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Seaway Festival parade will no longer admit politicians from outside of Ogdensburg

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After claiming that several political candidates circumvented the rules, Ogdensburg International Seaway Festival Chairman Chris S. Cole said Friday that politicians from outside Ogdensburg will be banned from marching in next year’s parade.

Mr. Cole said he received complaints from Democrats about the participation of John L. Byrne, a Republican assembly candidate for the 116th Assembly District, in the parade.

According to parade rules listed on the Ogdensburg International Seaway Festival’s website, “political campaigning of any type is strictly prohibited.” Any person found to be in violation of the rule “will be asked to leave the line of march.”

Only government officials currently holding office are allowed to participate in that venue and those representatives are asked to refrain from campaign activities.

“We apologize to anyone that was upset about that campaigning group,” Mr. Cole said Friday. “We’re going to a zero-tolerance policy for political officials outside the city. It’s sad that it has brought it to this situation.”

But Mr. Byrne, who is also a town board member in Cape Vincent, said as an elected town official he abided by the rules and he made no attempt to hide his candidacy bid from parade organizers.

Before the parade, Mr. Byrne handed out pamphlets near the Ogdensburg Cinemas at the corner of Ford and State streets but did not campaign while marching in the parade, he said.

“I was told elected officials are allowed to march in the parade and not allowed to wear any campaign regalia,” Mr. Byrne said. “I didn’t do any political campaigning at all in the parade. I try to comply with every rule no matter what parade I am participating in.”

Mr. Byrne’s opponent, incumbent Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, was also permitted to march in the parade, as was Watertown mayoral incumbent Jeffrey E. Graham.

Mr. Cole said that both Democrats and Republicans have had candidates march in the parade over the years against the rules.

“This has been going on for years,” he said. “The DA race several years ago, for one, and during the last mayoral race ... I can go on. It’s dirty campaigning, that’s what it is. If it’s their prerogative to circumnavigate the rules, then they shouldn’t be in office.“

Mr. Cole has said the change in policy will remain in effect indefinitely. City councilors, the mayor and other Ogdensburg officials will continue to be allowed to march in the parade, he said.

“We are a not-for-profit organization,” Mr. Cole said. “We seek financial help through grants. The city helps us out tremendously throughout the year, whether it is using their facilities or having the city recreation, public works and the fire department assist us in set up. Allowing them to participate in the parade is a way to recognize how active they are in helping to organize this event.”

The Seaway Festival Parade policy was created several years ago as way to keep the parade a celebration and family-friendly event, Mr. Cole said.

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