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Dems bungle caucuses

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Voters who want to pick Democrats in Cape Vincent, Clayton or Wilna in the Nov. 8 election will have to write in the candidates’ names instead of picking them out from a list because of paperwork errors on the part of local party officials.

The fact that Democrats will be left off the ballots in those elections will complicate, but not thwart, the party’s efforts at getting its candidates elected.

“It’s human error,” said Sean M. Hennessey, the Jefferson County Democratic Committee chairman. “It happens in the world.”

Party officials in the three towns are supposed to notify the Jefferson County Board of Elections 10 days in advance that they’ll hold a caucus — a get-together of party members to pick candidates. But officials in Cape Vincent and Clayton did not, because the people who had been responsible for it had left their posts; in Wilna, a fax from the party leader to county officials did not go through, and he did not follow up. The Board of Elections is not required to remind towns and villages of the caucus deadlines, but did so as a courtesy, elections officials said.

“It just never entered our mind that we had to do it,” said Harold L. Wiley, Cape Vincent Democratic chairman. “We did have it in five days before the deadline, but they had to be in 10 days. And there’s nothing they can do.”

Mr. Wiley said that for decades, the town’s Democratic clerk would submit the paperwork. But a Republican is now town clerk.

Sixty Cape Vincent residents came out to the party’s caucus Friday, which was held amid uncertainty about whether its results would be deemed legitimate; they will not.

Mr. Wiley said the party will support two candidates who are on the ballot on non-Democratic lines who won unofficial caucuses Friday: Councilmen Marty T. Mason and Donald J. Mason. They are battling for two seats against Republican primary victors Clifford J. Schneider and John L. Byrne III.

Democratic candidates also will wage write-in candidacies, Mr. Wiley said.

In Clayton, town Chairman Patrick W. Youngs said, “There’s nobody to blame on this whole deal but me.”

The person who used to file the paperwork had to leave for personal reasons, he said, and he tried to do it on its own but failed to do so before the 10-day window closed.

The Democrats there will field write-in candidates. No other candidates for the positions have filed to get on the ballot, so the line on Clayton ballots for village mayor, for example, will be left blank.

Norma Zimmer will seek write-in votes for re-election to village mayor, Mr. Youngs said. Incumbent Democrat Dennis H. Honeywell and newcomer Twyla C. Webb will seek write-in votes for two open and uncontested spots on the village Board of Trustees. Town Councilman Lance L. Peterson will wage a write-in candidacy for re-election that is also, so far, uncontested.

In Wilna, Democrats are focusing on getting an incumbent dating to the 1980s re-elected without a spot on the ballot.

Democratic Chairman Paul H. Smith said the election for Town Council is not contested. Marco J. Franchini is a long-time councilman there. Like the Democratic candidates in Cape Vincent and Clayton, Mr. Franchini will have to win his spot without his name on the ballot.

“I just think it was an oversight,” Mr. Smith said.

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