In 2017, Cortlandville saw Doug Withey, the first Democrat in decades, elected to its town board. Come November, Cortland County Democrats hope to snag a few more seats, and maybe even all of them.
Two four-year full-term seats will open up on the board. Republican Ted Testa is the only incumbent running to defend one of them, while Withey, the incumbent Democrat, will run for the open town supervisor position.
Supervisor Richard C. Tupper and board member John C. Proud, both incumbent Republicans, will not run. In addition, Randy Ross, a Democrat appointed the fill the post of John Reynolds who resigned last December, also will not run.
In the past, Democrats charged that Republicans kept a lock on power by routinely appointing Republicans to vacant seats on the town board. These appointees would then have the advantage of incumbency when they ran for election.
However, Withey won a seat in 2017, and last year the board appointed Ross, a Democrat, to fill a vacancy.
The dearth of Republican incumbents this year leaves the field open for Democrats, who are running candidates for all four available positions, said Tim Perfetti, chairman of the Cortland County Democratic Committee.
A controversy involving a former board member and a town-financed boat launch is another reason Perfetti thinks Democrats will gain seats.
A report by the state comptroller earlier this year found that town board members, all Republicans, improperly spent $22,600 in town funds in 2015 to build a boat launch on the property of then-board member Greg Leach.
“People are just tired of it,” Perfetti said. He expects to see the biggest gains among unaffiliated voters.
“Those are the people who are tired of both sides,” he said.
However, Connie White, chairwoman of the Cortland County Republican Committee, is not worried about the GOP’s prospects in Cortlandville this year.
“I’m not concerned,” she said. “I think we’ve got a terrific line up of candidates who are going to go out and seek support in the community.”
White said that Republicans presided over a number of important development projects the area — the Super Walmart on Bennie Road, for instance. Moreover, she said Republicans have kept property taxes down, while the cost of living has increased.
“We are the party that pays attention to the finances. That’s what I expect most taxpayers — most voters — are most concerned with,” White said. “The price of the ticket to live in Cortland County is getting steep. And Cortlandville has always held the line.”
Withey will face Republican Tom Williams, a retired state trooper and former county legislator, for the supervisor position.
The Republican slate will also feature incumbent Testa, former McGraw mayor Jay Cobb, who works for CNY Farm Supply, and Jeff Guido, a history teacher at Cortland Junior/Senior High School.
The Democrats running for town board positions are Bob Martin, director of facilities for Cortland Enlarged City School District, Donna Johnson, administrative secretary in the Cortland County Office of the Assigned Counsel, and Rebecca Brian, a physical education professor at SUNY Cortland.
Three Republicans and three Democrats are running for three open spots. Two of those spots are four-year full-term positions. The third position is a partial-term position that expires at the end of 2021.
The two top vote recipients in the general election will fill the two full-term spots; the third highest vote-getter will win the partial term position.
Moreover, if Withey wins his race for the supervisor position, he will have to vacate his current board seat; a temporary replacement would then have to be appointed by the next town board.
Democrats in Cortlandville decided on their candidates during their May 18 caucus. Republicans chose their candidates by petition.