After defeat, dissent in GOP
Colonie leader's exit urged in wake of historic sweep by Democrats By JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST, Staff writer Click byline for more stories by writer.
First published: Wednesday, January 23, 2008
COLONIE -- The November elections landed with a deflating thud in Town Hall, long controlled by the GOP.
But the heaviest political fallout may have come recently when a high-profile Republican sent an e-mail to party members calling on town GOP Chairman Harry J. D'Agostino to quit in the wake of the Democrats' takeover.
John Graziano Sr., a Colonie resident and Albany County's Republican elections commissioner, said that D'Agostino's unwillingness to change may doom the GOP to future defeats.
D'Agostino said he won't step down. But the dissent is a sign of weakness inside Colonie's Republican machine, less celebrated but arguably more efficient and long-lived than its Democratic counterpart in Albany.
"Everything seems to be a 'business-as-usual' approach, even though we lost the majority of the Town Board, our supervisor and many valued members of the town government," wrote Graziano, asking "with no malice intended" for D'Agostino to support him as his successor.
A similar e-mail from fellow Republican Roger Cusick, an attorney who has run for district attorney and county executive, said "the organization has been essentially closed to new ideas and new people."
"This method has worked in the past, and for that we should be eternally grateful and respectful of Harry," he continued. "However, times have changed and the beating this organization took in 2007 was certainly predictable..."
D'Agostino, a 76-year-old lawyer, has run the party for 35 years. Until now, Democrats hadn't elected a candidate to town office since Prohibition.
In a turnaround that startled even some Democrats, the party swept November's elections, buoyed by accusations of scandal and financial mismanagement against the GOP.
D'Agostino said he hopes to continue as chairman beyond September, when he is eligible for re-election by the committee's 120 members.
"I'm going to continue on doing what I was elected to do," he said in an interview. "The mark of a good leader is being able to lead in good times as well as times of adversity."
D'Agostino said he has been meeting with small groups of committee members for their input. Among the trends he said he hopes to reverse is Republicans crossing party lines to vote for Democrats. D'Agostino also pointed out that the supervisor's race was very close, and a greater percentage of Republican voters turned out than Democrats.
Graziano contends D'Agostino already has delayed too long.
"You cannot wait until next year to re-organize and expect to run an effective campaign," he said.
It was not clear whether Graziano has the support to unseat D'Agostino. But the fact that his ouster was broached hints at the turmoil behind the scenes in an organization known for its unified public face.
Republicans will gather Friday for their annual fundraiser -- usually a "Victory Party" -- at Michael's Banquet House.
"I have no ulterior motive," Graziano said. "I'm not a lawyer. I'm not an insurance salesman. I can't make any money off this. This is nothing but a labor of love for the party."