By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Peter Oberacker, elected state senator on Nov. 3, will be leaving the Otsego County Board Dec. 31 at the latest and is blocked by the county board’s Rules of Order from voting on his
Absent bipartisanship, that creates a deadlock.
There are 6,228 “weighted votes” distributed among the 14 county reps, and without Oberacker’s 534 votes, the Republicans don’t have the 3,115-vote majority to fill his seat unilaterally.
Democrats control 2,807 weighted votes, also insufficient to fill the seat.
County Board chair David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, anticipates things may fall into place.
“There will be a couple of candidates brought forth by the committees,” he said. “A couple of people have reached out to me. Pete has someone he’s likely to recommend. I would take his recommendation highly, just as we did when Senator Seward recommended Pete.”
Since Republicans dominate in Oberacker’s District 6 (Schenevus, Worcester, Westford and Decatur), the GOP town committees there should propose his successor, in the view of county Republican Chairman Vince Casale.
“The people of that district overwhelmingly elected a Republican to represent them,” said Casale. “I don’t see any reason why the board wouldn’t work together to replace the representative in the will
of the voters.”
The county Democratic chairman, Clark Oliver, who is also county rep from District 11, Oneonta’s East End, said the county board rarely makes decisions on strictly party lines, and he hopes it follows that precedent here.
“What I’m hopeful for is that we will agree to appoint a candidate with some sort of bipartisan support,” he said. “If there seems to be a clear path forward, I assume somebody will break the tie.”
Meanwhile, “In the planning process, it would seem Republicans would want to bring Democrats into the discussion.”
Asked about a Dec. 2 decision, Bliss replied, “That’s possible.”
It would depend when Oberacker decides to resign, he said. Rule 6 of the board’s Rules of Order calls for a replacement to be made within 30 days of a resignation, Bliss said, adding he’s not sure if that’s a guideline or has the force of law.
Despite having seven county reps to the Republicans’ five (plus one Conservative, Meg Kennedy of Hartwick, Milford and New Lisbon), the Democrats – four from the City of Oneonta’s smaller districts – only control 2,807 votes, well short of a majority.
The first forum on the issue will be the county board’s Administration Committee, which will meet at 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 19.
Kennedy, who chairs Admin, said she likes Casale’s proposal. “I hope people would be agreeable. I hope the county board as a whole could respectfully agree to the local people’s choice.”
In the 2019 county board election, Oberacker was unopposed, and garnered 884 votes, vs. 11 write-ins.
In 2017, when challenged by Democrat Chad McEvoy, Westford, Oberacker chalked up a 1,007-701 victory.
According to the Rules of Order, the Republican and Democratic county committees may each recommend a replacement to Oberacker, but county board members and, presumably others, can do so as well.
Casale said he will convene a meeting of the 8-9 District 6 committee members shortly. Oliver said the Democratic Committee also will meet on the 19th.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to let the people of that district go without representation,” Casale said. “Why not do it sooner rather than later?”