to get nasty, and already has divided the party ranks.
State campaign finance records tell the story of which prominent Republicans and businesses are lining up on which side.
The Republican caucus endorsed Bartlett, and donations to their man largely coming from Harrison loyalists and other Republicans generally seen as allied with former State Assembly Minority Leader and lobbyist John Faso:
Valerie Bertram, former Stuyvesant Supervisor—$80
Gail Dicosmo, Assistant to the Board of Supervisors — $100
Gary Graziano, Hudson Police Commissioner—$130
Kathy Harter, Deputy Elections Commissioner—$100
John Faso, Lobbyist and Former Assemblyman — $100
Bartlett has also garnered corporate support from a hodgepodge of politically--connected businesses and political groups, including engineers Morris Associates ($250), Valley Oil ($40), Lebanon Valley Auto Racing ($1,000), Harrison for Sheriff ($250) and the Law Enforcement Officers’ Union ($200). Couturier North America, which landed the old bakery building on Route 9 in Livingston with the blessing of County development officials, also donated $100 to Bartlett.
Donations to Mazzacano, meanwhile, largely stem from another faction mainly associated with Richard Koskey’s semi-secret barn confab of conservative insiders:
Bill Better, former County Attorney—$250
Roy Brown, Germantown Supervisor—$50
Don Kline, former Election Commissioner & Supervisor—$40
Rev. Ronald Grant, Shiloh Baptist Church—$25
Holly Tanner, County Clerk—$50
Kippy Weigelt, Claverack Supervisor candidate—$30
Dick Koskey, Accountant—$50
Corporate donations to Mazzacano include schoolbus operator Ben Funk, Inc. ($75) and mobile home builders John Alvarez & Sons ($125).
Interestingly, Hudson Alderman and Taghkanic resident Cappy Pierro crossed party lines to donate to Mazzacano—passing over fellow Democrat Mike Winnie, who is running for Sheriff from the other side of the aisle. Chatham Deputy Chief Mark Leggett dropped out of the early running, and is said to now back Winnie rather than his former GOP rivals. Democrat Ancram Supervisor Art Bassin donated to Bartlett, rather than Winnie.
The campaigns thus far appear obsessed with sign wars, with pockets of the county featuring alternating Bartlett/Mazzacano lawns. Generally, one tends to see signs for popular judge Jonathan Nichols alongside Bartlett’s. But Mazzacano is clearly winning the who-has-the-most-gigantic-signs-with-huge-photos-of-the-candidate’s-face battle.
If the campaign follows the usual pattern, as we get closer to primary day on the 10th, expect to see a lot more aggressive (and in some cases ghostwritten) letters-to-the-editor. Most will likely feature bland encomiums to their preferred candidate, but a few will contain more personal insinuations of financial or professional impropriety.
Since Bartlett has secured the Conservative and Independence lines, a Mazzacano win in the Republican primary would raise the prospect of a three-way race in November, giving Winnie (whose past campaigns have fallen short) a much stronger chance of prevailing.
As far as law enforcement issues go, it is not clear from the candidates’ statements so far that there are any significant policy differences. The primary seems to be more about personal loyalties and turf.