Eli Ruiz | Democrat
From left: Sullivan County Conservative Party Chair Steve Burke, Village of Monticello Trustee candidates Jill Weyer and Doug Solomon, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, county Republican Party Chair Dick Coombe and the Hon. Judge Josephine Finn. In an unprecedented move, four political committees in the Town of Thompson are endorsing the same slate of candidates for a Village of Monticello election. Village elections across New York State will be held on Tuesday, March 18, 2014.
Story by Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO December 27, 2013 For the first time ever, four Town of Thompson political committees the Democratic, Republican, Independence and Conservative Committees have joined forces in endorsing a slate of three candidates in the Village of Monticello’s March elections.
In an alleged response to “a community outcry,” the chairs to all four respective political committees have formed a coalition dubbed “Monticello United,” and have agreed that the three candidates Hon. Josephine V. Finn for Village Justice, along with Jill M. Weyer and Doug Solomon for Village Trustees are uniquely qualified for the rare cross-endorsement in not just their backgrounds, but also their commitment to the people of the Village of Monticello.
But some, like current Village Mayor/Manager Gordon Jenkins, are crying foul.
A press conference, which doubled as a candidates meet and greet of sorts, was held Monday at the Kristt Company on East Broadway in the village.
Finn, a Democrat, seeks re-election to yet another four year term as Village Justice, a post she’s officially held since 2002. A Monticello High School graduate, Judge Finn holds a law degree from the University of Buffalo. Besides teaching classes as an Associate and Adjunct Professor at SUNY Sullivan, Finn is also recognized for her passion for area youth and several years ago founded the successful “Dream Tank Youth Project.”
Asked what the Monticello United coalition was looking to accomplish, Judge Finn said in an interview with the Democrat, “I can only speak for myself, but what I am trying to accomplish is to continue to keep the court the way it’s been the whole time I’ve been here. I try to be fair to people. I’m honest with people. I try to be consistent with folks, and firm when I have to, and when warranted to show compassion. That’s how I’ve always done it and that’s enough for me. To me the key is continuity.”
Weyer, a Republican, is acting commissioner for the Sullivan County Division of Planning and Environmental Management, and holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Columbia University. Also a Monticello High grad, Weyer lives with her husband and three children in the village.
Solomon, a democrat, served as Monticello Police Chief for 10 years and is currently Chief of Police for the City of Beacon. Solomon is a graduate of Monticello High School and a lifelong village resident.
The candidates and their supporters are currently circulating political petitions for purposes of gathering signatures from registered voters, with a filing date with the Sullivan County Board of Elections of no later than January 13, 2014.
But one who won’t be supporting the Monticello United initiative is Mayor Gordon Jenkins, who sees the move as a ploy to block his girlfriend, and Trustee Rochelle Massey from winning a seat on the Village Board in the March election. Jenkins tabbed Massey to replace TC Hutchins, who had to step down after a conviction earlier this year.
Jenkins is also citing racism as a motivator for the political committees’ cross-endorsement of the three new candidates. “This is absolute nonsense,” said Jenkins. “It’s a joke. I’m not even running for reelection so now they’re all focused on Rochelle. The Democratic Committee in Sullivan County won’t even endorse fellow Democrats because they’re racist. In all my years here I’ve never seen the party endorse any minorities. They never support minorities. It’s 100 percent racism.”
Asked if he believed an attempt to push him out of his acting manager post would take place if Weyer and Solomon win seats on the Village Board, Jenkins offered, “Absolutely! That’s what this is all about. They want me out and they want Rochelle out too. It’s just wrong.”
Confronted with the various issues he’s had since taking office in 2008, including three arrests, Jenkins said, “That’s got nothing to do with this. It’s pure racism. I’ve been fighting this battle for 12 years now… 12 years. They are just trying to pad up a rap sheet on me. I can honestly say that I’ve done nothing wrong. None of this will stop us, though. If our own party won’t endorse us we will still continue the fight and run even harder. They can try to get rid of me all they want, but even if I’m not mayor anymore. Even if I’m not manager anymore, you better believe that I’m not going anywhere. I’ll still be at every single board meeting calling them to task.”