Anya Tikka | Democrat
Conservative Party Chair Steve Burke at The Sullivan in Rock Hill during the banquet.
Covet Conservative backing
Story by Anya Tikka
ROCK HILL June 4, 2013 From town highway superintendents to supervisors to seekers of county or even state offices, everyone wants to be friends with the Sullivan County Conservative Party during election year.
Party Chair Steve Burke greeted everyone at the recent banquet at The Sullivan in Rock Hill during cocktail hour, helped by the committee members.
Over two hundred county government officials and friends filled the banquet hall for the buffet dinner.
“I can pack them in,” acknowledged Burke with a wide grin, and took a few moments to talk to a reporter before settling down to eat.
“This is our regular get together to meet people, and in a month’s time we have our convention when we choose who to back,” Burke explained. “We usually back one of the other [Democrats or Republicans candidates]; there are not usually many people of our own running.”
So what’s the difference between Conservatives and Republicans? To many, they seem to be almost identical.
“There’s no national Conservative Party. On the state level it does lean towards the Republican Party. It makes a difference on the state level and the Conservative Party only exists in New York,” Burke said.
On the local level “we stand on issues,” Burke continued, “and there’s a big difference between Conservatives and Republicans, because we back Democrats AND Republicans. The difference is we have a set of guidelines: Keeping taxes low, balancing the [budget], believing in the Second Amendment. It doesn’t depend on party affiliation. There’s very little difference between Democrats and Republicans on the local level.”
With popular sentiment today seeming to lean more against the Republican agenda, where does Burke see the Conservative Party heading?
“I see Conservatives getting stronger. With all the restrictions on gun control, all the abortion issues that are going on, people are becoming more conservative, [especially fiscally] conservative. This party as a whole has gotten bigger in the last two-three years statewide. My numbers here [in Sullivan] are around 1,000 [registered voters]. I think many people now are very concerned over issues like the Second Amendment.”
District Attorney James A. Farrell, who’s seeking reelection on the Republican ticket, commented, “In order to run on Conservative ticket, you have to have the Party support. I sought Conservative Party support in 2009, and I hope they’ll honor me with that endorsement again in 2013.”
Running for reelection, Town of Bethel Supervisor Daniel Sturm has had Conservative Party endorsement the last two times he ran.
“I hope to get it again this year,” he said. “I’m a Democrat, I’ve always been a Democrat. But there are certain issues regarding finances I would consider myself most fiscally conservative, because you have to be when you run a town. It fits right in. I’m most conservative as far as money goes.”
Seeking reelection and Conservative backing as highway superintendent in the Town of Highland, Tom Ebers, a Democrat, commented, “I think we should all work well together, trying to do a good job.”
Monticello Mayor Gordon Jenkins has three years left for his term, but he came to see the candidates.
“I’m registered as an independent. I just like to see who’s out there, who’s running for elections,” said Jenkins. “I still vote too, so I want to see who I’m voting for when the election comes. I’d like to see elected officials who can stand on their own two feet. It’s about right and wrong.”
Jenkins talked passionately about the need to make Monticello a better place, although at the same time challenging the perception that it’s not safe on Broadway. Commenting on big projects in the area such as the Concord or Apollo Mall, he said, “One thing we need is a Youth Center, a recreation center. We don’t have one, so what do these kids do? Invest in our kids.”
The Conservative Convention will take place June 18-19.