When I first started covering politics in New York, Saratoga County was one of those places where Republican politics played out year to year with the kind of clockwork regularity usually reserved for the return the ponies and trout fishing on the upper Hudson.
Republicans dominated congressional and state Senate and Assembly elections. And Jasper Nolan was a chief architect and orchestrator of conservative politics in a county that straddles the North Country and the Capital District.
But then came Kirsten Gillibrand, who toppled GOP stalwart Rep. John Sweeney (NY-20) in 2006. Nolan complained then about demographic shifts in the region, more new arrivals and second homeowners tilting elections.
Gillibrand won re-election in 2008, and then Scott Murphy from Glens Falls prevailed in a special election in the 20th House district in 2009.
The era of sleepy invincibility was over. Republican Chris Gibson reclaimed the NY-20 seat in 2010, and did so handily, but the district was quickly dismantled in the redistricting process earlier this year.
Now Saratoga County is divided neatly between two House districts (NY 20 and NY 21) and Democrats Paul Tonko and Bill Owens have a solid shot at holding both of them.
Complicating matters further is the fact that veteran state Senator Roy McDonald, who represents a big chunk of the county, faces a fierce Doug-Hoffman-style conservative challenge this year.
Saratoga County Clerk Kathy Marchione will face McDonald in the GOP primary, and win or lose she’ll likely also remain on the Conservative Party line. This from the Albany Times Union.
State Conservative leaders said they would back Marchione over McDonald because he voted to legalize same-sex marriage, something Marchione opposes.
Capping all the drama and upheaval was Jasper Nolan’s announcement over the weekend that he won’t seek re-election to the GOP party chairmanship, ending a 27-year-run. This from the Saratogian:
Nolan said he plans to actively work for the current Republican candidates seeking office this fall and hopes to serve as chairman emeritus in an advisory role after September, but he decided it was time for someone new to lead the county party.
If the McDonald-Marchione tension is any indication, the fight for the GOP leadership post in Saratoga County could be fierce.