COOPERSTOWN — The stakes will be unusually high this fall in a matchup now taking shape for just one seat on the Otsego County Board of Representatives, with Democrats seeing the contest as an opportunity for their party to take control of county government.
Ed Lentz, 58, a lawyer and farmer who is a member of the Town of New Lisbon Board as well as the former chairman of the Otsego County Democratic Committee, confirmed Monday that he’s seeking the District 5 seat held by first-term Rep. Pauline Koren, R-Milford.
The district has more weighted votes — more than 600 — than any seat on the 14-member county legislature.
The board is now evenly divided, with seven Republicans and seven Democrats, though the GOP has a majority of the weighted votes.
A Lentz win — if voters re-elect the other incumbents and a Democrat keeps the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Catherine Rothenberger, D-Oneonta — would catapult Democrats into control of county government.
“I am certainly aware this is the heaviest weighted district, but that’s not the reason I am running,” Lentz told The Daily Star. “The reason I’m running is I think I can do a good job for the people of the county and for the people of this particular district. I bring experience as a town councilor, a business person, a lawyer and a farmer. I’m in touch with the community. I believe we can make government work better, and that’s what I would like to do.”
District 5 encompasses three towns — Milford, Hartwick and New Berlin. Koren is a resident of the most populous town in the district, Milford. She won the seat in 2011, defeating Barbara Monroe, an activist in the anti-fracking movement who ran on the Democratic line and was supported by Sustainable Otsego.
Koren has said she opposes hydraulic fracturing for shale gas. She recently said she supported placing the controversial Constitution Pipeline project along the I-88 corridor, though she missed the meeting when a majority of the board passed a hotly debated resolution endorsing the I-88 pathway for the pipeline.
Lentz said he opposes the pipeline, which would bring natural gas extracted from in Pennsylvania to two existing pipelines in Schoharie County, where it would be funneled to the New England and New York City markets.
“It just seems to me that the pipeline would facilitate the extraction of gas in this area,” said Lentz, who also opposes hydraulic fracturing for shale gas.
Koren didn’t return a call left on her home answering machine.
Otsego County GOP Chairwoman Sheila Ross said she believes Koren will withstand Lentz’s challenge.
“The people are happy with her, and she’s done a really good job,” Ross said.
At the beginning of this year, in a maneuver that Democrats claimed was designed to help Koren at election time, some Republican board members tried to replace deputy board chairman, Rep. Rich Murphy, D-town of Oneonta, with Koren. But that gambit fizzled when one Republican, Rep. Don Lindberg, R-Worcester, stuck with Murphy.
While District 5 has more Republican voters than Democrats, Lentz said he does not believe he will start out with a disadvantage.
Lentz has spoken out against New York’s new gun legislation, the New York SAFE Act, even though it was pushed through by the state’s top Democrat, Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Lentz and his wife, Vicki, have three adult children and five grandchildren.
Otsego Democratic Chairman Richard Abbate said he is excited about Lentz’s candidacy. “Ed Lentz brings a lot to the table,” Abbate said. “I think he will be a great choice for the voters of District 5.”