SARANAC LAKE — Franklin County Legislator Lindy Ellis announced on Thursday that she is no longer seeking reelection and is dropping out of the race to represent District 7 on the Franklin County Board of Legislators. She cited “intimidation… harassment and bullying” and a desire to spend more time with family as the reasons for her decision.
Ellis, a Democrat who has represented District 7 since 2018, said leaving the race was a hard decision to make, but one she took a lot of time to think about. She recently contracted and fully recovered from COVID-19, which partially led her to this decision, she said.
“Life and health can be floating, and as I approach my 70s it is appropriate for me to spend more time with, and enjoying, my family,” Ellis wrote in a statement. “Intimidation as a form of political protest, whether online or in person, is not conducive to our democracy. Bullying and harassment has driven away good people on the national stage and now it is happening on our local level.”
Odd ballot for county election
Two candidates remain in the race to represent District 7 on the Franklin County Board of Legislators — Jeff Branch, who is running on the independent “Common Ground” party line, and Danielle Carr, who is running on the independent “Independent North Country” party line.
There are now two candidates — both on the major party lines — who have dropped out of the race, but whose names will still appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Ellis’ name will still appear on the Democratic and independent “Unity” party lines.
Leigh Wenske dropped out of the race in June after endorsing Branch, but his name will still be on the Republican and Conservative party lines.
The deadline to decline a party nomination has passed, so unless candidates who drop out move out of the district or die, their names will remain on the ballot.
Ellis said when people see her name on the ballot on Nov. 8, “they should vote for the person of their choice.”
She plans to continue to serve in her post through the end of the year.
“Serving the towns of Franklin and Harrietstown has been a pleasure,” she wrote. “Being able to help many of you with your individual issues and also bringing about improvements that enhance all of our lives has brought me great personal satisfaction.”
Reasons for dropping out
Ellis said her reason for dropping out was based on “demoralizing” opposition from a number of locals, which she said rose to the level of harassment.
“A factor for my dropping out of the legislative race is the harassment and bullying my family and I have endured for the past two years,” Ellis wrote. “A campaign has been concocted by a small group, many of whom do not live in our district, to force me to quit a job that I have been doing effectively and successfully.”
There has been a group of local people who in recent years have been critical of Ellis and her husband, Saranac Lake village Trustee Rich Shapiro.
“I was just very discouraged with that aspect of our community. It’s very unsupportive of democratic governance,” Ellis said. “They aren’t talking about issues. They are being abusive and characterizing me as a bully and vindictive, which, if people know anything about me is exactly the opposite of who I am.”
This group has accused Shapiro and Ellis of using their elected offices for personal and political vendettas, getting people they had feuds with fired and smearing members of their group.
The feuds Ellis and Shapiro have had with this group of locals date back to 2020. The disputes range in topics — from competitive campaigns for village board, the erasing of anti-racist chalk writings on village sidewalks, farmers market attendees being ticketed for parking on River Road, controversial county decisions on tourism contracts and claims of stalking and spreading misinformation.
The group has been critical of the county legislature’s January decision to cancel its tourism promotion contract with the Franklin County Economic Development Corporation and give that contract to a new in-house county office. The chairmen of the Franklin County Economic Development Corporation board and Tourism Advisory Committee resigned after this decision, saying they disagreed with it.
Some have alleged that Ellis played a role in this decision and did so for personal and political reasons. Ellis has said this is not true and pointed out that other legislators wanted to do this for a while before then. she said the “misinformation” portraying her as a bully has been upsetting.
“They claim that their goal is ‘tearing down the establishment.’ I am not the establishment,” Ellis wrote. “I was never involved in anything political until 10 years ago. I am an engineer trying to help people with facts and truths.”
Shapiro said these allegations about his wife are a “blatant lie” and that they have upset him. He said this group of people make allegations and disparage him at every village board meeting and in May said he was “fed up.”
Shapiro was censored by the village board last month for his responses to these criticisms — which involved cursing at a public meeting, calling a village resident an “a*** pore” and getting in a physical confrontation with a St. Armand resident who was protesting Ellis at a political rally. In this confrontation, which was caught on video, the protestor, Jacob Vennie-Vollrath, fell backwards. Vennie-Vollrath says Shaprio pushed him. Shapiro says the two bumped and Vennie-Vollrath faked the fall.
Ellis said she does not know why there is so much animosity between herself, Shapiro and these locals. Some of them campaigned for her when she ran for reelection to the legislature in 2019, but their relationships have soured since then.
Ellis has represented the towns of Franklin and Harrietstown on the county board for the past four and a half years. She was appointed by the county board to fill former legislator Barb Rice’s seat in June 2018 after Rice was appointed to a role in the governor’s office. Rice had asked Ellis to take her county seat appointment from her.
Ellis ran for the one-year remainder of Rice’s term in November 2018 and ran again in 2019 for a full term. She was running for her second full term this year before dropping out Thursday.
She said in her years on the board she feels she’s earned a reputation for being “the hardest working legislator on the board,” which legislature Chair Donald Dabiew has agreed with.
Ellis feels that many of her goals have been achieved — helping keep Franklin County healthy during the pandemic, housing, paving county Routes 47 and 55 and working on improving broadband access in the county.
She said she plans to stay involved with the issues of affordable housing, broadband and economic development through volunteering on committees.
She said the $1 million Federal Community Project Funding broadband grant she proposed and wrote the funding request for is “a remaining initiative of great importance.”
This broadband build-out was one of 15 proposals selected by the office of US Rep. Elise Stefanik out of 100 projects. Ellis said the next step is to have the funding built into the federal budget.
“Through use of innovative technology, we hope to address ‘digital equity’ in Franklin County’s unserved areas including Franklin and Harrietstown,” Ellis wrote.
The town of Franklin is 50% unserved for broadband and Harrietstown is 15% unserved.
Voters will head to the polls on Election Day, Nov. 8. Polls on that day will be open from 6 am to 9 pm
Voters will also vote for a governor, lieutenant governor, state attorney general, state comptroller, state senator, state assembly member, congressperson and US senator, among other local elections.
Early voting stations will also be open at the Franklin County Courthouse — 355 West Main St., Suite 161, Malone — from Oct. 29 to Nov. 6, from 9 am to 5 pm Nov. 1 and 3, the offices will be open from 12 to 8 pm
The last day to apply for registration to vote in this election is Oct. 14 and applications by mail must be received by Oct. 19.
The last day to change a voter address is Oct. 19.
The last day to mail an absentee ballot application is Oct. 24. The last day to deliver an absentee ballot application in person at the county offices in Malone is Nov. 7.
Absentee ballots for the Nov. 8 election must reach the county Board of Elections by close of the polls on Election Day or be postmarked no later than the day of the election and received by Nov. 15.