ELIZABETHTOWN - It appears that politics do indeed make for strange bedfellows as a majority of Essex County Republican supervisors are backing a Democrat for the soon-to-be vacant board of supervisors chairmanship, while the Democrats have thrown their support behind a high-profile Republican.
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.
Competing for the seat, which comes with a hefty pay raise, are Democratic Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas and the oft-vocal Republican Moriah Supervisor, Tom Scozzafava.
Following Scozzafava's vocal support of District Attorney Julie Garcia in her failed reelection bid against GOP nominee Kristy Sprague, a discernable rift in the party continues to make things unpredictable in Essex County.
"The party is definitely divided after the DA race," Scozzafava said. "But we need to heal the party or die as individuals."
Chair of the BOS finance committee, Scozzafava has publicly butted heads with county manager Dan Palmer.
He noted that according to his count, he has the support of eight or nine supervisors, many of whom are Democrats.
There are 18 towns in Essex County and, if his count is accurate, a tie isn't out of the question. Scozzafava said he has been told by his Republican backers that if a tie were to occur, they would support Douglas.
"I knew that I would probably be a long shot when I decided to seek the seat," Scozzafava said. "I am not good at biting my tongue, so it may be best if I wasn't seated in that chair."
Democratic Westport Supervisor Dan Connell is joining him in the bid as a candidate for vice-chair, while Douglas has tapped North Elba Supervisor Robi Politi, creating an additional geographic dynamic, pitting supervisors from the county's west against supervisors from the county's east.
Politi has recently renewed his call for the sale of the county-owned Horace Nye Nursing Home - a $4 million annual expense. For his part, 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 and was highly involved in the rerouting of the county public transportation system following the closure of the Champlain Bridge.
According to Republican St. Armand Supervisor Joyce Morency, the vast majority of GOP support is behind Douglas.
"I think it somewhat boils down to the recent election and Tom's support of Garcia," Morency said.
As of Jan. 1, Republicans will hold a 10 to five edge over Democrats on the 18-member board.
In 2002, Scozzafava unsuccessfully challenged Teresa Sayward for the 113th District state Assembly seat, but did however manage to pull the support of several prominent county Republicans.
Douglas could not be reached for comment.