Hamilton County DA candidates spar over arrests, experience
The Democratic candidate for Hamilton County district attorney is questioning whether his Republican opponent is qualified to hold office in light of revelations about his arrest history, social media behavior and residency claims.
The race between Long Lake attorney Paul Roalsvig, running as a Democrat, and Wells resident/Republican candidate Christopher Shambo was quiet up until this week, when North Country Public Radio reported on prior arrests and vulgar social media posts by Shambo. Roalsvig said they show questionable judgment and a lack of maturity that should be taken into account by voters Roalsvig said Wednesday that a criminal case against Shambo filed in Maine in May 2018 for allegations of domestic assault and a 2015 aggravated driving while intoxicated arrest in Saratoga County raise doubts about Shambo’s “maturity.” He said profane public social media posts by Shambo that were derogatory toward women raise further questions.
“He still has a lot of growing up to do,” Roalsvig said.
Shambo, 37, said he has not hid from his past and made mistakes when he was younger but learned from them. He said the domestic assault charge in Maine was filed after an argument with an acquaintance outside a restaurant in the resort town of Old Orchard Beach, and he was not prosecuted or convicted.
“I didn’t assault anybody,” he said.
He said the social media posts were made six years ago, and he removed them and apologized for them.
“There are some things I did when I was younger that I am not proud of, but I learned from them. Everyone has skeletons in their closet,” he said. “My opponent is attacking me because he knows I am more qualified. I’ve chosen to take the high road.”
Roalsvig also took issue with Shambo’s ties to and listed residence in Hamilton County.
Shambo lists his address as Pumpkin Hollow Road in Wells, but Roalsvig said he believes that home is a seasonal residence.
“It’s a three-season cabin, and neighbors say the driveway is not plowed in the winter,” he said.
Shambo said he moved to the home full-time several years ago, because he was finding that much of his law practice was in Hamilton County. He said he stays at the home most nights in spring, summer and fall, and often in the winter as well.
State Public Officers Law requires a candidate for district attorney to have a permanent residence in the county where they are elected on the day they are elected. The 2018 arrest report in Old Orchard Beach did list his address as Wells, records show.
Shambo said people have been anonymously mailing information about his past contacts with police and his social media activity to voters around the county, as well as media. The Post-Star received the information twice in recent weeks.
Shambo spoke openly about the DWI arrest at a campaign forum before the June primary.
The county’s voters are overwhelmingly Republican, and the county Republican Committee decided earlier this year not to endorse before a primary between Shambo and Dana Beyer, which Shambo won handily.
Hamilton County Republican Committee Chairman Bill Farber said the issues were discussed with Shambo by county Republican leaders earlier this year, after the June primary. He said Shambo said he was not charged with a crime in the Maine situation last year, and the public record is clear that there was no conviction.
“Chris was apologetic and acknowledged the mistake. He went on to tell us that there was an allegation from 2018 that was not true, and that he was never charged with a crime. The committee accepted the explanations, and thought his remorse for the mistake showed that he should not be disqualified from a committee endorsement. The reality was the primary voters had spoken, and he was the Republican candidate by a margin of two to one.”
He said he was told by GOP leaders the social media posts were “unacceptable,” and Shambo took them down and acknowledged they were inappropriate. Farber said there was no indication the committee planned to end its support of him.
“We have made no attempt to hide or whitewash anything, as it is all out there,” he said.
Qualifications Shambo has been a lawyer for 11 years, and points out that he is the only candidate with experience as a prosecutor. He has served as a special prosecutor in Hamilton County and said he has also worked as a defense attorney in 20 counties around upstate New York.
“I was honored that the judge had confidence in me to appoint me as special prosecutor,” he said.
He said his experience in criminal courts as both a prosecutor and defense attorney has given him valuable insight on best practices.
“I’ve seen how things work and don’t work,” he said.
Roalsvig, 60, said he has significantly more courtroom and legal experience than Shambo, which would make him more qualified as the county’s top prosecutor. The western New York native has lived in Long Lake for 10 years after a legal career in the New York City area.
He said his family visited the Long Lake area from the mid-1980s. He married Long Lake native Alexandra Verner in 1995 and spent five years on the Long Lake school board.
Roalsvig said he has handled criminal and civil cases in state and federal courts around New York and several other states in the Northeast and Virginia. He said he has not had prosecutorial experience, but has handled many criminal cases from the defense side over the years.
“I’ve done a lot of courtroom work over the years,” he said.
Roalsvig has a campaign website at paulhroalsvig.com/.
Shambo said he has not set up online campaign sites, instead choosing to focus on door-to-door campaigning.
The candidates are running to replace Marsha Purdue, who chose not to run for district attorney while she runs for county judge.
The district attorney post in Hamilton County is part-time, and has a salary of $104,441 this year. But it will be a full-time position next year, with the salary increasing to $204,053. Under state law, a full-time district attorney is paid the same salary as the county judge.
Roalsvig is on the Democratic and Viking party lines, while Shambo has the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties lines for the Nov. 5 general election.