It is that time of year when a nice October drive to see the fall foliage includes viewing just as many colorful political signs as there are leaves left on the trees. This week, we shall take a look at some of the more noteworthy and interesting election campaigns of Chenango County.
There are no statewide or federal races being run this year which usually means low voter turnout because of high voter apathy. A quick and random sampling of our Board of Elections online records indicate during “off-year” elections, Chenango County averages slightly less than half of the registered voters going to the polls. In a Presidential election year, the percentage of registered voters making the effort to vote soars as high as 80% for some districts and more than 50% for all districts.
After reading today’s column, combined with the upcoming Norwich Mayoral debate, maybe there will be a heightened interest in getting to the polls. This year also marks the beginning of Early Voting in New York State and it will be interesting to see how this new endeavor impacts voter turnout, if at all.
Every Supervisor position in Chenango County is on the ballot this year; however, the voters will only have five choices out of the 23 seats which comprise the entire County Board. Those five choices are in Coventry, North Norwich, Norwich Town, Pharsalia, and Smyrna.
For the first time in a generation, the folks in Pharsalia will choose someone besides Dennis Brown (D) for their Supervisor when they cast a vote for either Jeremiah Micklas (D) or David Soule (R). In Smyrna, incumbent Supervisor Mike Khoury (R) is being challenged by Gerrard Burrs (LaO), a former Town Justice and a man with way too many R’s in his name.
Town of Coventry Supervisor Marion Ireland has decided not to run again, giving the voters a choice between Jan Andrews (D) and Jennifer Boudreau (R). The Town of North Norwich will have a do-over of the June primary race between two Republicans, Tim Brown (R) and current Supervisor Bob Wansor. Mr. Brown won the earlier primary, but Mr. Wansor is still in the race on the North Norwich Vote (NNV) party line. The rematch will be decided with the Democrats and independents having their say in the matter.
The Supervisor race for the Town of Norwich has the most eyes upon it which has Debra Cubbedge (D) pitted against Stanley Foulds (R) in our county’s busiest township. Two years ago Cubbedge shocked Republicans by winning a seat on the town council. Now emboldened, Democrats are running Cubbedge for town supervisor and also have two Democrats running for council seats. It will be interesting to learn if the migration of people in and out of Norwich has demographically favored a particular political party. With a Cubbedge win, the Town of Norwich would have a Democrat in charge for the first time in, well, ever. Those might be fighting words enough to rally every Norwich Republican to the polls.
The City of Norwich Mayor’s race is even more fascinating than the township race of the same name. I am a life-long city resident and a city employee spanning eight mayors, and I must say, having four people running for mayor is unprecedented. Keep in mind this is an off-year election, so the winner of the city mayoral race may become the city’s chief executive with only 500-600 votes after the electorate are split four ways. This one is a toss-up and comes with a guaranteed surprise ending, no matter who wins.
The last race of interest is for the three vacant Supreme Court Justice seats in the 6th Judicial District. This race is unusual for having multiple seats open in the same year. Those running for these three positions are the three man team of Mark Masler (a former Norwich resident), Oliver Blaise and Judge Chris Baker; all 3 are running as GOP, Conservative and Independence members. The three men will go up against local attorney Claudette Newman, formerly of the GOP and now on the Democratic Row A line. There is also a fifth candidate in this race, Pete Charnetsky (D) who, according to his signs, is more proud of his first name than his last.
And finally, in the category of “you know you’re from a small town when…” The Town of Smithville has two men and a woman, all with the last name of Whitmore, from two different political parties, running for two different positions in town government. The results of the Smithville elections will surely make for interesting conversations at the Whitmore Thanksgiving Dinner this year.
Readers take note: The four candidates seeking election to the Norwich City Mayor's Office will meet for a public debate tonight at 6 p.m. at the Norwich YMCA.