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Leaders disband county party

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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The Jefferson County Independence Party won't exist after November elections.


Party leaders purposely did not file petitions to elect a committee when members' terms expire this year.


Chairman John L. Rice said he has been too busy running his store, JR's Liquors, to dedicate time to the party. Nearing 62, the former City Council candidate has put his business up for sale, adding he's "going to be looking to do something different, something that doesn't take as much time."


Watertown Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said he and his fellow party members had little interest in maintaining an active committee after becoming "disgruntled or disillusioned" with the party's state leadership.


State officials changed the party's rules in June 2008 to ensure it was the state executive committee, not the local committees, that had the sole power to give out-of-party candidates their ballot line.


The amended rule was a response to the snafu that occurred the previous February, when the Jefferson committee and an interim county organization in Oswego County split on whom to endorse in the special 48th state Senate District election. Jefferson party members picked Democrat Darrel J. Aubertine, but the line instead went to Republican William A. Barclay. The locals' wishes were ignored the following summer when Mr. Aubertine again was recommended, only to see the state committee give the line to Republican David A. Renzi.


Without elected members, the party won't have local control over nominating and endorsing county candidates or giving non-party members in the county authorization to appear on the line in next year's elections.


Mr. Graham said that's fine with most of the members.


"The big races were all multicounty and they were all stripped away," he said. "It's basically for county Legislature and 90 percent are unopposed."


The mayor said he believes the party still represents an "additional place for ballot access and a way to influence races" and personally has no intentions of de-enrolling from the party.


"I just didn't want to go out on a hot summer day to get petitions so that we could have a committee that could endorse people in a series of unopposed races," he said.


Mr. Graham said party members could form an interim county organization if they shake off their malaise, but said the group would not re-form just to generate interest from new registered voters or those considering a party switch.


"Party building is a misnomer," he said. "That really doesn't happen."

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