COOPERSTOWN — Otsego County Republicans said Tuesday night that they are convinced they will retain control over county government in 2014 despite a victory by Democrat Ed Lentz of New Lisbon in the Board of Representatives race for coveted District 5.
Lentz, according to both Democrats and Republicans, posted a narrow victory over political newcomer Jamie Waters, a general contractor from Milford who was supported by state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford.
With all machine votes counted, Lentz, a patent attorney and farmer, was ahead of Waters, 751 to 707.
Holding 627 weighted votes — a tenth of the 14-member county board’s entire total — the occupant of the District 5 seat has more clout than any other member of the panel.
But Democrats were dealt a setback in District 4, where Oneonta Town Councilwoman Janet Hurley Quackenbush, a Republican, defeated Daniel Buttermann, the Democratic candidate backed by Rep. Rich Murphy, D-town of Oneonta, who did not seek re-election for the seat.
Quackenbush collected 743 votes, while 666 went to Buttermann.
District 4 has 523 weighted votes, not quite enough to offset the Republican loss of the 627 weighted votes assigned to the District 5 seat that will be held by Lentz.
But Republicans said they are optimistic they will add to their majority once paper ballots are counted in District 8, where Republican businessman Rick Hulse Jr. of Fly Creek held a slim lead over freshman Rep. John Kosmer, D-Fly Creek, an anti-fracking activist.
With all machine votes counted, Hulse led Kosmer, 589 to 556.
In a recent debate, Hulse repeatedly mentioned his family roots are deep in the Cooperstown area, drawing a contrast with Kosmer, who moved upstate several years ago from New York City. Hulse said he would also like to introduce business-style management practices to county government.
Another candidate who couldn’t find sufficient traction with the drilling issue was Teresa Winchester of Butternuts. The Democrat waged what proved to be her second losing challenge of veteran Rep. James Powers, R-Butternuts. Powers is one of the county’s most enthusiastic supporters of drilling rights for landowners, while Winchester has advocated bans on shale gas extraction. Powers came out on top, 729 to 636.
Another race, in District 12, will apparently be decided by paper ballots. It pitted Oneonta Democrat Amy Homburg-Heilveil, a restaurant waitress, against concert promoter Craig Gelbsman, a Republican. With all machine ballots counted, Gelbsman was ahead, 137 to 132.
The District 12 seat holds a total of 335 weighted votes. It has been held for the last two decades by Rep. Catherine Rothenberger, D-city of Oneonta. If Gelbsman prevails in the heavily Democratic district, it would be a feather in the cap of the local GOP organization,
In District 7, freshman Rep. Beth Rosenthal, D-Roseboom, defeated Republican William Glockler, 525 to 482.
The votes were tallied following a day of what local election experts called unusually heavy turnout, particularly for an off-year, with no national or statewide contests beckoning voters to polling places.
“It’s been very strong every place here,” said Sheila Ross, the Otsego County GOP elections commissioner. She said she had to deliver a stack of 50 additional blank ballots to the town of Plainfield when it nearly ran out of ballots with an unanticipated surge of voters.
“I’d say the turnout is at 50 percent in most places,” Ross added. She said there was also an unusually heavy turnout in Milford, apparently triggered by the Lentz-Waters race.
Hank Nicols, the Democratic county elections commissioner, also remarked that people were eager to line up at the polls Tuesday.
“Judging by the turnout, this was a hotly contested election,” said Nicols. “This is a little bit of a pleasant surprise.”
The second highest number of weighted votes (554) are held by the District 3 seat, occupied by the board’s chairwoman, Rep. Kathy Clark, R-Otego. She handily defeated Democratic backed Stuart Anderson, 771 to 425. Anderson was making his maiden run for public office.
Reacting to the outcome, the county’s GOP chairman, Vince Casale, said: “We are pleased with the overall outcome of tonight’s election. As we have said all along, we presented a slate of candidates who bring a diverse set of skills and experience to help our county tackle the issues before us. Tonight, the voters agreed”
Democratic County Chairman Richard Abbate said: “We put together a team that had a clear vision and plan on how to move this county forward. ... We knew we had an uphill battle with a Republican Party that has dominated this county for as long as anyone could remember. ... I thank the residents for listening to our candidates concerns and ideas. I congratulate Vince Casale, and Republicans on their win tonight. I urge both sides to work together for the betterment of the County.”
Three current representatives — Rich Murphy, D-town of Oneonta, from District 4, Pauline Koren, R-Milford, from District 5, and Catherine Rothenberger, D-dcity of Oneonta, from District 12, opted not to seek re-election this year.