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Halfmoon Town Board Candidates Dispute Unfair Campaign Practices

Lucas Willard

Four candidates running for town board in the Saratoga County town of Halfmoon — two Democrats and two Republicans — have filed complaints against each for unfair campaign practices, and appeared before an elections fairness organization Wednesday evening.

The race for Halfmoon town board has been mired in political controversy for months. Two open seats on the all-Republican town board are being fought for by Democrats Deanna Stephenson and Joseph Christopher, and Republicans Jeremy Connors and Daphne Jordan.

Wednesday, the organization Fair Campaign Practices of the Capital Region heard complaints from the candidates. The Democrats accuse the Republicans of distributing misinformation in a campaign flyer, while the Republicans also take issue with a mailer and a press release.

Credit Lucas Willard / WAMC
MIchael Cuevas

Christopher, a schoolteacher, discussed a Republican campaign mailer that said he “deceived Halfmoon voters by hiding his prior arrest as part of a massive cocaine sting.” After that mailer, Christopher said he was dropping out of the race, but has since re-entered the campaign, and his name will appear on the ballot.

Christopher provided court documents from 1995 on his arrest on a marijuana charge that was ultimately dropped. He was a college undergraduate at the time.

“The chargers were dismissed before I was tried or even questioned by police. I never faced these charges. Using this to destroy my character was clearly an unfair personal attack that misrepresents and distorts my record,” said Christopher.

Michael Cuevas, a lawyer representing GOP candidates Connors and Jordan, responded to Christopher’s accusation by pointing to an article printed in the Times Union newspaper in 1995 that referenced a cocaine bust, of which Christopher’s marijuana arrest was a part.

“So while he may object to the language that says ‘part of a massive cocaine sting’ that is in fact what happened and it’s reported in the Times Union story.”

Stephenson complained that a Republican campaign flyer wrongly stated that she “has no record of public service” and that it also wrongly claimed she only voted after she began campaigning for office in Halfmoon.

“My voting record, in which was in question; I registered to vote on January 30th, 1997.”

Stephenson spoke about her involvement as a PTA member and president.

Cuevas did admit to an error on the mailer criticizing Stephenson’s voting record.

“What they meant to say was that she only started voting in town elections once she became a candidate.”

Stephenson also disputed a claim that she only ran for a position on the town ethics committee for political gain.

The GOP candidates had filed a complaint against a press release they said was attempting to tie them to Halfmoon developer and former Republican committee member Bruce Tanski. Tanski is facing charges for violating campaign finance laws.

Cuevas said Joe Christopher had falsely accused appointed board member Daphne Jordan.

“So he says, ‘Every current member of the Halfmoon town board has used this tainted campaign cash to help them get elected to office.’ So since Ms. Jordan was not elected, this is not true. So she did not use any, if any, ‘tainted’ campaign cash to get elected.”

Cuevas also brought forward a complaint based on a mailer from Stephenson’s campaign, titled “It wasn’t just one bad apple.” Cuevas said this mailer attempted to tie the Republican candidates to  former town supervisor Mindy Wormuth, who resigned after being arrested last year on campaign finance violation charges.

“Other than, when you talk about the one bad apple, if they’re referring to Mindy Wormuth, than which town elected official are they talking about? There is none. There’s been no other town official been involved in arrests in scandals.”

Todd Kerner, Saratoga County Democratic Chair, sitting with Stephenson and Christopher, defended the mailer.

“But since they were elected we’ve seen more arrests and scandals when they haven’t fought for us’ and that’s absolutely true. Mr. Tanski is on the Halfmoon Town Republican Committee, until recently, I guess. When his arrest came through he got off it. So is Mrs. Jordan and Mr. Connors, are both on the Republican Committee. It’s all intertangled.”

The candidates will not get a chance to debate before election day. Fair Campaign Practices of the Capital Region will issue a decision on the hearings in the near future.


Fair Campaign Practices of the Capital Region has released its findings from the hearings, and has confirmed unfair campaign practices in Halfmoon.

More details can be found here: http://faircampaignpractices.info/

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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