Press-Republican

January 24, 2013

New Republican election chief suggested

By LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — The Essex County Republican Committee has come up with an alternate recommendation for a controversial election-commissioner appointment.

After the Essex County Board of Supervisors failed to act on the county committee’s renomination of Westport resident Derinda Sherman, it reverted back to the GOP leadership for another name earlier this month.

That happened Tuesday night, when the Republican Committee unanimously chose Lake Placid resident Allison McGahay, a former Essex County assistant district attorney, as its recommendation for Republican election commissioner.

SUPPORT SOUGHT

Now letters have gone out to all Republican supervisors asking them to support McGahay.

“Allison McGahay was interested after Derinda was no longer a viable candidate,” Essex County Republican Chairman Ronald Jackson said Wednesday.

“When it came to committee, she was the only one who’d sent a letter. She’s extremely well qualified. Her specialty was election law.”

McGahay has served as Republican deputy director of operations for the State Board of Elections. In 2007, she was promoted to special counsel at the state board, then from 2009 to 2012 was an assistant DA in Essex County, leaving three weeks ago.

‘IMPORTANT YEAR’

“Election work will always be a passion of mine,” McGahay wrote in her request for recommendation. “This is a very important year for Essex County Republicans and the people who call Essex County home.”

Jackson said Sherman did an excellent job at the County Board of Elections, and the county committee rewarded her by naming her second vice chair.

With the recent death of longtime St. Armand Supervisor Joyce Morency, the committee moved Win Belanger of Willsboro from second vice chair to first vice chair.

The Board of of Supervisors had 30 days to act on the request for Sherman’s reappointment or the board’s Republican caucus had 60 days to put her back in office, and neither happened.

Some supervisors speculated it was because Morency’s death left a vacuum, since she’d been Republican leader on the board. Others said it was because Sherman switched to a new election-night reporting system that delayed announcing results for hours after polls closed.

Whatever the reason, Jackson doesn’t foresee a similar problem with McGahay’s appointment.

“We were fortunate to get Derinda. Now I feel lucky again. It’s not easy to find these people. For the work they have to put in, the pay is not legitimate. We struggle to find someone for that amount of pay.”

Commissioners receive about $18,000 a year and are part-time county employees, while deputy commissioners are full time.

“I personally thought Derinda had done a very good job,” Jackson said. “We need competent people to go in there. It’s a specialized field.”

CAUCUS PLANNED

The board’s Republican leader is now Supervisor George Canon (R-Newcomb), who plans to call a Republican caucus before the Board of Supervisors Feb. 7 meeting to bring up McGahay’s appointment.

“I don’t think there’s a problem with the supervisors moving on this,” Jackson said. “I’ve talked with supervisors, and none of them have any problem with Allison.”

Sherman, who was appointed election commissioner in January 2010, said she doesn’t want to comment on the situation but will serve until the new person is named and will also help train the new commissioner.

County Democratic Election Commissioner Robert Pell-deChame of Ticonderoga was reappointed to a new two-year term in December.

Email Lohr McKinstry:

lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com