County Board’s ‘Green Light’ Resolution Was Litmus Test – And Democrats Failed It

EDITORIAL • July 11-12, 2019

County Board’s ‘Green Light’

Resolution Was Litmus Test

– And Democrats Failed It

First, it should be said that there’s a troubling lack of interest this year in running for the Otsego County Board of Representatives, whose reach, from road building to social services, touches all 60,094 of us.

In the 14 districts, there are only three contests coming out of the June 25 primary:

  • In District 2, the one-term Democrat, former Morris Town Board member Michele Farwell, is being challenged by Marcia Hoag, a former Pittsfield Town Board member who is running on the Voice of the People line, but says she is allied with Republicans.
  • In District 3, where former board chair Kathy Clark, R-Otego/Laurens, is retiring. Republican Rick Brockway, a retired ferrier and outdoor columnist, and Democrat Caitlin Ogden, a Baseball Hall of Fame grantsman, are both newcomers running for the vacant seat.
  • In District 14, where Democrat Jill Basile and Wilson Wells, a Libertarian, are seeking to succeed Democrat Liz Shannon, who is retiring.

Contrast that with 2017, when 12 of the 14 seats were contested, and there were some humdingers.

Remember the Republican split in District 3 (Butternuts, Morris and Pittsfield) that allowed Farwell to slip into office?

Remember the bumping of incumbents, City of Oneonta Republicans Len Carson and Craig Gelbsman by Democrats, respectively, Danny Lapin and Adrienne Martini?

Remember Democrat Cathy Nardi in District 2, who almost bumped chairman Clark.  Due to a computational error on the tally board, Nardi actually thought she’d won for 10-15 minutes before the count caught up with the reality.

Even challenges turned back provided drama.

Remember Republican Tim Walker eventually bowing to Democratic incumbent Andrew Marietta in Cooperstown/Fly Creek District 8?  Other lively challengers included Democrats Nicole Dillingham (vs. Keith McCarty, District 9, Richfield/Springfield) and Leslie Berliant (vs. David Bliss, District 7, Cooperstown/Middlefield/Cherry Valley).

Now, political junkies, THAT was an election season.  It can be credited, in large part, to the Democratic fever spiked by President Trump’s election the year before.  If they had neglected the grassroots, Democrats, from Spokane, Wash., to Schenevus, were determine to make up for that.

What happened here, arguably, was part of that sweep.

Still, the Democrats, while gaining two seats, fell not  achieved since 2006, when Republican Don Lindberg broke with the GOP and allied with Otego’s Ron Feldstein in Democrat-dominated majority coalition.

Low-key as this political season might be, Democrats are probably closer to seizing a true majority this year than they ever have been.

And take District 3, where Republicans outnumber Democrats 1,367 to 873.  There, the Democrats pulled a bit of a fast one that suggests some exceptional motivation.

In the June 25 primary, Republican Rick Brockway was seeking a second line on the Nov. 5 ballot, that of the Independence Party.  Unopposed, he thought.   But the Democrats, led by the Cooperstown operative (and trustee) MacGuire Benton, organized a write-in campaign on Democrat Ogden’s behalf, and seized that line, 30-4.

That’s a bit too much inside baseball, but it shows the energy of the Ogden-Benton effort.

And, if Republicans don’t pay attention, they may wake up on Nov. 6 to find Ogden-Benton effort has carried the day on Nov. 5.

The county board has a weighted voting system.  And an Ogden win would shift 554 votes from R to D.  The Republican majority (3,421-2807) would give way to a Democratic majority (3,361-2,867)

Of course, there are other moving parts.

For instance, in District 2, where 1,199 Republicans are registered vs. 784 Democrats, Farwell could lose to Craig.  That would shift 503 weighted votes back into the Republican column, preserving the GOP majority at 3,370 to the Democrats’ 2,858.

And, who knows, maybe young Wilson Wells, running for a second time, will capture Oneonta’s District 14.  But registration, 459 Democratic to 4 Libertarian, tilts toward Democrat Jill Basile, at least on the face of it.

Usually, it might be argued there’s no such thing as a Republican or Democratic repaving job.  But something happened at the June county board meeting that suggested otherwise, at least for now.

In a vote to oppose the “Green Light” bill, granting drivers’ licenses to undocumented immigrants/illegal aliens, only one Democrat – Andrew Stammell, D-Town of Oneonta – voted “aye.”  The six other Democrats withheld approval – Gary Koutnik, Lapin and Martini voted “nay”; Farwell, Andrew Marietta and Shannon abstained.

With Democrats now in control of the state Senate, in addition to the Assembly and Governor’s Office,  the “Green Light” bill passed in Albany, even though a Siena Poll found 61 percent of voters opposed it.  Likely that margin is wider Upstate.

We’ve seen some strange stuff surface in Albany in the past few months since Democrats took control, including the proposed commercialization of marijuana, which narrowly failed.

In marijuana, there was a county opt-out option. Looking ahead, other legislation may include similar opt-outs.

Granted, some Democrats on the county board are estimable representatives.  Still, at this point in New York State history, do we really want a Democratic county board to go forward lock-step with whatever nutty thing passes in Albany?

That’s up to you, the voters, to decide.  So wake up.  In particular, the voters in District 3 (Laurens, Otego), should be fully aware of what they may be voting for when they go – or don’t go – to the polls Nov. 5.

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