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Canton Democrats endorse Republican for mayor

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CANTON — Jilted by her own party this week, Republican Mary Ann Ashley won the nomination to run for Canton mayor on the Democratic line during the party caucus Thursday evening.

Ms. Ashley, a village trustee, will challenge incumbent David P. Curry, who won the Republican caucus nomination Wednesday, in the Nov. 5 election.

Robert N. Wells, a former Canton mayor, and several other Democrats said that Ms. Ashley has demonstrated the work ethic needed for the mayor’s job and that they were ready to support her candidacy even though she is not a registered Democrat.

“We have someone here who is very qualified. I’ve never seen anyone work harder,” Mr. Wells said. “Sometimes things go wacky. I would have loved to have had her on my board.”

While the majority of Democrats voted for Ms. Ashley by a show of hands, some voiced opposition to endorsing a Republican, regardless of qualifications. Roughly 30 Democrats attended the caucus.

The Rev. Michael Cantanzaro said nominating a Republican sent the wrong message. “I see this as a supremely bad idea,” he said.

No Democrats were nominated for mayor, paving the way for Ms. Ashley, who was nominated by Joseph N. Lamendola.

Responding to a question, Ms. Ashley said she is considering switching her party affiliation, but she made no promises.

“To me it’s not about politics. It’s not about the parties. It’s about the people,” she said.

She said she was approached by Democrats two years ago to run for mayor as a Democrat.

“I am conservative financially, not socially,” Ms. Ashley said.

Joseph J. Frank, an incumbent village trustee who is not seeking re-election, also spoke against the nomination, describing Ms. Ashley as “conservative.”

But fellow Trustee Daniel J. McDonnell, a Democrat, praised Ms. Ashley for her accomplishments on the village board, including her assistance in improving the village’s fiscal condition and her active role in the annual budget process. She has also served on 10 different committees and donated her trustee salary to create a successful kayak rental program at Taylor Park that’s generating money for the village.

“The fact is she is the best person in this community to be the mayor,” Mr. McDonnell said.

Paul F. Backus, a Canton Town Council member, agreed.

“Look at the vision of the two people we’re talking about. Mary Ann is definitely the person for the job,” he said.

In other races, Democrats endorsed Carol Pynchon and Brooke James-Rouse for two open village trustee seats.

The Democrats were unable to secure a candidate to run against incumbent Town Supervisor David T. Button, a Republican. James T. Smith, a town councilman who previously served as town supervisor, turned down a nomination for the supervisor post.

Former Mayor Charlotte Ramsay was nominated, but didn’t win enough votes after caucus members learned she is out of the country and may be moving from Canton within the next several months.

Democrats were also unable to field a candidate to run against incumbent Town Clerk Lisa A. Hammond.

Edward J. McCarthy was endorsed by Democrats to run against incumbent town Highway Superintendent Terry A. Billings, a Republican.

Mr. Backus and Daniel Fay, both incumbent Democrats on the Town Council, were nominated for re-election. Mr. Backus has served since 1992 while Mr. Fay has been on the board since 2001.

St. Lawrence County District Attorney Nicole M. Duve, a Democrat, also spoke during the caucus, asking support in her Nov. 5 race against Republican challenger Mary E. Rain.

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