Contested Pawling Town Justice Race Underway
There has never been a contested election for the Town Justice position in Pawling according to Dutchess County Board of Elections records. That has changed thanks to five Republican Town Board officials who unanimously voted for Terrance Wansley last November to fill the position vacated by Justice Dave Daniels. Wansley is a Democrat and was chosen over 5 other candidates including his now opponent, Kevin Irwin.
Elected local officials often come together to support a Judge appointment and choose the best candidate, regardless of party affiliation.
This year is unique with an open division among Republicans that was on display at the summer Republican Caucus. Prominent local elected officials openly supported and nominated Democrat Wansley. However, the Republican nomination was ultimately won by Kevin Irwin. Since that caucus, some vocal Republicans have circulated misinformation about incumbent Wansley and many of his political signs have been stolen and vandalized throughout Pawling.
A recent letter to voters from Irwin proclaims he is the only candidate with a law degree, however, that is not even required. In fact, in NY State, only 38% of Town and Village Justices have a law degree.
Current Justice Wansley’s resume shows over 20 years of law enforcement experience as well as years serving on and chairing the Pawling Zoning Board and a Master’s Degree from Marist College. He has successfully presided over hundreds of diverse cases which include, but are not limited to, expired dog licenses, environmental and wetland infractions, neighbor vs neighbor disputes, vehicle and traffic violations, misdemeanor crimes of all types, DWI and felony arraignments.
Republican Town Board member Corinne Musella-Pitt, who chaired the committee that ultimately appointed Judge Wansley, stated that he is eminently suited for Town Justice.
Few Pawling residents know that the position requires a Justice to be on call 24/7 and a Town Justice may be called at any time for an arraignment including in the middle of the night, thereby requiring their presence at the Town Hall Court. Hon. Kenneth Johnson who is President of the NY State Magistrates Association says “the “Courts Closest to the People” should be overseen by trained judges chosen by the citizens of those towns, not by the Bar Association or politicians in Albany.” It should not be a question of party affiliation.