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Local News

November 9, 2013

Minor party lines alter local races

Oneonta business owner Craig Gelbsman, a Republican, offered two words Friday to explain why he is leading in the race for a county Board of Representatives seat in a highly Democratic district: Hard work.

“I know I worked very hard,” Gelbsman said after stunning the local Democratic establishment by emerging as the top vote-getter for District 12, the seat now held by Rep. Catherine Rothenberger, D-Oneonta. She has decided to step down from the board at year’s end, and the Democrats fielded Amy Hornburg-Heilveil to run for the seat.

What the Democrats said they didn’t foresee is that Gelbsman, already holding the Republican line, was able to use two other minor party lines that proved crucial in edging Hornburg-Heilveil by five votes, 137-132.

Gelbsman, who owns First Choice Cleaners and has 28 employees in the region, said he wasn’t certain whether that thin lead would survive the opening of paper ballots Wednesday at the Otsego County Board of Elections. But he said he is optimistic that things will work out in his favor, nothing that paper ballots generally break along the same percentages as machine ballots.

Otsego County Democratic Chairman Richard Abbate acknowledged in hindsight that his party miscalculated by not coming up with a minor party line for its candidate. That will be among the lessons learned from the 2013 elections, he said, as the party regroups after failing to capture the majority of the Board of Representatives this year.

As the day for counting paper ballots GOP approaches, the Democrats are even further behind in District 8. There, incumbent Rep. John Kosmer, D-Fly Creek, trails Republican challenger Rick Hulse Jr. by 33 votes, 556 to 589.

Again, minor party lines, this time wielded by Hulse, proved to be the difference. Without them, Abbate noted, Hulse had 432 Republican votes. Kosmer, meanwhile, received 487 Democratic votes.

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