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Low voter turnout in Massena bad news for Democrats

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MASSENA - Eight years ago when Nicole M. Duve was first elected district attorney in St. Lawrence County she defeated her opponent in Massena by 753 votes; this time around neither Ms. Duve or her opponent received that close to that many from votes from the town’s voters.

This year Mary E. Rain received five more votes than Ms. Duve in Massena, en route to building a 695 vote lead that will likely carry her to victory once the 1,500 absentee ballots are counted.

The different though, between this year and 2005 is Ms. Rain carried Massena while receiving only 572 votes. Eight years ago when Ms. Duve carried Massena, she earned 1,960 votes.

In total eight years ago, 3,167 votes were cast in the district attorney’s race. This year, not counting the absentee ballots, nly 1,534 votes were cast, a difference of 2,028 votes.

It is no secret that voter turnout tends to be higher in years that feature contested local races and the ballot eight years ago included a hotly contested race for town supervisor between Sanford T. “Sandy” Cook and Gary Edwards.

This year Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray, as well as three town council candidates, all ran uncontested.

“I do think voters tend to get out more when there are opponents,” Massena Democratic Party Chair Courtney Deshaies said.

Ms. Deshaies said she was disappointed with the number of people from Massena who came out to vote Tuesday night.

“I was disappointed in the turnout. I had hoped that there would be a higher turnout,” she said, adding though that the low turnout didn’t come as a surprise.

“We did expect a low turnout with it being an off year and there not being any contested races (in Massena), but we did hope for more than what was there.”

When asked if she thought a higher turnout in Massena could have maybe swung the election in Ms. Duve’s favor, Ms. Deshaies replied, “I really don’t know. It’s hard to tell.”

The low voter turnout though wasn’t the only thing disappointing to Ms. Deshaies.

“I think Nicole was the right person for the job, and I’m disappointed,” she said.

Longtime Councilman Albert N. Nicola, also a Democrat, said he’s not sure what a larger numbers of voters in Massena would have meant to the race.

“You can’t tell,” he said. “There are two things that muddy the waters.”

Mr. Nicola then explained, “I think the biggest block of new voters are registering blank and are independent.”

He also said that people today are more likely to vote for the person than they are their party affiliation, citing that fact that while Massena is heavily Democratic, both its mayor and town supervisor are Republicans.

There are 6,838 registered voters in the town fo Massena - 3,060 Democrats, 1,786 Republicans and 1,338 blanks.

“There are only 500 or 600 people now who will vote for the party. It didn’t used to be that way.”

Massena Republican Party Chairman Charles Romigh said he doesn’t think the number of voters would have made a difference, noting that eight years ago Ms. Duve didn’t have a record to run on.

“This year Nicole Duve was running on her record and I think that’s why so many people voted for Mary Rain,” he said. “This should go as a lesson to people who are judges and DAs that people are watching and maybe they’re not happy with some of the sentencing and all of the plea bargains.”

Mayor James F. Hidy, also a Republican, agreed.

“I think the outcome would have still been favorable for Mary Rain, because as she said during her campaign, people have had enough,” he said. “This wasn’t a Democratic or Republican issue this was a street safety issue. For anyone to say or think differently, they would clearly be thinking solely along party lines.”

Mr. Gray said he thinks more voters in Massena could have made a difference, but he’s not sure if the impact would have been enough to swing the election in Ms. Duve’s favor at the county level.

“It’s hard to say,” Mr. Gray said. “There’s no doubt that a low voter turnout in Massena would favor a Republican, so of course Mary benefitted from that.”

Mr. Gray said it’s his belief Democrats outnumber Republicans in Massena three to two. Looking at the results though, as a whole and not just in Massena, Mr. Gray said the county was pretty much split.

“People were obviously pretty split down the middle,” he said, disagreeing with Mayor Hidy’s assertion that the race was a public safety issue.

“If people were concerned about safety in the streets of Massena, there would have been a much higher voter turnout,” he said.

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