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Politicians need to start now, due to primary date change

Politicians who were only elected a year ago must decide — right now — whether they are running for office.

And any new people who want to challenge the incumbents? They should be talking to their political party chair right now as well.

There is a sudden rush because of this week’s change in state election laws. Beginning this year, just one primary will be held, in June. In the past, the primary for federal positions was in June and the primary for all other positions was in September.

Because that primary was held so late in the year, politicians did not normally start collecting petition signatures until June. Usually, political leaders spent the winter grooming new candidates while seated politicians weighed whether they wanted to run again. In April, most people made up their minds, parties held endorsement meetings, and then in summer the real campaigning began.

This year it will start in peak snow season, and no one is happy about it.

The new Queensbury Town Board members, who were seated just 13 months ago, aren’t even sure if they want to run again.

On Monday, board member Catherine Atherden said, “Oh, it’s much too early.”

At the time, her Democratic Party chairwoman, Lynne Boecher, had told all the incumbents to make a decision by April 1.

On Tuesday, Boecher amended that to Feb. 1.

As for those who want to challenge incumbents, she said, “They should get in touch with me immediately.”

So far, she has no one who wants to take on an incumbent.

Due to the limited time, she expects to have far fewer candidates than normal this year.

“I would use this period to bring them into committee meetings, get them interested, and talk to them one on one,” she said. “Now, it’s just a mess, is what it is.”

Her Republican counterpart, Warren County GOP Chairman Mike Grasso, agreed.

“It really throws the whole thing off, when you’re used to mining for candidates — usually now is when we start asking them about it,” Grasso said.

He has only three or four new candidates for this year, so far.

Grasso and Boecher are also worried about collecting petitions in February and March, rather than June and July.

“Warren County has a large amount of snowbirds,” Grasso said. “For us to get petitions signed by a lot of people who aren’t here — especially in certain areas, Lake George, Bolton, Hague — this creates a problem.”

Plus, there’s the likelihood of snow. Many Democrats on the committee are senior citizens, and the Glens Falls Democratic chairwoman just had hip replacement surgery, Boecher said.

“I don’t want her on ice!” Boecher said. “Most of the downstate doesn’t understand the challenges we have getting signatures in the tundra.”

For a countywide office, her candidates need 557 signatures.

“That’s a lot of signatures to have to get in the dead of winter,” Boecher said. “Downstate (legislators) can go to one apartment building and get 100 signatures.”

Once petition season is over and the primary is held, there are five long months until Election Day. Grasso said that could also have unintended consequences: Politicians might have to spend a lot more in advertising and might leave their lawn signs up all year.

He’s not thrilled by the idea, but he said candidates might not have a choice.

“If you send off a mailer in June (before the primary), you can’t count on that being in the voter’s head in November,” he said.

There might be an upside: It might give candidates more time to get their message out, he said.

But he worried about the cost, and the possibility of constant lawn signs.

“Does that give the voter fatigue?” he said of lawn signs. “I like lawn signs. But when I see lawn signs out for three months, four months, that to me gets to be pollution — I like scenery too.”