Otego-Laurens District 3 Shift
Can Take Away GOP’s Majority
Friends, the Democrats are coming to get us, and it isn’t going to be pretty.
Chad McEvoy, the local party’s brainy director of communications, sent out an email on Oct. 1 that affirms an editorial that appeared here in early summer – the future of party politics in Otsego County will be determined in District 3, where two newcomers, Republican Rick Brockway and Democrat Caitlin Ogden, are competing for an open seat on the county Board of Representatives.
If Ogden wins, control of the board shifts from Republican to the first solid Democratic majority in county history. (In 2006, Democrats allied with Republican Don Lindberg and took control, but without a true majority.)
In the emailed memo that begins to the right of here, McEvoy points out “the political stars are aligning … This could be huge for the future of our community,” and he ticks off what would be slam dunks for a Democratic majority: Creation of a county manager, improving energy efficiency of county buildings, a community college, buying up and repairing blighted properties.
Nothing wrong there, but things get a little iffy when he gets into the “diversity of thought” in the party on two issues in particular. One is “doing our part to fight climate change” – that likely means no fossil-fuel bridge to green energy. Two is “whether we want to roll out cannabis production and retail sales locally in a post-legalization world.” We know how that’s likely to go.
As the Cooperstown Village Board – all Democrats – has proved, an ideology-driven governmental body with no opposition will do what it wants.
In control for almost a decade now, Democrats are only now hitting their strides and the community is shocked, shocked.
One, using a Comprehensive Plan that was largely developed without public input (as most are), the trustees stirred a hornets nest by looking to plunk an apartment house in one of the village’s finest single-family neighborhoods.
Two, the trustees approved flying the Pride Flag next June at the downtown flagpole, against the advice of the village attorney and the one attorney-trustee. If the Ku Klux Klan seeks a similar permit, Village Hall can’t deny it because of the precedent set; fight, it will lose, the attorneys said.
Three, blinking signs are popping up everywhere, blinking, blinking, blinking into local living rooms. Are they needed? Do they work? They are an irritation, and there’s an ethical question about government applying stimulus-response to the citizenry.
The point is, absent any viable opposition (for now), the village trustees can do whatever they want, and are doing so. New Trustee MacGuire Benton was explicit: If people don’t like the trustees’ decisions, they can run for office. So there.
Other than no fossil-fuel bridge and Big Pot in our future, there’s a lot of nuttiness in Albany that’s headed our way, with the Democrats in control of both houses and the Governor’s Office.
An interesting vote in point was the county board’s resolution against the “Green Light” law authorizing “illegal immigrants” from getting drivers’ licenses.
Every Democrat on the county board voted nay or abstained on that resolution, except Andrew Stammel, D-Town of Oneonta, who voted aye angrily, saying he had been sandbagged.
This month, county Rep. Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, even voted nay on the “Justice for Jill” resolution. The whole issue of the new Democratic majority emptying prisons will have to wait for another day, but it’s real, and the impacts will be far-reaching.
And this is just the beginning. The other day, New York City’s Human Rights Commission imposed a $250,000 fine on the use of the term, “illegal immigrant,” in certain context. Just the beginning.
On the other hand, give Otsego County Democrats credit. In the wake of Donald Trump’s election in 2016, they mobilized and organized. The county went for Trump, but a motivated party swung it in 2018 for Democrat Antonio Delgado, our new congressman.
The Republicans need to show similar vigor, as they are in the Town of Richfield, in organizing against a Democratic effort to impose a restrictive comp plan and zoning code on the community.
With a 7-7 split on the board – the Republicans keep control through weighted voting and an alliance with Meg Kennedy, Mount Vision, a Conservative Party member – the GOP failed to mount any effective challenge in the City of Oneonta, where Republicans as recently as 2015 controlled two of the four county board seats, plus the Town of Oneonta’s.
In District 1 (Butternuts/Morris), no Republican has challenged Michelle Farwell, nor was Stammel challenged, vulnerable if anyone is.
The Republicans need some soul searching, and to pull up their bootstraps.
District 3 is a good place to get started.
The Democrats, according to the McEvoy Memo, are going to give it all they’ve got. A sneak attack in the primary won the Independent line for Ogden, where only Brockway’s name appeared on the ballot.
The numbers were too small (30 to 4) to be meaningful, but it showed what can be done – what might be done. If Brockway is to be elected, Republicans need to give him all the support they can.
And there’s mischief to contend with, too. Outgoing Otego-Laurens county Rep. Kathy Clark sought out Ogden at the last county board meeting and chatted with her cheerfully for a few minutes. Later, Ogden said Clark advised her to increase the size of her name on roadside signs.
Clark broke with the GOP last year when the Republican County Committee failed to endorse her husband, Bob Fernandez, for sheriff. Republicans shouldn’t underestimated the damage she might do.
In the last county board election, this newspaper endorsed the Democratic slate, and several are performing splendidly – Farwell among them, but also Andrew Marietta, Cooperstown/Town of Otsego, and even Liz Shannon, City of Oneonta, who is retiring after one term.
This year, though, with the doings in Albany and local Democratic militancy on the energy issue, Otsego County needs the county board as a bulwark against a potentially destructive Democratic tide.
Come on, Republicans, shake it off. Keep District 3.