Ashley Dittus, current Ulster County Board of Elections Democratic commissioner and the favorite to win the chair of the Ulster County Democratic Committee in an upcoming vote, has withdrawn from the race.
The move comes after Dittus accidentally shared a spreadsheet resembling a hit list, with the words "kill" and "maim" listed alongside the names of members of the Ulster County Young Democrats, a group she’d approached last month for an endorsement.
"I feel particularly saddened that I know I have let a number of you down over the last 24 hours," said Dittus in a press release on Thursday, Sept. 3. "As I have said, I take full responsibility for my actions but I know that my own words can only go so far.
"With so much ahead of us this year, I do not wish to have my regrettable statements become a distraction from the shared goals that we all have. Thus, I have decided to withdraw my candidacy for Chair of the Ulster County Democratic Party."
Dittus has served as the Democratic BOE commissioner for more than 10 years and is currently secretary of the Ulster County Democratic Committee.
"Using the language that Ashley used is totally contrary to what our party stands for," said Jeff Collins, Dittus's opponent and former state Senate candidate. "We are the party of inclusion.
"We are the party that values everyone's thoughts and opinions, even when they are different from ours.
"Someone who wants to be a leader in our party can not use this type of language. I call on Ashley to withdraw her candidacy as chair of the Ulster County Democratic Party."
The Ulster County Young Democrats speculated in a press release that the Excel document, which was shared via Google Docs with members of Congressman Antonio Delgado's reelection campaign, was a prediction of which members would vote for Dittus.
The terms, they said, were listed alongside members of the Young Democrats that she anticipated would vote against her endorsement, alongside other members of the group were the phrases "get to mtg," "follow up call," and "will abstain."
Individuals with the words "kill" and "maim" beside their names included Saugerties Town Councilman John Schoonmaker, Delgado staffer Tyler Vanderhaag, local library board member Timothy Scott Jr. and Ulster County Young Democrats Chair Larissa Shaughnessy.
"I would have hoped that Ashley, as a founding member of the Young Dems, would seek to uplift young voices in the party rather than maim them," said Shaughnessy in a statement which called for Dittus's withdrawal from the race. "That has sadly not been the case, as is evident in this indefensible display of intimidation. …
"At this time of division within our own party, we need a leader who encourages diverse voices and ideologies, rather than one who references those she believes to be opposed to her with the words 'kill' and 'maim.'
"I am therefore calling on Ashley to withdraw from the race for Chair of the Ulster County Democratic Party."
Neither Dittus nor Delgado’s campaign responded to a request for comment.
"Campaigning gets the better of people," said Dittus on the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 2 during a town hall Zoom meeting, in which she briefly addressed the controversy before detailing her campaign goals for approximately two hours.
Dittus only took three questions after her presentation, although at least a dozen hands among the nearly 60 viewers with questions were raised.
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