Schoharie County’s top elected official — Board of Supervisors Chairman Phil Skowfoe — was handed a new lease on his political life Tuesday when a count of paper ballots sealed his re-election as Fulton town supervisor.
Skowfoe, a Democrat, began the day with just a two-vote lead over Republican Francis Tatten. But the paper ballots broke his way, and the final tally put him on top, 230 to 223.
“I was never really nervous about this — until this morning,” Skowfoe said with a laugh after the count was completed by the Schoharie County Board of Elections at the county office building.
Skowfoe is a 66-year-old retired boilermaker whose goal this past year was to end the partisan rancor that marred county board meetings in 2012. On Tuesday, he even had kind words for the man who wanted to replace him as Fulton supervisor.
“My opponent is a good man — no doubt about that,” he said.
Skowfoe said he’d like to keep the position but pointed out that decision will be made by his colleagues.
In another tight race that was decided with Tuesday’s count of paper ballots, Wright town supervisor candidate Amber Bleau, a Republican, overcame a three-vote deficit in the machine ballots to churn out a victory over Democrat Karl Remmers.
Her final advantage: five votes. She will fill the position that became vacant last March when then Wright Supervisor William Goblet died.
The count of paper ballots in a third close contest was a setback for Blenheim Town Supervisor Robert Mann, a Republican. Down by six votes on election night, he ended up being defeated by 11 votes by Shawn Smith, a 26-year-old attorney and a Democrat.
County officials said the state Board of Elections is expected to certify all of the local results next week.
Skowfoe was elected the chairman of the county board last year when several Republicans crossed party lines to back him.
One of his supporters, Schoharie Town Supervisor Gene Milone, a Democrat, said while it is impossible to predict what will happen in January, he hopes Skowfoe will keep his leadership role.
Regardless of what happens, Milone said, “I’m truly hopeful the coalition formed between the Democrats and Republicans remains in place and we can continue to work together. Hopefully, we won’t fall into the same trap that existed before.”
Across the county, of the incumbents who were knocked out of their offices, most were aligned with the local Conservative Party and were criticized in a recent investigative report into alleged abusive conduct by certain county officials, Milone noted.
Voicing no sympathy for those who lost their seats, Milone said, “Every single one of them got just what was coming to them. The voters simply said: ‘Enough is enough.’”
He said the county should now rehire workers who were unfairly targeted due to politics, and remove people from job titles for which they lack qualifications.
“There is a ton of work to be done,” Milone said.