News of Otsego County

Brian Burns

Scrappy, Innovative GOP Chair Resigns, Focuses on Consulting

Scrappy, Innovative GOP Chair

Resigns, Focuses on Consulting

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Vince Casale and wife (and fellow consultant) Lynn Krogh with a wall of memorabilia. (Jim Kevline/

It was 2013. The issue was fracking. And four prominent local Republicans knocked on Vince Casale’s door.

“It was conveyed to me that the party was in some trouble,” said Casale, who last week advised the Republican County Committee he is resigning as chairman.

“My work is done,” he said. “It’s time for a change.”

He recommended Lori Lehenbauer of Worcester, Republican county elections commissioner, as his successor.

His seven years spanned the tenures of four of his Democratic counterparts.

In 2013, the first Democrat elected to countywide office in memory, Dan Crowell, was running for reelection unopposed, Casale recalled.

There was a shortage of candidates and, “when people were asked to run, they were just left to themselves.”

The committee had been using raffles to raise money – that was illegal, it turned out, leading to a sizable fine.

“At the time, I was consulting,” Vince recounted the other day – he still operates the Cooperstown-based Casale Group with his wife, Lynn Krogh, most recently helping guide state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker’s campaign. “I was very happy.”

But the GOP contingent told him, “We need to win races. You know how to win races.”

Remembers Casale, “With the blessing of Senator Seward, I was good to go. I took over in September,” two months before the fall elections.

“The first thing we do is run polling,” a first in local races. It discovered not only newcomers, but longtime incumbents were in tight races, he said. “It’s going to be a drubbing like we’d never seen.”

Fracking had damaged the Republicans, but by then it had been discovered there was too little natural gas here to frack. The issue “was just at or past the peak,” Casale said.

“I told the candidates: Don’t mention it. It wasn’t that we wanted it or didn’t want it. It was political survival,”

The new message: Republicans will protect your tax dollars.

“Rick Hulse was down by over 20 points when we first did that poll,” said Casale. “I remember him cutting it to 14 points. I had him down to 7 points. ‘If we only had one more week,’ I told myself.

“I went into Election Day thinking we would lose the Town of Otsego,” including most of Cooperstown, he said. “We ended up winning by 10 points.”

Republicans Janet Quackenbush and Craig Gelbsman also won in Democratic Oneonta, and Len Carson, the retired fire captain.

Casale, then 40, was no stranger to politics. At age 5, he was handing out pencils at county fairs on behalf of his father, Assemblyman Tony Casale of Herkimer.

During school breaks, young Vince would ask to accompany his dad to Albany.

A music major, he taught for a few years before joining Herkimer Arc, then the community college, as development director.

He started the Casale Group in 2007. His first campaign: Cooperstown’s Mike Coccoma, for state Supreme Court. The next year, John Lambert for county judge. “The company just kind of grew,” he said. “I had a decision to make: Continue as is, or make the jump.” And jump he did.

This year, he managed the elevation of county Judge Brian Burns of Oneonta to replace the retiring Coccoma, and the campaign of county Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, to succeed Seward, keeping both influential positions in Otsego County.

Now, he and Lynn are busy, but looking forward to 2022, the next gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races.

GOP Committee Deciding On Next County Judge


GOP Committee Deciding

On Next County Judge

The six candidates for Otsego county judge gathered a few minutes ago in The Otesaga Ballroom in Cooperstown, where deliberations are underway at this hour on who will succeed Brian D. Burns of Oneonta on the county bench. All attorneys, the candidates, from left, are Rich Brown, Mike Getman, Susan Lettis, Jill Ghaleb, Mike Trosset and Will Green. Inset right, County Republican Chairman Vince Casale calls the meeting of the county committee to order; in the foreground are county board Chairman Dave Bliss and Jan Bartow, Middlefield committeeman. A Sixth District judicial convention Tuesday selected Judge Burns to succeeded Michael V. Coccomo as state Supreme Court judge, creating the county court vacancy. (Jim Kevlin/

6 Lawyers Line Up For Judge Vacancy


6 Lawyers Line Up

For Judge Vacancy

GOP Committee Meets Sunday

To Pick Brian Burns’ Successor

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

County Judge Brian D. Burns was chosen Tuesday by a Sixth Judicial District convention to fill a state Supreme Court vacancy. ( file photo)

COOPERSTOWN – Things are moving quickly:

  • Tuesday, Aug. 11, a Sixth District judicial convention in Binghamton named Otsego County Judge Brian D. Burns of Oneonta to succeed retired Michael V. Coccoma of Cooperstown as state Supreme Court judge. Burns plans to remove his name from the county judge line on the Nov. 3 ballot.
  • In anticipation, six local lawyers had already come forward over the weekend to announce their interest in filling Burns’ seat. “At this point, I don’t expect anyone else to jump in,” said County GOP Chairman Vince Casale.
  • And the 75-member county Republican Committee is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 16, in The Otesaga ballroom to interview the candidates and select a new county judge, who will run unopposed on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The six candidates are attorneys Richard Brown, Jill Ghaleb, Mike Getman, Will Green, Susan Lettis and Michael E. Trosset.

The succession of judges, because they are elected every 10 years, usually allows candidates more time to line up.  “This is unique,” said Casale.

When the county committee meets Sunday, it first will address routine business – for instance, supporting GOP Elections Committee Lori Lehenbauer of Worcester for another term.  (Virtual connections will be available to members uneasy about attending in person.)

The six candidates will gather in the hotel’s Oak Room, and the committee will call them in one by one to be interviewed. Whomever the committee choses at afternoon’s end will become judge, Casale said.

In 2008, when Coccoma, then county judge, ran for Supreme Court, there was plenty of time for the county committees to line up the contest between Republican John Lambert and then-Democrat Jill Ghaleb, who had been appointed to the Coccoma vacancy by then-Gov. David Paterson.

This time, when Coccoma announced his retirement in June, Burns was in place to run for reelection to what would have been his third term on the county bench.

Because of Burns’ popularity, the Democrats hadn’t fielded a challenger.  It’s too late now, so that turns this fall’s judicial election into a Republican coronation.





In 2011, Brian D. Burns is sworn in as county judge with his family at hand. ( file photo)

BINGHAMTON – Moments ago, Brian D. Burns of Oneonta was nominated at a Republican judicial convention in Binghamton to become state Supreme Court judge, succeeding the retired Michael V. Coccoma of Cooperstown.

The vote was unanimous.

Burns, now Otsego County judge, will remove his name from the Nov. 3 ballot, and it will appear on the state Supreme Court judge line in Otsego County and nine others in the Sixth Judicial District.


County Officials To Be Sworn In


SWEARING IN – 1 p.m. State Sen. Jim Seward, Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr., County Judge John Lambert, Coroners David Delker & Christian Shaefer, County Judge Brian Burns to administer the oath. Public welcome. Foothills Performing Arts Center, Oneonta.

Brenner, Burns Honored For Work With Recovery Community

Brenner, Burns Honored For

Work With Recovery Community

Julie Dostal, Executive Director of LEAF, left, and Deborah Berrios, Director of FOR-DO, right, presented awards to Oneonta Police Chief Doug Brenner, and Otsego County Judge Brian Burns (award accepted by Court Attorney Nathan Getman) at the 9th annual Here Comes The Sun Recovery Awards Dinner on Friday evening. Chief Brenner received the Robert S. Sioussat Appreciation Award for outstanding contribution and service to alcohol, tobacco and other drug problem prevention, while Judge Burns received the FOR-DO Amethyst Award in recognition of his efforts to support the local recovery community. (Ian Austin/


Drug Court Graduates 6

6 Celebrate Graduation

From Anti-Drug Program

Friends, families and supporters filled the City Courtroom to celebrate the graduation of six from the Otsego County Drug Treatment Court program.  County Judge Brian Burns presided, with state Supreme Court Judge Michael V. Coccoma as the commencement speaker.  As deputy chief administrative judge of court outside New York City, Coccoma was involved in the program’s founding.  After receiving their completion certificates, graduates described their journeys away from addition. Above, Julie Dostal, LEAF executive director, congratulates graduate Kindell Worley, Oneonta, at the conclusion of this afternoon’s celebration. (Ian Austin/


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