Esslie-Frenia Law June 2023 Leaderboard

EDITORIAL: Time to make choices

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THERE’S AN ELECTION next week. But not for everybody. It’s a primary that allows the members of some parties in some places to pick candidates for a handful of offices.

How much do primaries matter? Not much until you get your tax bill. Then, some people get angry. Others shrug. “They’re all no good,” they’ll say, because we’d rather blame anybody but ourselves.

There will also be another vote in early August, when a handful of people who know exactly whom they’re voting for and why, will pick Democratic candidates for state Supreme Court judges. It’s called a judicial convention and it will have a direct impact on Columbia County. More about that below.

Polls for the primaries will be open Tuesday, June 25 from noon to 9 p.m. in the Towns of Chatham, Gallatin, Kinderhook and New Lebanon, and in the City of Hudson. If you’re eligible, you’ll vote to choose candidates to represent your party in the November general election. So in Hudson, for instance, only enrolled Democrats can vote in the primary. They have lots of choices to make, starting with candidates for mayor.

Notices from the Columbia County Board of Elections with all races and candidates’ names appear on Page 9 in this issue. In some cases there is no candidate specified other than “Opportunity to Ballot (write-in).” Have you ever thought you could do a better job than the people in office? Now’s your chance to prove it.

There are also primaries for the so-called “minor parties”–Conservative, Green and Independence–in Chatham, Gallatin, Kinderhook or New Lebanon. Check the notices.

Amazon will not deliver your vote. Not yet, anyway. You have to go do it yourself. If your party is holding a primary in your town this Tuesday, vote like it matters, because it does.

State Supreme Court judge

VOTERS ELECT State Supreme Court judges but there is no primary. Elected judges conduct civil and sometimes criminal trials. In our 3rd Judicial District, they mostly hear cases in the district’s seven counties: Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster.

No rule specifies where in the district those judges must live, but officials of the Democratic Party had an agreement that Albany, which has the most political clout in the district, should get to pick the most Supreme Court judge candidates. Under that system Columbia County gets to share one judgeship candidate with Greene County.

That seat will be open because state Supreme Court Judge Richard Mott will retire at the end of this year. The chance to run for the position was offered to Columbia County lawyer Cheryl Roberts. Then it was withdrawn in favor of an Albany lawyer, Justin Corcoran.

How this happened is reported in detail by Chris Bragg in a story first published June 13 in the Times Union and reprinted in this issue with permission starting on Page 10.

For all its complexities, this story boils down to a boys’ club unwilling to loosen its grip on power in order to make the judiciary look more like the population that judges are elected to serve.

Ms. Roberts and Mr. Corcoran are both qualified candidates. Attempts to cast doubts on Ms. Roberts’ credentials are absurd, given her experience as a local judge and her stint as corporation counsel for the City of Hudson, among her resume of relevant legal work. Mr. Corcoran’s loss in a 2014 campaign for Supreme Court might be relevant, but that’s really not what’s wrong with the revised Democratic Party judicial ticket in this fall’s election.

There are two other open Supreme Court seats in this judicial district. The political leaders of the counties have already settled on two male candidates, so if Mr. Corcoran is added, Democrats will have an all-male ticket.

That should come as no surprise. Only 3 of the 18 Supreme Court judges in the 3rd District are women.

Hello, Democratic leaders: You offered a qualified woman the chance to run. Then you turned your back on her. What possible justification could you have but the preservation of male privilege even at the expense of advancing equal justice?

The convention that will choose the Democratic candidates for the three state Supreme Court seats from the 3rd District is more than a month away. If party members and others let state political leaders know how they feel about the decision not to nominate Cheryl Roberts, it might change minds and votes. It might also help to remind them that Republicans have selected a woman to run on their judicial ballot.

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