COOPERSTOWN —A state judge is expected to decide whether Acting Otsego County Treasurer Henry “Russ” Bachman can have his name appear on the election ballot this November after the camp of his rival brought legal action contesting his signatures on petitions.
The notice of the lawsuit was filed in the Otsego County clerk’s office this week on behalf of Edward Keator Jr., the Cooperstown village treasurer who jumped into the county treasurer race after Treasurer Dan Crowell announced last month he would not seek re-election.
Democrats immediately coalesced behind Bachman, a political independent who began a petition drive aimed at making him the candidate of the upstart Otsego First party. Keator, a Republican, also waged a petition drive that would give him ballot status for the Common Sense party.
The stage was set for the lawsuit last Friday when Keator’s camp challenged 741 of the 1,148 signatures filed by Bachman’s campaign team, headed by Otsego County Democratic Chairman Richard Abbate.
A total of 909 valid signatures are needed in order to obtain ballot status for the county-wide race, officials said.
Hank Nicols, the county’s Democratic elections commissioner, said most of the objections to Bachman’s signatures were for “insignificant and or minor discrepancies,” and that the Bachman effort achieved “substantial compliance with election law.”
He and his GOP counterpart, Sheila Ross, who is also the Otsego County Republican Chairwoman, disagreed on whether Bachman should have his name on the ballot. This week, a “citizen objector” to Bachman’s petitions, Diane Koffer of Cooperstown, filed the legal action against Bachman, with Cooperstown lawyer Martin Tillapaugh representing her.
Ross said Bachman’s petition papers were riddled with invalid signatures, saying they included some residents who are not registered to vote as well as some who have been purged from the rolls, while others gave addresses that failed to match with addresses on file and others had no dates and gave incomplete addresses.
“Mr. Nicols and I split on a lot of things,” Ross said. “I followed the law.”
Abbate said while he is optimistic that Bachman will retain a ballot berth, he is considering urging Crowell — whose name will appear on the ballot — to mount a candidacy if Bachman gets knocked off.
“If he does that, then he is flip-flopping, like the Democrats do,” Ross said of Abbate.
Abbate shot back that Keator’s backers are “taking the low road” in what he called an effort by Republicans to deprive county voters of an opportunity to choose Bachman as the person in charge of the county treasury.
The case has been assigned to Tompkins County state Supreme Court Judge Robert C. Mulvey, officials said.