The Otsego County Democratic Committee has found a candidate to oppose county Board of Representatives Chairwoman Kathleen Clark, R-Otego — and he’s a Republican, at least for now.
Stuart Anderson, a 59-year-old retired state worker from Otego and activist in the local movement against shale gas drilling, confirmed Tuesday that he will run against Clark this year, and will be changing his party registration to Democratic.
“The county is really the front line of government,” Anderson said. “They’re the ones that actually do the work. The state creates, and the counties carry it out.”
While he took no direct shots at Clark, Anderson said, “She’s been doing it for several terms, and I have just felt that the county board has been representing certain parts of our electorate and not really representing other parts. I’m just looking to change things around so we get a little more effective representation.”
In addition to being active in the push to have the town of Otego enact a ban on hydrofracking, Anderson has also been a critic of the proposed Constitution Pipeline. The pipeline, if the current proposed pathway is approved by federal regulators, would come close to Otsego County but would not enter it. Anderson said he thinks that if the project is constructed it would invite gas drillers to the region.
Clark has supported the pipeline, saying it could be a source of natural gas for school districts, businesses and institutions and bring new jobs to the region.
Clark has represented District 3 — which includes the towns of Otego and Laurens — since January 2008. She gained the board seat in November 2007, when she defeated board Vice Chairman Ronald Feldstein, a Democrat. Clark became the first woman to lead the Otsego County board in January 2012,
She did not return a telephone message seeking comment.
Otsego County GOP Vice Chairman William Mirabito said he doubted Anderson will be a serous threat to Clark, suggesting the challenger is a single-issue candidate, noting that the coming election will not be as charged by the gas drilling controversy as the 2011 election.
Asked about the county board’s recent decision to sell the Otsego Manor nursing home through a local development corporation, Anderson declined to state his position on the move to privatize the facility.
“I don’t want to get involved with the whole Manor issue quite yet,” he said.
Last year, Anderson placed a large variation of the famous painting “The Scream,” by Dutch artist Edward Munch on his lawn on Otego’s Main Street in an apparent effort to call attention to the environmental risks associated with gas drilling.
Anderson said he plans to switch his enrollment to Democratic between Election Day and Jan. 1.
Otsego County Democratic Chairman Richard Abbate said Anderson’s campaign is an important component in the party’s effort to win control of county government this year.
“This team is ready to lead,” Abbate said.
The board currently has seven Republicans and seven Democrats, with the GOP in control because of its weighted vote system.