SCHENEVUS – In the face of uncertainly among local business people, Republican State Senate candidate Peter Oberacker issued a statement this afternoon calling on Governor Cuomo to “immediately release” more detailed information about Phase 2 of the plan to un-PAUSE New York State.
“We have been receiving many calls and messages asking where to find details regarding Phase 2 and sadly, there are none,” said Oberacker, who is running succeed state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, who is retiring. He is running against Jim Barber, the Schoharie farmer who works for Cooperative Extension of Otsego & Schoharie Counties.
SCHENEVUS – Partner in his father’s market, executive with a multinational food corporation, entrepreneur in his own market-research firm, town supervisor, county representative and, now, candidate for state Senate from the Otsego-County-centric 51st District.
Grounded in Main Street and Wall Street, Peter Oberacker confirmed Tuesday, Jan. 28, that he will seek to carry forward the 34-year legacy of the retiring state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford.
“It’s been reassuring to have a state senator who knows us by name,” said the 53-year-old Republican from Schenevus, That’s also “the hardest part: trying to emulate Jim Seward, how he’s been serving the district for 30-40 years in a calming, non-controversial way.
The way forward opened up Tuesday evening as Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, whose district includes four Otsego County towns and was seen as the leading Republican contender to succeed Seward, took himself out of the running. He cited loyalty to his 102nd District, where he was elected less than two years ago.
In the next two weeks, Oberacker said, county Republican Chairman Vince Casale will be introducing him to the county chairmen in the other eight counties in the 51st District, asking for their support.
Initial soundings he’s taken are encouraging, Casale said. “It’s important for us to keep representation in Otsego County” – it’s also the geographic center of the 51st – “as we’ve enjoyed for the past 34 years,” he added.
Asked about Oberacker’s intentions, Seward said “I’ve known the Oberacker family for decades. He has the right skill set, demeanor and experience to make a great candidate.” If Oberacker wins the support of the county GOP chairmen, “he certainly will have my full support. I would consider him a very worthy successor.”
Before Seward announced he will be retiring on Dec. 31, when his current term ends, Jim Barber, a Schoharie farmer and son of J. Roger Barber, state Ag & Markets commissioner in the Carey Administration, announced he was seeking the Democratic nomination. It’s unknown if other Democrats will now emerge.
Locally, two possible Democratic contenders, former Oneonta Mayor John Nader, now SUNY Farmingdale president, and Dan Crowell, the former county treasurer who is leaving the Army Reserves after returning this month from Somalia, have both said they are not interested in a Senate campaign.
Oberacker and his two sisters were born on Long Island. As his father, Peter Sr., used to tell it, the family’s VW bus “ran out of gas and I bought a house.” Actually, the son says, his mother’s parents lived in the area.
The son was 5 at the time and grew up locally, graduating from Schenevus’ Andrew Draper High School, then studying food sales and distribution at SUNY Delhi.
He joined his father in operating Spicy Pete’s Meats, a retail and wholesaler. When his father passed away in 1993, the son joined General Spice, then became an executive chef at Conagra, developing Wendy’s spicy chicken breast, among other products.
By the turn of the century, he was working for German-based Budenheim USA, a food-additive company. When Budenheim laid off U.S. executives, he and a colleague, Ron Wheeler, founded their own company, FormTech Solutions.
The R&D firm located in College Station, applying research developed by Texas A&M scientists to industry. In 2018, Oberacker, the CEO, and Wheeler, the COO/president, moved the company to the Town of Maryland, east of Schenevus.
Oberacker and his wife Carol have two grown children, Holli and Derek.
During this period, Oberacker had been calling on accounts nationwide and commuting back and forth between College Station and the family’s home on Smokey Avenue. He was elected Maryland town supervisor and, then, in 2015, was elected to the county Board of Representatives, succeeding Worcester’s Don Lindberg.
He quickly began to accumulate responsibilities, for the past two years as chairman of the Public Works Committee, which is currently studying a possible combined highway garage at the Northern Catskill BOCES in Milford, among other initiatives.
On learning of Seward’s decision to retire, Oberacker said he was concerned that initiatives of particular interest to him – a prospective 300-job distribution center at Schenevus’ I-88 exit, and a finding a safe berth for students in the financially troubled Schenevus Central School District – would fall by the wayside.
The first step of any prospective candidate, he said, is “you go to your wife, and you basically ask permission.” Then “I called my business partner. He looked at me as if I’d lost my head.” However, “they both supported me,” and the effort was launched.
SCHOHARIE – Chris Tague, Schoharie, 21-month assemblyman in the 102nd District, plans to decide by the end of the week whether he will seeking to succeed state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, in the 51st District.
Calling Seward “a dear friend,” he said he was “distressed by the news” that the 35-year senator has decided not to run again as he continues to recuperate from a cancer diagnosis.
“The most important thing right now is Senator Seward’s health,” he said. “People really know what a great senator he has been.”
Nonetheless, he said in an interview Tuesday, Jan. 21, that he’s “very humbled” by support he’s been receiving from county chairman in the nine-county district, and he is consulting with family and friends before making a final decision “late this week.”
Otsego County Republican chairman Vince Casale said he would support a Tague candidacy. “Chris bring enthusiasm, vigor, all the things you need to be a successful candidate – or representative,” he said.
If Tague decides not to go forward, Casale ticked off three potential candidates from the county board: chairman Dave Bliss, vice chairman Meg Kennedy and the Schenevus representative, Peter Oberacker. “All of them would be good candidates,” he said.
Amy Swan wasn’t immediately available on this matter, but Casale pointed out Oneonta’s Dan Buttermann is seeking an Assembly seat (vs. incumbent Republican John Salka) as a stepping stone to the Senate; perhaps he would go for it directly.
Other leading local Democrats who have the statue to run include two mayors, Oneonta’s Gary Herzig and Cooperstown’s Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, as well as Tillapaugh’s predecessor, Jeff Katz. (In an email exchange, former Oneonta Mayor John Nader said he’s fully committed to his current position, president of SUNY Farmingdale on Long Island.)
A contested campaign would cost in the neighborhood of $1 million, Casale estimated. “It would be 10 years before it’s open again,” he said.
Tague, while not an Otsego County resident – Seward is a county native – represents four towns in the county: Cherry Valley, Roseboom, Decatur and Worcester.
The 51st District encompasses three counties – Otsego, Schoharie and Cortland – plus pieces of Tompkins, Herkimer, Chenango, Cayuga, Delaware and Ulster counties.
Chris Tague joined the Assembly after a special election April 24, 2018, succeeding Republican Pete Lopez, whom Donald Trump had appointed regional administrator of the EPA.
Elected to a full term that November, he created a bit of a splash New Year’s Day 2019 when he took two vows in SUNY Cobleskill’s Bouck Hall, the first as an assemblymen, than marriage vows with Dana Buzon of Schoharie, his significant other for eight years.
The biography on his website pledged Tague is focusing on “key issues that affect his constituents: access to broadband internet, reducing taxes, providing support for local farmers, and fixing Upstate’s failing infrastructure.”
On graduating in 1987 from Schoharie Central School, where he was student council president, he became a dairy farmer, growing his herd from 25 to 75 cows.
He sold the farm in 1992, joining Cobleskill Stone Products as a laborer, soon winning promotion to foreman, rising to general manager of the entire operation, where he worked until his election to the Assembly.
He has been Otsego County’s state senator since 1986. Many of us – most of us, perhaps – have never known another one.
He is everyone’s friend. If you’ve ever observed him walk down the street. Or cross a crowded restaurant on his way to a table. Or appear at a parade or fair or other public gathering. The congenial legislator can’t make it more than a few steps without someone stopping him for a greeting, a friendly word or a handshake.
This newspaper named him “Citizen of the Year” in 2013. On learning that cancer had returned last year, we realized the 2000 and 10s qualified as “The Seward Decade.” Now we must sadly acknowledge the end of “The Seward Era.”
He’s been part of the Otsego County picture, and has been for his 69 years, raised in Milford, attending Valleyview Elementary, Oneonta High School, then Hartwick College.
Commuting, he immediately began work as a legislative aide in Albany, and soon was the youngest Republican county chairman in our history. Politics is the sea he’s swum in, going back to such early ventures as organizing a countywide Methodist youth group in his teens.
Elected in 1986 at age 35, he was the youngest state senator in county history, and the first to hail from Otsego County since 1952, when Walter Stokes, laird of Cooperstown’s Woodside Hall, retired.
His fingerprints are on every major Otsego County project in the past 34 years. Think of him next time you see a game at SUNY Oneonta’s Dewar Arena, or attend a concert or gala at Foothills, or celebrate Hall of Fame Weekend events this summer at the renovated Doubleday Field.
The two Seward Summits – 2012 and 2013 – revolutionized economic development here. We’re now a contender.
Not surprising, though, it was the more personal interventions – constituent service: easing people’s interactions with a mostly faceless state government – that are dearest to his heart, he said in an interview Monday, Jan. 20, after he announced he will leave office at the end of the year.
Facing a second bout of cancer treatments, he’s handling his state Senate duties, but “giving 100 percent” to a reelection campaign leading up to Nov. 3 is just not prudent right now Looking back, he most treasures when someone would come up to him and say, “You saved my life.” As longtime chairman of the state Senate Insurance Committee, a query from the senator’s office was often sufficient for a medical insurance company to revisit the rejection of coverage and discover it was warranted after all.
Never been sick? He’s nonetheless enriched everybody’s life in the county of his birth. Thank you, senator.
But let’s say hasta luego, not farewell. A year or two of treatment, rest and recuperation, may bring you back to full strength.
Who knows what the future holds? After all, Joe Biden is 79.
MIDDLEBURGH – Democrat Jim Barber, a farmer from Middleburgh, Schoharie County, announced today he’s running for state Senate in the 51st District, which includes Otsego County.
“For generations, my family has been proud to live in this region, to run our family farm, and to invest in our communities,” Barber said in a press release. “I am going to bring that work ethic, love of community, and ability to get results to Albany as this region’s next state senator.”
‘I Had A Lot Of Fun, Did A Lot Of Good,’ Democrat Says
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Rebounding from her narrow loss in Republican-dominated District 3, Democratic newcomer Cathy Nardi said today she is forming an “exploratory committee” to consider challenging incumbent Jim Seward, R-Milford, in the state Senate’s 51st District next November.
“I really had a lot of fun and I think I did a lot of good,” said Nardi, who came within eight votes of defeating county board Chair Kathy Clark, R-Otego/Laurens. With absent ballots counted today, the final tally was 561-543 for Clark, a lead a mere 10 votes could have shifted.