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Candidates for County Rep, Oneonta Common Council, Supreme Court State Their Case Before Election Day

OTSEGO COUNTY—Early voting has ended, today is the last day to apply in person for an absentee ballot for the General Election, and tomorrow is Election Day.

Out of the 14 Otsego County representative positions up for election, only one is a contested race. That would be District 11 (Oneonta City-Wards One and Two), where Nora Mendez, a Democrat, is running against Republican Paul Ahearn to fill the seat being vacated by Democrat Clark Oliver.

The City of Oneonta has four active races for its eight council member positions. In Ward Three, Shannon McHugh (DEM) is running against Daniel Rorick (REP) to fill the seat currently held by David Rissberger; in Ward Five, Donald Garrison Jr. (LTN) is running against incumbent Leonard Carson Jr. (REP, BGO); in Ward Seven, Bryce Wooden (DEM) is facing off against Sean Dwight (REP) for the seat now held by Edmond Overbey; and in Ward Eight, James Peter DeAndrea (REP) is running against incumbent Emily Falco (OUP).

Voters will also choose between Deirdre Hay (DEM) or Cheryl Insinga (REP) as Supreme Court justice for the Sixth Judicial District, which encompasses all of Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Madison, Otsego, Schuyler, Tioga and Tompkins counties. The winner will fill the vacancy created by the pending retirement of Broome County-based State Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Tait. reached out to these candidates for their thoughts on why voters should vote for them on Election Day. Their responses are below.


Deirdre Hay (DEM)

I respectfully seek your vote because I have the varied and extensive courtroom experience a judge needs. I have been a lawyer in New York for 25 years. I’ve represented real peoplein divorce cases, personal injuries, property and contracts cases. I’m a lawyer for farmers, an agricultural cooperative, and can handle complex cases.

I would be afair judge in divorce cases (30 percent of this court’s cases). With three children I raised here with my husband of 25 years, I understand families. My struggles raising our Special Olympian son gave me a deep understanding of how to keep tensions down and solve family problems respectfully.

I am an Adjunct Law Professorat Cornell, an award-winning leaderin the legal profession, and worked with our State’s Chief Judge to improve our judicial system. I believe in fairness and justice for everybody: I serve on the Board of LawNY which gives free legal advice to those in need. I led over 4,000 attorneys pushing in Albany for equal pay, the ERA and fairness.

My opponent has a partisan track record (active in the Conservative Party and Special Counsel to a senator). I have bipartisan support and endorsers. Help keep politics out of this courtroom (which decides election law.)


Cheryl Insinga (REP)

The individuals who appear in State Supreme Court deserve to be heard by a judge with knowledge, experience, compassion and impartiality. That’s why I’m running for the position.

For 25 years, I’ve practiced law here in the Southern Tier, helping our local schools, police and fire departments, towns and villages, and more. I’m the only candidate who grew up in the Southern Tier and who has spent her entire career practicing law here in our community.

I’m a partner at the Binghamton-based law firm Coughlin & Gerhart, where I’ve worked for the past 16 years. Earlier in my career, I gained valuable experience working in the State Senate, County Clerk’s Office and Binghamton Corporation Counsel’s Office, as well as serving alongside retiring State Supreme Court Justice Jeff Tait (before he was elected to the bench) at O’Connor, Gacioch, Pope & Tait.

I’ve also given back by volunteering on the boards of the Greater Binghamton Education Outreach Program, Southern Tier AIDS Program and Broome County IDA/LDC.

I love our community and have a lifelong commitment to it. I’m respectfully asking for your vote for State Supreme Court to bring my hometown roots and extensive legal experience to serve our region.


Nora Mendez (DEM)

Voting is a right we are fortunate to have in this country. On November 7th, you will see my name on the ballot. My name is Nora Mendez. I’m running for county representative for Ward One and Ward Two of the City of Oneonta. I have lived in Oneonta and Otsego County for seven years now. I have learned so much about what the county has to offer to its residents, but I want to be involved—I want to see Otsego grow and I want to be able to have a voice for the residents. I want to have a voice in the committees that the county board oversees in order to understand where our resources and money are being used. Also, I want to see how we can restructure our money to benefit the entire county, not just some areas like we see currently happening. I can promise I will give it my all to learn about the different communities in our county and be proud to represent the people of Ward One and Ward Two of Oneonta.

Paul Ahearn (REP)

We did not hear back by press time.


Daniel Rorick (REP)

Residents of the Third Ward, my name is Dan Rorick and I’m asking for your vote for City of

Oneonta Common Council. Know that if elected, representing you as a voter and resident will be my highest priority.

I want to be your direct line of communication to the city for any concerns or issues you have. I’m a lifelong Oneonta native, born and raised here. I attended Greater Plains Elementary School, Oneonta High School and finished my education at SUNY Oneonta, receiving my bachelors in political science.

My experience coupled with my education will provide you a council representative worthy of your vote. I own and operate my own landscaping business in the city. I’m heavily invested in Oneonta. I want Oneonta to continue to be a safe, healthy and prosperous place to raise a family. Having a three-year-old daughter incentivizes me even more toward this cause.

The only radical thing about me is my adherence to common sense and facts. I’m not a political zealot and don’t wish to push any ideological agenda as your representative. I simply want to represent you. Oneonta has numerous challenges ahead. Help me address them with your vote! Thank you.

Shannon McHugh (DEM)

We did not hear back by press time.


Leonard E. Carson Jr. (REP, BGO)

Local politics should be about hiring a neighbor who has the experience, knowledge, abilities and time to put toward the position. The position of Council Member takes all of the above skill sets to be able to strongly advocate for the residents of the Fifth Ward. And that’s what I’ve been doing on behalf of the more than 1,600+ residents of the Fifth Ward and the City of Oneonta for the last 3-1/2+ years on council. My attendance record for council and committee meetings is 98 percent, while chairing three committees, which demonstrates I’m committed to the position.

Having served the City of Oneonta for 26 years as a member of the Oneonta Fire Department, retiring as a fire captain, provided all of the background needed to understand what, why and how our municipal government functions. I served on the Airport Commission for more than eight years before being elected to council. Being a small business owner is tough, but the last 12 years has provided me with experience in problem solving, which is needed on council. 

Re-electing Len Carson for Fifth Ward Council Member will provide us with a neighbor who has the experience, knowledge, abilities and time to represent city residents.

Donald Garrison Jr. (LTN)

Are you looking for a dedicated and experienced leader who genuinely cares about our city’s future? Donald Garrison Jr. is the ideal candidate for the Fifth Ward city council position. He’s running because he is deeply concerned about the current state of our city and aspires to make a real difference in our community.

With a background as a business owner, Donald brings valuable experience in financial management and firsthand knowledge of the challenges faced by local businesses. His commitment to easing burdensome regulations on businesses will help create a thriving local economy.

Donald’s active participation in running campaigns and regular attendance at Common Council meetings demonstrates his dedication to staying informed about local issues and finding effective community engagement strategies.

His primary goals include cutting down unnecessary regulations to stimulate business growth, increasing low-income housing availability, and making Oneonta an attractive destination for businesses. His vision is to foster economic growth, support affordable housing initiatives and make Oneonta a better place for everyone.

Vote for Donald Garrison Jr. for the Fifth Ward city council position and help us revitalize our community for a brighter future!


Bryce Wooden (DEM)

We did not hear back by press time.

Sean Dwight (REP)

We did not hear back by press time.


Emily Falco (OUP)

My name is Emily Falco; I am an artist and an Oneonta native. My husband and I own a business on Main Street and live in the heart of downtown. I was appointed to council when Mayor Drnek took office in 2021, and then successfully ran last year to continue serving. I care about seeing my community prosper and about taxpayer and local business advocacy in our government. I am running because I believe that Oneontans deserve to have a representative who shares and prioritizes their interests.

Every year it’s becoming harder for the city to budget for continuing its basic operations, while less than half of the city population pays 100 percent of the taxes. I think the most important thing Oneonta can do right now is to try to take that burden away from taxpayers and find alternate means of revenue, especially as inflation has forced everyone’s purse strings to tighten. 

I don’t believe in party politics, especially at the local level, which is why I decided to run as an independent on the Oneonta Upward Party (OUP).I believe in a government by the people, for the people, and it is my promise to Oneonta to serve by that principle in every decision.

James Peter DeAndrea (REP)

We did not hear back by press time.


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