Democrats Debate Over ‘Distinction’ In Sheriff Race
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – While Democrats have allowed Republican and county sheriff’s candidate Bob Fernandez to run on the Democratic ballot line in the Nov. 6 general election, it seems they fell short of an outright “endorsement.”
“Mr. Fernandez has not received the endorsement of the OCDO,” Mike Henrici, the Democratic county election commissioner and county committee secretary emailed after this week’s Hometown Oneonta & The Freeman’s Journal hit the streets. “…He does not appear as an endorsed candidate on the OCDC website or anywhere else. In fact, no motion has even been made in the committee to even consider an endorsement.”
He said he was “dismayed” by two references to the candidate’s purported endorsement in an article, “Quit Race for Sheriff, GOP Urges Fernandez.”
County Chairman Kim Muller concurred. He will appear on the Democratic line on the Nov. 6 ballot, but “we have not endorsed in any races” so far, except Chad McEvoy, Westford, who is running in the 101st Assembly District against the incumbent, Republican Brian Miller of New Hartford. (The 101st cuts north-south, and includes the town of Springfield, Middlefield, Westford and Maryland in Otsego County.)
At its May 31 meeting, the county committee, during an executive session, decided to allow Democrats to circulate petitions for Fernandez, spouse of county Rep. Kathy Clark, R-Otego, a longtime friend of the Muller family. Democrats then collected sufficient signatures from their party faithful to put Fernandez on the ballot.
“This is to allow a candidate to run who we believe needs to be elected due to the lack of attention to public safety” of the Republican incumbent, Richard J. Devlin Jr. “We wanted a candidate, and Bob Fernandez is the candidate.”
Muller recalled Democrats acted similarly when former Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller was seeking a second term and lacked Republican opposition. “I don’t think it’s splitting hairs,” Muller continued. “It is an action election law allows, and that is what we wanted to do.”
Otsego County Chairman Vince Casale said that, in his opinion, the discussion among the Democrats suggests iffy support for Fernandez.
“The Democratic Party – they embraced him. They circulated petitions for him. They had to sign a legal authorization to allow him to run on the line.”
“For me, what’s happened is a change of heart,” said Casale.
The Republican County Committee endorsed Devlin over Fernandez by a split vote at a meeting in early March.
Richard Sternberg, Cooperstown, the Democratic activist, pointed out that, since there is no one else running for sheriff as a Democrat, there will be no Democratic primary for sheriff Sept. 13.
“It’s a distinction,” he continued. “He received permission to run. It’s not a formal endorsement. I’m sure Kim’s supporting him.”
So if Devlin wins Sept. 13, he will face Fernandez again Nov. 6 in the general. If Fernandez wins the primary, Devlin will still be on the ballot in November, having circulated petitions for the Conservative, Independence (not Independent, as reported in this week’s paper), and Reform party lines.