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Open the process

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Some local Republicans officials are making themselves look like they are in complete disarray.

What’s worse is that they appear to be afraid of an open electoral process. Neither speaks well of the local party’s ability to govern.

James E. Parker, chairman of the Republican Town Committee in Alexandria Bay, and longtime committee member F. Sampie Sutton used the committee’s resources earlier this year to gather signatures and promote specific candidates running for different offices in the upcoming GOP primary, said critics Ronald G. Thomson and Daniel B. Peterson. In defending these peculiar actions, Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman Donald G.M. Coon III said “there is no obligation on the part of the committee to carry all of the petitions” filed by candidates.

This is an astonishing statement from the leader of an arm of the Republican Party. He claims it’s not necessary for his organization to let voters know about all GOP candidates running in the primary.

Do Mr. Parker, Mr. Sampie and Mr. Coon believe they alone have the right to shape the course of the primary? Don’t the voters hold this responsibility?

Isn’t this the function of a primary, to let voters choose who will represent them in a general election? And how can they be expected to make informed decisions if party leaders withhold pertinent information from them about candidates who want to run?

This development is appalling enough. But further actions raise the question of whose interests GOP leaders are committed to serving.

Mr. Thomson said he held three informational sessions for Republican candidates. The goal of these forums was to ensure the candidates had all the proper paperwork filed in a timely manner.

One would think that the local Republican Party would opt to hold these kinds of informational sessions for GOP candidates. But in the absence of such interest on the part of party leaders, they should be grateful for activists who take this duty upon themselves.

However, this isn’t what happened. One member of the Town Committee placed a catty statement in a notice for the May 29 meeting reading, “This is the official Republican Party, not the Uncle Sam Tea Party.” This was obviously a reference to one of Mr. Thomson’s Alexandria Bay businesses, Uncle Sam Boat Tours.

When residents showed up at the Town Committee meeting, including more than a dozen candidates and some of their supporters, Mr. Parker declared that the meeting was a private affair for committee members only. But the meeting notice, which was publicly advertised, invited “all candidates and others interested in helping with the petition process.”

Mr. Sutton then called police and asked that the undesirable members of the audience be removed. He was also said to have threatened one of the people in attendance with violence. A state trooper refused to remove anyone from the meeting because of the public nature of the notice but offered to arrest whoever threatened the violence if the reported victim pressed charges.

If Republican organizers can make such a mess of relationships within their own group, how can they be trusted to provide effective leadership once they or their handpicked candidates attain elective office? Is this how they intend to govern, by shutting out diverse voices and telling people that they know best?

A more open electoral process is in the best interest of the Jefferson County Republican Party and the residents it serves. Members of the Town Committee should be encouraging more people to become involved in local politics, not calling the police on those with whom they may disagree.

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