Sullivan County Democrat
O n l i n e  E d i t i o n National Award-winning, Family-run Newspaper
  NEWS ARCHIVES Established 1891 Callicoon, New York  
home  |  archives

Objections fail to stop Monticello primary

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — January 19, 2010 — Two bids to knock Monticello Village Board candidates off this Tuesday’s primary ballot failed.
On Friday, the Sullivan County Board of Elections determined Trustee Scott Schoonmaker and trustee candidate Brian Soller’s Democratic nominating petition was valid.
They also didn’t rule on Soller’s objection to the nomination of the two other candidates in Tuesday’s primary: Deputy Mayor and Trustee TC Hutchins and trustee candidate Rev. James Matthews.
Republican Elections Commissioner Rodney Gaebel said Soller’s objection contained no explanation and thus could not be determined.
“Technically, there was no objection,” Gaebel observed.
The other objection was filed on Thursday by Hutchins and Monticello Democratic Committeeman John Barbarite, arguing that Schoonmaker and Soller were nominated by the Town of Thompson Democratic Committee rather than the village’s committee.
The village committee, however, does not exist as a separate entity from the town, according to both Gaebel and Town Democratic Committee Chairman Bill James.
“There is no such thing as a village committee,” said James, explaining that his predecessor, Bill Rosen, allowed town committeepeople residing in Monticello to have the sole say on nominees as a courtesy.
“There is no legal precedence for what they’re talking about,” he remarked.
Schoonmaker and Soller are registered Republicans, but they’ve managed to gain the endorsement – and ballot lines – of local Republicans, Conservatives and Independence Party members.
Their bid for the Democratic nomination, however, apparently was contentious, with Barbarite and Hutchins joined in their opposition by fellow town committeepeople Ella Snowden, Helen Jersey, Eva Hutchins and Cookie McKinney.
According to a letter written by those committeepeople to the County Democratic Committee, five candidates were vying for the Democratic line for the two available trustee seats now occupied by Hutchins and Schoonmaker.
The letter writers said that the three Democrats (including Hutchins and Matthews) were passed over in favor of Soller and Schoonmaker, thanks to James’ decision to allow the entire Town Committee to vote, rather than just those members from within Monticello’s boundaries.
James said yesterday that both Soller and Schoonmaker were once registered Democrats and plan to re-register as such after the March general elections.
“We feel the endorsed candidates would put an end to the bickering [on the village board],” said James.
Noting he never even got the required resumé from Hutchins during the nominating process, James took aim at Hutchins’ and Barbarite’s well-known support of Mayor Gordon Jenkins, who is a Republican.
“Where is their loyalty to the Democratic Party?” he wondered.
Barbarite, however, believes this is simply a scheme to ensure voters don’t have a choice.
“The way this was set up, 20 people are trying to determine the election,” he said. “... This will be a coronation. It’s what they do in Iran, North Korea and China.”
He also feels the actions of the town committee are tinged with racism, noting most of the committeepeople from within Monticello are black, as are Hutchins and Matthews, while those pushing for Soller and Schoonmaker are white.
In their objection, Barbarite and Hutchins maintained that only the county Democratic Committee can allow (a) the township committee to overrule village committepeople’s ability to nominate candidates, and (b) non-party candidates to be nominated. Neither authority, they said, was granted.
Plus, the town committee’s petition was signed not by the clerk, Connie Keller, but by the treasurer of the town committee, Sean Rieber. They argued this was not according to proper rules.
Gaebel and his Democratic counterpart, Faith Kaplan, disagreed, ruling that the petition was valid.
“The members of the Democratic Party Committee are authorized to act on behalf of the other if one is not available,” the elections commissioners wrote on Friday.
“The rules specifically state in regard to the nominating process that the Town Committee acts on behalf of the Village in regard to nominating candidates for office,” they added.
Afterwards, Barbarite said he was caught by surprise with what apparently were changes to the Sullivan County Democratic Committee’s procedures – changes which the commissioners relied upon to make their determination.
“No one ever told us the rules had changed,” Barbarite explained. “... I wonder what was the reason the County Committee changed the rules and took away home rule from the members of their party who live in the county’s villages?”
County Democratic Committee Chairman Steve Wilkinson said the town committee approached the county committee to make the changes to resolve this very issue. Those changes were made November 10.
Though Wilkinson conceded that the Thompson Committee has a history of handling village candidates inconsistently, he said the county committee cannot legally overturn a town committee decision. And he pointed out that Monticello is part of the Town of Thompson, even though it’s a separate municipality.
“The village is part of the town, and it affects all of them,” he remarked.
Barbarite said he doesn’t plan to take the matter to court, instead turning his sights on the primary itself.

top of page  |  home  |  archives