By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO November 5, 2004 A tight presidential election, as well as several hotly contested local races, brought out a large electorate in Sullivan County on Tuesday.
While turnout reached its highest point nationwide since the presidential race between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960, some local poll workers observed that last years Sullivan County Legislature and town supervisor races drew more enthusiasm.
Generally, however, most poll workers agreed that turnout was higher than normal this Election Day.
The local contests to watch proved to be the Town of Bethel Supervisor and council races. Results there were unofficial this week, as 5,000 countywide ballots remained to be counted.
Sullivan County Elections Commissioner Timothy Hill estimated that approximately 30 additional provisional ballots and affidavits had been filed. Sullivan County Elections Commissioner Fran Thalman said her office would be researching the validity of those ballots before a public hearing to count the votes in two weeks.
The county must certify its tally to the state by November 26, she said.
Town of Bethel Races
Unofficially, incumbent Town of Bethel Supervisor Victoria Vassmer Simpson (Democrat/Working Families) had the edge over challenger and former town councilman Bob Bonnaci Sr. (Republican/Conservative) by a vote of 992-747.
The Town of Bethel Board had two seats up for election. Incumbents Richard Crumley (Republican/Conservative) and Daniel Sturm (Democrat/Working Families) held leads over James Crowley (D) and Edward Barber (R). Crumley received the most votes with 842, followed by Sturm at 814, Crowley with 763 and Barber at 631.
Town of Cochecton
In the Town of Cochecton, Republican Curtis Murns held a 13-vote lead over Democratic challenger Paul Peck, making it too close to call.
Town of Delaware
In the Town of Delaware, Republican Matthew Hofer was holding onto a 55-vote lead over Democrat Joseph Schultz.
Town of Highland
Town of Highland justices Alan Hochhauser (D/C) and Anthony LaRuffa (R/D/C) appeared to be safe against the challenge of Franz-Eric Kopf (R). LaRuffa gained 905 unofficial ballots, Hochhauser took in 533 nods, and Kopf tallied a total of 373 votes.
Countywide, President George Bush narrowly defeated John Kerry by an unofficial vote of 13,930 to 13,643. However, with thousands of ballots yet to be counted, that could change.
Kerrys strongest support in the county came from the largest municipality, the Town of Thompson, where he received 2,891 votes (57.97 percent) compared to Bushs 1,987. The Town of Fallsburg also saw a majority vote for Kerry (57.23 percent). The Town of Liberty gave a narrow advantage to Kerry, by a score of 1,586 to 1,545. In the Town of Bethel, he unofficially held a 49 percent to 48 percent lead. The Town of Tusten checked in at 302 to 289 for the Democrat.
All other towns in the county gave the nod to the incumbent. In the Town of Callicoon, Bush led 735-578. In the Town of Cochecton, he was winning 410-300. In Delaware, he was up 585-439. About 53 percent of Forestburgh residents voted for Bush, and 60.52 percent of the Town of Fremont votes went to the Republican. Highland gave him a 609-410 victory. Lumberland had the president up 577-356. The Town of Mamakating was closer than most Bush victories in the county (2,183-1,838), but the Town of Neversink was a Bush bastion at 1,002-604. The Town of Rockland voted for Bush 850-699.
United States Senator Charles Schumer (D) defeated Howard Mills with 15,768 of the county vote (61.62 percent).
United States Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D) withstood a challenge by William Brenner, taking a victory with 61.20 percent of the county electorate.
New York State Senator and Republican John Bonacic soundly defeated Sandra Oxford with 81 percent of the vote, who was hurt by a state court ruling which barred her from appearing on the Democratic line, even though the local Democratic Party supported her.
Some Unofficial Exit Polling
At the Neighborhood Facility in Monticello, voters who were willing to speak were nearly all for Kerry. Only one individual would anonymously admit he voted for Bush: straight conservative, he said of the way he voted down the line.
Most Kerry voters summed up their basis for voting against Bush in four words time for a change.
Lorraine West said she had urged her whole family to vote, from her daughter in Virginia to her niece in Middletown. West said she had never seen such a strong turnout, but while she believed her daughter was voting for Kerry, she was unable to convince her niece to do so. West said her niece was voting for Bush because she believed he identified closer to her religious beliefs.
Wests daughter has been on call in the United States Army for the last five years. She was disheartened by the state of affairs in Iraq.
A lot of soldiers are getting killed for no reason, she said.
West believed matters would worsen under another Bush administration. Domestically, she was worried about threats to Social Security and the pensions of workers.
Michael Jackson, who works at a local correctional facility, said he was strongly opposed to President Bush for his policies of tax breaks for large corporations, while the middle class was struggling.
He said the presidents new prescription drug plan would only help the pharmaceutical industry.
On foreign policy, Jackson said he supported the war in Afghanistan. However, he was opposed to the actions taken in Iraq.
I have people at my job that came back from the war and are against it, he said.
Janet Moglia voted for Kerry because she is against the United States getting involved in Iraq. Furthermore, she is opposed to Bushs stand against abortion and his ties to Christian fundamentalists.
In Fallsburg, all those who would speak went Kerrys way. Bob Barresi, who saw combat in Vietnam, said, Ive lost faith in the [decisions] the president has made. . . . I hope Kerry finds a way to end the carnage of the war-torn areas. I hope he takes care of our veterans when they come home without cutting their benefits.
Turnout Was Strong
Election clerks and inspectors in Monticello said they had seen a surge in young voters. Many young people who had never voted before partook in this election. Election volunteer Carmen Rue said most of the new voters were Democrats.
Although most local elections appeared to operate without much problems, election inspectors for the Town of Thompson expressed concern that residents were not aware of the recent switch of the polling station from the Kenneth L. Rutherford School in Monticello to the old Monticello Middle School on St. Johns Street.
And in the Village of Bloomingburg, theres an ongoing issue between the post office and the Board of Elections as to why some voters were not allowed to cast a ballot Tuesday. The matter is being investigated.
The Day After
On the day after the election, when Kerry had conceded, Town of Thompson Supervisor Anthony Cellini simply stated, I voted for the loser.
However, he said he had voted for the winner in other races.
Town of Thompson Councilman William Rieber said, Im glad its over. Im glad its decisive. I am disappointed in the winner.
Councilman Peter Briggs voted for Kerry but was at least happy that the election ran smoothly.
Councilman Stewart Peppy Satenstein, however, voted for Bush.
The best man won, he said.