By Matt Youngfrau
SULLIVAN COUNTY November 23, 2001 On November 6, elections were held for three county races and various positions in each of the fifteen townships. Thirteen days were allowed for absentee and military ballots to be received, as all results have to be certified to the state by December 3.
Most of the election results were clear that night. Only four towns had lingering questions: Bethel, Mamakating, Thompson, and Fallsburg. Hearings were held to count the absentee ballots in these towns this past week, but results will not be finalized for a few weeks and some have outstanding court challenges.
The counting for Bethel took place on Friday, but the day before, incumbent town board member Harold Russell, apparently bested by Vicky Vassmer-Simpson, filed a challenge to the election results. On Election Day, all four voting districts had problems with their machines, and while voters were allowed to vote for two people for Town Council, the machine did not allow the combination of incumbents Lynden Lilley and Russell.
The case will be heard on Wednesday. If the judge finds just cause, it could go before the Attorney General, and either some of the results would be thrown out or a new election held.
Before the votes were counted, there was a tight race for the council seats. Four candidates were vying for two seats. Lilley won the race with 853 votes. Fifty-three votes separated Simpson (656) and Russell (603). Andrew LaPolt had 445 votes.
Fifty-nine absentee ballots were counted on Friday. When it was done, Simpson led by 60 votes. While Russell picked up 23 more votes, Simpson increased by 30, Lilley gained 38, and LaPolt garnered 21.
If the results stand, Lilley and Simpson will take the seats in January.
On Monday, absentee ballots were counted for Mamakating. Since Election Day, Mamakating has been the most controversial race in the county, as residents also saw many of their machines go down in the seven voting districts.
Supervisor Mary Barbuti obtained a court order that day and had all the ballots impounded. That matter will also go to court, as she is attempting to either get part of the election voided, change the results, or have a revote. That would again need to go through the Attorney General and the state Supreme Court. Like Bethel, the matter is scheduled to be heard on November 28.
Going in, there were two close races, Supervisor and Town Council. Barbuti had 1,232 votes and Democrat challenger Fred Harding Jr. had 1,183. For Town Council, less than 100 votes separated four candidates vying for two seats. Nicholas Salomone had 1,029 votes, Judith Young had 1,023 votes, Jerry Salamone had 977 votes, and Robert Fiore had 931 votes.
Many lawyers and other representatives were present to go over the absentee ballots on Monday. Absentee ballots fell into three categories: affidavits, those accepted that night because machines were down, and those received after Election Day. It took over eight hours to count 233 absentee ballots, and of those, 54 were challenged.
Three days were given to get court direction, or the challenged ballots will be counted on Monday.
Once the counting was done, it appeared that Harding is the new supervisor, as he picked up an additional 118 votes, bringing his total to 1,301 votes. Barbuti picked up only 51 votes, bringing her total to 1,283 an incredibly slim 18-vote difference. Yet even with the 54 challenged votes, Republican leaders were doubtful Barbuti would win the race.
Town Council saw Nicholas Salomone pick up an additional 84 votes to bring his total to 1,113. Young picked up an additional 97 votes for a total of 1,120. Jerry Salamone garnered 69 more votes, to bring his total up to 1,034. Fiore received 41 more votes, for a total of 972 votes. So it looks like Young will retain her seat and Nicholas Salomone wins the other seat. The other incumbent, Dinesh Shah, ended up with 374 votes.
The Town of Thompson's absentee ballots were counted on Tuesday. Thompson also saw machines fail on Election Day. In Rock Hill, no votes registered for Democrat District 9 Legislative hopeful Sam Wohl.
However, no challenges were filed.
Republican Jim Carnell had 1,061 votes, Wohl had 584 votes, Green Party candidate Jesse York received 173 votes, and Loyalty Party candidate Al Etkin had 127 votes. The term is for two years the balance of former District 9 Legislator Steven Kurlander's term.
Besides the District 9 race, also in doubt were two seats for a four-year Council term, a seat for a two-year Council term, and Highway Superintendent.
The Council race saw William Rieber Jr. with 1,720 votes, Stewart "Peppy" Satenstein with 1,530 votes, Connie Keller with 1,472 votes, Craig Johnson with 1,115 votes and Rosa Lee with 61 votes.
For the two-year term to fill Richard Sush's vacancy, Sharon Jankiewicz had 1,516 votes and Michael Bernstein had 1,427 votes. For Highway Superintendent, Richard Benjamin had 1,638 votes and Michael Hoyt had 1,494 votes.
One hundred seventy-two absentee ballots were counted Tuesday. Four ballots were challenged, but when the day was over, the challenge was dropped and the votes were counted.
Carnell won the District 9 Legislative seat. He picked up 48 votes, to bring his total to 1,109 votes. Wohl garnered 48 votes, for a total of 632 votes. York received just seven more votes (180), and Etkin trailed with a mere five more votes (132).
Rieber and Satenstein retained their seats, as Rieber picked up 117 votes (1,837 total) and Statenstein received 66 votes (1,596 total). Keller picked up 95 votes (1,567 total), Johnson added 48 votes (1,163 total), and Lee garnered just one more vote (for a total of 62).
Jankiewicz won the two-year seat. She picked up 75 votes for a total of 1,591 votes, while Bernstein got 92 more votes, a total of 1,519.
Benjamin will be the new Highway Superintendent. Even though he picked up 76 votes compared to Hoyt's 96 votes, his total was 1,714 as opposed to Hoyts 1,590.
Fallsburg also saw problems on Election Day. Machines in Hurleyville failed, and Town Council hopeful Michael Weiner filed a court challenge over the problem. Thats expected to be heard on Monday.
The only close race is for Council. Four candidates are vying for two seats: Neil Gilberg (1,316 votes), Joseph Perrello (1,006), Weiner (967), and Patricia Behan (734).
Seventy-two absentee ballots were counted Wednesday. While the races got tighter, none of the results changed.
Gilberg picked up an additional 44 votes for a total of 1,363, while Perrello added 21 votes for a total of 1,035. Weiner finished third by just 17 votes, picking up 39 votes for a total of 1,018. Behan garnered 20 more votes for a total of 755.
Those representing Weiner at the hearing indicated he would drop his challenge because it would not change the results.
The Rest of Sullivan County
So far, five towns (Cochecton was counted the same day as Bethel) have had their absentee ballots counted. On Monday, the absentee ballots for the towns of Callicoon, Delaware, Forestburgh, Fremont, and Highland will be counted, followed by Lumberland, Neversink, Rockland, and Tusten on Tuesday. The remaining town, Liberty, will be counted on Wednesday. Each day will see counting begin at 9:30 a.m.
No changes are expected in the three county races. Sheriff Dan Hogue beat Republican challenger Brent Lawrence, and Treasurer Olga Parlow overcame Democrat opponent Ron Gozza. District Attorney Stephen Lungen ran unopposed.