November 29, 2021

GOP holds county Legislature

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Cortland Legislature District 12 candidate Michael Barylski, a Democrat, applauds with other Cortland Democratic Party members at their headquarters after winners were declared on Tuesday. Barylski unseated incumbent Republican Joseph Steinhoff for the seat representing a portion of Cortlandville.

The Republican Party will retain its majority on the Cortland County Legislature, picking up a seat to gain a 10-7 majority in Tuesday’s general election, according to complete but unofficial tallies.

Still, eight of the 17 legislators will be new starting in January, between primary winners who were uncontested in the general election, and the victories Tuesday night.

Among the contested races, two incumbent legislators — Joseph Steinhoff in Cortlandville and Gordon Wheelock in Homer —lost their seats, and the party representation for District 7 in Cortland swapped.

Democrats Douglas Bentley and Beau Harbin, who won their party nominations in the September primary against incumbent legislators, were uncontested Tuesday.

Democrat Ronald VanDee, who was nominated to replace retiring Legislator Richard Bushnell (D-Cortland), and Republican Paul Heider, who was nominated to replace retiring Legislator Jim Denkenberger (R-Cuyler, Solon, Truxton), were also uncontested.

Republican Chad Poli was uncontested race to replace former Legislator Luke Snyder (I-Cortland), who resigned in September.

District 7, Cortland
Republican Ann Homer, won, 262-166, over Democrat Gerald Riter.

The result is a flip in party representation, as current Legislator Raylynn Knolls, who decided to step away from the seat, is a Democrat.

Homer said she thinks part of that is due to the hard work she put into her campaign and that voters wanted someone with municipal government experience.

For 21 years, Homer worked a variety of county departments — health, personnel and social services — and worked as an assistant to the Legislature chairman.

“I’m willing to say no and make tough decisions,” Homer said.

One issue she would like to tackle is hiring a county administrator. She acknowledge some of her fellow Republicans disagree on hiring an administrator, but she believes the county needs a professional managing it.

District 8, Homer, Preble, Scott
Incumbent Donnell Boyden retained his seat with 380 votes, against 219 write-in votes.

The write-in votes account for almost 36.6 percent of the 599 votes cast.

Scott Town Supervisor Kevin Fitch ran as a write-in candidate against Boyden, however it was unclear this morning how many of the write-in votes were for Fitch.

Boyden said last month the county must continue to reduce debt. One way to do that is to get the county’s recycling center to pay for itself. And to do that, he said, the county must be smarter in the way it recycles.

District 10, Homer
Republican challenger Kelly Preston won, 548-141, over incumbent Gordon Wheelock on the Have a Voice party line.
Preston defeated Wheelock in the September primary, 162-46.

“I am committed to working with fellow legislators, regardless of their political affiliation,” Preston said. “That is what the voters want, and that is the way to make positive change in our county.”

With many resources like ski resorts, museums and SUNY Cortland, Preston has said the county should take full advantage of them to attract people to the county.

“We need to find additional revenue sources to help foot the bills,” Preston said last month. “Let’s bring in the travelers from the interstate and encourage them to spend money in Cortland. This will increase sales tax dollars for our county.”
Wheelock did not wish to comment this morning about the election results.

Last month Wheelock said whether he won or lost, the Legislature needs to work together.

District 12, Cortlandville
Democrat Michael Barylski won, 336-255, over incumbent Republican Joseph Steinhoff.

“We owe Joe a debt of appreciation for the four years that he has served,” Barylski said after celebrating with fellow Democrats at the party’s election night party. “It wasn’t just Democrats who got me elected, there were a large number of Republicans that crossed over. To those who did cross over, I want to thank them. To those who didn’t, I will work hard to earn their trust.”

His goal is to improve efficiencies at the county’s landfill, looking to extend the landfill life and look at alternatives to incarceration to better address jail crowding.

He hopes to be on the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, Solid Waste Committee and Agriculture, Planning and Environmental Committee.

Steinhoff thanked the voters who have supported him, and while he is disappointed to lose the seat, he said he is also relieved in one sense as being on the Legislature can be stressful.

He spoke with Barylski to congratulate him and give him some advice.

“You need to establish a consensus and move forward,” Steinhoff said.

District 13, Cortlandville
Incumbent Kevin Whitney won, 259-188, over challenger Richard Woodrome, who ran on the Conservative and Independence lines.
Whitney also defeated Woodrome in the September primary, 75-55.

Whitney said last month the department heads were a key part to getting the county’s budget right. It is “crystal clear” to the legislators and department heads that the county has to better control its spending.

He does not foresee the county doing any more bonding in the near future.

“We still have to be making progress,” Whitney said last month about the county jail construction project. “We need to do something for the safety of officers (who work at the jail).”

District 17, Cincinnatus, Freetown, Taylor, Willet
Incumbent Republican Charles Sudbrink won, 503-240, over Democrat Josh Kisner.

Sudbrink said he would like to see the Legislature begin focusing on its 2019 budget starting in January.

“We can’t wait until September,” Sudbrink said.

The county also must get moving on what it wants to do with its jail, he added.

Sudbrink, the Legislature’s majority leader, said the county lost a couple good Republicans, but also gained a couple good ones.