By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Some contested races’ margins dwindled after this week’s absentee ballot count by the Sullivan County Board of Elections, but the majority of winners from the November 8 general elections remained in the top spot.
County Treasurer Ira Cohen was one of those marvelling at the results inside the Government Center Wednesday.
“I think a lot of people, including myself, were surprised by the magnitude of changes in the recent election,” he related as the count was ongoing.
“You have six people who got elected for similar reasons," he said of the six new legislators -- five Democrats and one Republican -- who will take office in January. "... The people of this county really spoke out and are really fed up with 'business as usual.' They demand a change."
According to the final tallies done this week, voters got that change.
At the county level, legislator candidates Scott Samuelson (Democrat-District 1), Kitty Vetter (Republican-District 2), Cindy Gieger (D-5), Cora Edwards (D-6), Gene Benson (D-7) and Ira Steingart (D-8) maintained their leads.
Vetter, who was in a very close contest with incumbent Democrat Elwin “Woody” Wood, held on to her win, albeit by 16 votes.
Incumbent Democrats Kathy LaBuda and Jonathan Rouis kept their seats, as well, though final vote tallies were not available at press time Wednesday.
That gives the Legislature a 7-2 Democratic majority, with Vetter and District 9’s Alan Sorensen the only remaining Republicans.
But even Cohen, who admits to having the kind of optimism he possessed when the first Legislature was seated in 1996, acknowledged that the new legislators have a lot of challenges facing them.
“It would be premature to be [too] excited,” Cohen affirmed.
He said he and the public “know a miracle is not going to happen,” but change is expected. In particular, he hopes legislators communicate more often and closely with his office.
“I need to see a commitment by the new legislators that things are going to be done differently,” he remarked. “... All I’m asking is that people communicate with me and my staff, because we have a lot to offer.”
Board of Elections officials said printed results of the final tallies won’t be available until Monday, due to the Thanksgiving holiday.
But at the town level, they were able to confirm that former Bethel Town Justice Cindy Barber regained the seat by 23 votes over nearest competitor Susan Harte (incumbent Howard Block was already far behind).
That proved to be the only upset from the figures originally released after Election Day.
Thompson Town Justice Perry Meltzer kept his seat by 56 votes, despite a strong challenge from Philip Conaty. (Third candidate John Kelly was not in a position to beat either man via absentees.)
Mamakating Supervisor Harold Baird eked out a win over challenger Bill Hermann by a mere seven votes, while Fremont Supervisor candidate George Conklin III ended up with a 29-vote victory over Bob Theadore.
All other winners from earlier this month remained unofficial, according to Democratic Elections Commissioner Faith Kaplan, until the votes can be certified.