By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Laurie Pestar’s dilemma forged MacGuire Benton’s commitment to politics.
Through political action, “you can change people lives,” the Democratic trustee said in an interview. He is seeking his first full term on the Village Board in the March 18 elections.
In November 2016, Benton and friend Bobby Walker – Mac then headed the county’s Young Democrats; Bobby, the Young Republicans – circulated a petition supporting Laurie Pestar, an elementary school secretary seeking an unpaid leave while she fought cancer.
“In the end,” Benton said, “she had great union representation, and the right things happened.”
At 22, Benton is already a seasoned political activist. He worked for Brian Flynn, who ran in the 2018 Democratic primary eventually won by Congressman Antonio Delgado. He then worked for Jen Metzger, an Ulster County Democrat who won an upset victory for state Senate.
He oversaw 2,500 volunteers. “Organizing these people and seeing their passion was just extraordinary,” he said. Leading up to a nail-biting finale, “I slept six hours in four days,” finally crashing election day in the back room at Metzger’s headquarters.
Election night, no one knew where things were going. At mid-evening, news came that Democratic Florida Gov. Bill Nelson had been defeated, a bad omen. By 12:30 a.m., though, Metzer was 3,000 votes ahead.
“And then … Jen won,” he said. “It was a very great night.”
Since entering politics, the young organizer had put 22,000 miles on his car. He came home, and was soon appointed Democratic assistant county elections commissioner, reporting to Mike Henrici.
Benton MacGuire is adopted. Born in Los Angeles, his Cooperstown parents, Mark and Marianne, who was a friend of his mother, flew in within five hours and brought him home.
“For all intents and purposes,” he said, “I am a native of Cooperstown, “without the privilege of being born at Bassett.
Now retired, his dad had opened Bassett’s eye-care center on T2, and worked there his whole career. A beautician, his mom operated Cutting Corner, but – a sympathetic person – often had people asking her for personal advice.
Benton’s first memory was picking up the front page of the paper on Nov. 5, 2008, and seeing Barack Obama had been elected president. “It was amazing; it was moving,” he said.
His parents had never voted for a Democrat in their lives, but they voted for Obama, the son said. Today, “they’re proud registered Democrats.”
Early last year, he ran into Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch at the Price Chopper, and she recruited him to fill a one-year vacancy. His election “was the greatest honor of my young life.”
In his first year, there have been controversies over an apartment complex, flashing streetlights, the
Pride Flag, the Bassett parking lot, and opening up zoning for multi-family housing. But Benton said,
“I don’t think it’s been tumultuous. I think the public is engaging.”
He’d like to see Village Hall more pro-business, and pro-housing. His parents bought the family home at Beaver and Delaware for $36,000 when she was 18, and he was 21. That couldn’t happen today, he said.