In Oneonta, 5 Out, 7 Plan To Run For City Council
By JIM KEVLIN & JENNIFER HILL
Usually, roses are budding before local candidates start circulating nominating petitions.
This year, with the primary for state races joined with federal offices and moved up from September to Thursday, June 25, petitions are being circulated before the first crocus.
That change set off a flurry of electioneering in the past few days.
In the City of Oneonta in the week prior to Tuesday, Feb. 26, the starting date for circulating petitions, seven candidates announced they are running for five Common Council seats being vacated this fall.
For the Otsego County Board of Representatives, Clark Oliver, chairman of the Otsego County Young Democrats, announced he’s running to succeed the board’s vice chairman, Gary Koutnik, D-11, before many people even knew the veteran legislator is retiring.
Another county representative from Oneonta, Danny Lapin, D-13, announced on his Facebook page on the 26th that he’s running again, just 14 months after taking office.
The two primaries were merged after Democrats took control of the state Senate Jan. 1. The Democrats believed that two primaries, which were separated after the federal government won a lawsuit against the state in 2012, was a depressing turnout.
In Oneonta, the blizzard of announcements started when Len Carson, the retired OFD captain and former county rep, confirmed Thursday, Feb. 21, that he’s planning to run in Ward 5, where incumbent Dana Levison is retiring.
Friday, Scott Harrington, a Hartwick College manager, announced he’s running in Ward 6.
Saturday, a threesome – Seth Clark (Ward 2), Jerid Goss (Ward 4) and Joshua Bailey (Ward 8) – announced they’re running as a team. Clark and Goss, both Democrats, work in the student-rental sector; Bailey, a Republican, is a legislative aide to state Sen. Jim Seward.
Monday, Mark Davies, a Hartwick professor and the city’s Environmental Board chair, announced he’s challenging Clark. And Mark Boshnack, a retired Daily Star reporter and former Franklin Central school board president, said he is challenging Harrington in Ward 5.
Also over the weekend, three incumbents, Michele Frazier (Ward 1), David Rissberger (Ward 3) and John Rafter (Ward 7), announced they are running for reelection.
“A lot of people are very involved and want to do what they think is good for Oneonta, and to be part of that,” said Levison.
Mayor Gary Herzig concurred: “I’m sure each person has ideas they want to bring to the table; they are more than welcome to bring them.” He said he hopes even more people will come forward.
On the county board level, both Republicans and Democrats have begun strategizing about this fall.
In 2017, Richard Sternberg, the Cooperstown trustee and state Democratic committee member, led a drive that fielded Democrats in all but one of the 14 county board districts.
This year, however, with new bi-partisan collaboration on the county board, at least some Democrats want the party to be less aggressive. “We’re forging ahead and getting things done,” said Koutnik during an interview on his retirement. “I feel like we’re heading in the right direction.”
Others Democrats are saying they’re satisfied working with Meg Kennedy, C-Mount Vision, who’s allied with the GOP majority, Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, and, in particular, the county board chair, David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield.
From the Republican perspective, Michele Farwell, D-Morris, while active in the 14 months since her election, is considered vulnerable to a challenge, since she won in 2017 when two Republican candidates split the GOP turnout.
Also, there’s been some talk that Republicans might run a candidate in a primary against former board chair Kathy Clark, R-Otego, whose husband sought the Democratic nod for county sheriff last year after he lost the GOP nod to incumbent Richard J. Devlin Jr. at caucus.
However, there’s some thought that, with the husband, Bob Fernandez, having retired from the state police, Clark may also decide to retire.