Wilmington super puts challenger to early test
Incumbent files petition objections; Essex County Board of Elections to review this week
WILMINGTON — Objections have been filed against a candidate for Wilmington town supervisor.
Incumbent Randy Preston filed a general objection against newcomer Xiao Yan Saunderson last month, followed by specific objections this month, which will trigger a formal review by the Essex County Board of Elections this week.
Saunderson submitted petitions to run as an independent candidate on the For the Town party line. She needs a minimum of 27 valid signatures to gain ballot access, according to the Essex County Board of Elections. She submitted 40 signatures.
The county Board of Elections has scheduled a hearing for Thursday to review the signatures in question and rule whether they’re valid or invalid.
If more than 13 signatures are invalidated, Saunderson could be knocked off the ballot for the Nov. 5 election.
Signatures can be invalidated based on a number of factors. Among the more common are listed addresses or party affiliations that are incorrect, or signatures from people who aren’t registered to vote in the town.
“The supervisor right now is challenging my petitions,” Saunderson said. “The commissioners have to decide what is right or wrong on my pages.
“I’d like to challenge him. If I’m not on the ballot, he has no competition. I hope I can get on the ballot.”
Saunderson is a housewife who has lived in Wilmington for the last 15 years. Before that, she was a painter in China.
She’s married to David Saunderson, a retired police captain, former Handlebar restaurant owner in Lake Placid and former Wilmington town assessor.
Asked why she’s running for office, she said she’d like to do something different, is exercising her right to run and believes “the important thing is taxes for the people of the town.”
“I’d like to have an open office,” she added, “Not just stay there and no one can say anything. Sometimes the town, they don’t listen to people, what they want, if they have some suggestions.”
Preston, the incumbent, is running for another two-year term on the independent People’s Party line. He has served as supervisor since 2007. For two of those years, he also served as chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors.
Preston did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.
It’s a common election-year occurrence for designating petitions to be challenged. A candidate in Essex County was knocked off a ballot line as a result of a successful petition challenge as recently as April, when then-Republican Essex County Clerk candidate Kari Ratliff’s petitions were challenged by Chelsea Merrihew, a representative of incumbent Joseph Provoncha. Ratliff is now running as an independent.