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Village elections used to be big

2020 elections delayed again

The front page of the Enterprise, Wednesday, March 20, 1963.

Democrats pretty much control the political scene in Franklin County today … but that was not the case for most of the history of our county. It was rock-ribbed Republican.

Voter registration has shrunk across the country as citizens have become disillusioned with the entire political scene, Democrats and Republicans.

Now, the most interesting elections, and it used to be the most fun elections, were when candidates ran for the village board. We all got along. The elections, usually held on the third Tuesday in March, had originally been pushed back to April 28 because of the coronavirus. A more recent executive order by the Gov. Cuomo has moved the elections to May, with no actual date set.

First big shift to the Democrats

Saranac Lake Main Street, 1930: The fancy facade on the store between the two brick buildings was Gibney’s Market, most recently the iconic Post Office Pharmacy building, owned and operated by the famous Bevilacqua family for decades.

The Enterprise eight-column headline on March 20, 1963, read: “Saranac Lake Democrats Score Clean Sweep Upset.”

The lead story was bylined by Editor Peter W. Cox, which read:

“The residents of Saranac Lake voted out the Republican mayor and two Republican trustees and replaced them with a full slate of Democrats in yesterday’s village elections.

“This feat is generally considered one of the greatest political upsets in the history of Saranac Lake. The village is traditionally Republican.

“John Campion, a former trustee, turned out long-time Mayor Alton B. Anderson by 906 to 851.

“Leading the ticket for the Democrats was Enterprise reporter and technician Howard Riley [oh, how embarrassing] with 1,011 votes. Service station operator Charles Lavery won his spot on the board with 954 votes.

“The defeated Republican incumbents were Francis Gladd who garnered 781 votes, and village Republican Chairman William Wigger with 740 votes.”

The following numbers will make clear how much things have changed locally because of the loss of population. In the 2012 village election — that is the year that popped up on my web search — Barb Rice won her trustee seat on the village board with 542 votes, and Paul Van Cott won the other seat with 417. Their losing Republican opponents had 288 and 210 votes. Add the two highest vote tallies, and you have 830 voters. In 1963 the total turnout was more than doubled at 1,862.

The 1963 Tupper Lake election

“The Taxpayers and Voters Association (TVA) registered an upset in Tupper Lake elections yesterday by putting two men in office and giving two incumbents a real battle.

“Marcel Richer, candidate for mayor, running on three tickets, Republican, Democrat and Independent, received 896 to defeat Cecil Flanders, TVA candidate, by 116 votes, Flanders received 780.” Paul Maroun received a total of — oops! … wrong year!

“In the trustee contests, the two TVA candidates won in three-way contests over the Republican and Democratic hopefuls. With six men in the field for the two vacant trustee seats, Albert Bigrow and Lawrence DuMoulin, both from downtown [Faust] Tupper Lake, received 692 and 626 for the first TVA election victory. In other results, Democrat candidates Gordon Deshaw, incumbent, received 548; candidates, Adrian Prenoveau 520 and Gordon Ellis 422. [I can only come up with five names, not six?]

“For Police Justice, Fred Girard, Republican incumbent, posted a 75-vote victory over Emery Clement, TVA candidate, to win reelection 734 to 658. Lawrence St. Onge, Democrat candidate, received 272.”

The 1963 Lake Placid election

“A political loner making his first bid for public office led the balloting in the village election in Lake Placid on Tuesday. Jack Barry, a registered Democrat running as an independent, tallied 538 votes.

“Mayor Robert J. Peacock, running unopposed for re-election, was runner up in the number of votes with 513. A total of 738 votes were registered.

“Running with Peacock on the Republican ticket for the trustees post were incumbent Oren F. Preston and George Weaver, also a first-time candidate. In a best two of three decisions, Preston won the nod with 423 votes.

“Although registered as a Democrat and a member of the town committee, Barry ran without support from the party. Lake Placid last had a Democrat on the Board, Bart Patnode, who was defeated in the 1958 election.

“Dr. George Owen, a Democrat, held the office of Mayor when he died in 1957. Both Patnode and Owens had run as independents.

“Village officials called the turnout about average. There were 924 votes cast in 1960, the last year there was a contest for village trustee.”

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