October 24, 2021

Harford Democrat caucus picks Stairs

Cortland Standard file photo

Motorists drive through Harford near town hall in this file photo from 2008.

An unaffiliated candidate won the Democratic nomination in a three-way race for Harford town highway superintendent this week, following a Republican caucus last week where more people voted than were eligible.

Scott Stairs won the town Democratic nomination with 19 votes; incumbent Superintendent Jack Holcomb, a Democrat, got 4 votes. Republican Nickolas Marsh got 3 votes, said Michelle Morse, town Democratic Party chairwoman and town supervisor.

While as many as 41 people in total attended the Monday caucus, 26 Harford Democrats were in attendance, and 26 Harford Democrats voted, she said.

That was not the case at the Republican caucus June 11, when 40 votes were counted while just 36 Harford Republicans were in attendance. In that caucus, Holcomb got 16 votes to Marsh’s 15, while Stairs received 9 votes. Marsh alleged cheating.

If there was cheating, Holcomb said he was not involved. “I had 16 people there that were Republicans,” Holcomb said this week. “I’m the one who called them.”

In the Republican caucus, eligible voters were not separated from others; a total of 42 people attended the caucus. Moreover, voters were not given separate ballots. Instead, sticky notes and pens were placed on tables, and votes were collected by passing around a hat.

However, both Marsh and Holcomb said Cortland County Clerk Elizabeth Larkin, who ran the caucus, repeated that only Harford Republicans were eligible to cast a ballot.

“Mrs. Larkin went over that twice,” Holcomb said. “The Democrats can sit there and listen. She did her job.”

Marsh, a press operator for the Cortland Standard, complained to the county Board of Elections about the vote discrepancy, only to find out that the results were final.

Republican Election Commissioner Bob Howe, citing state law, said the caucus could not be redone. The results could, however, be contested in court at Marsh’s expense within 10 days of the caucus, but Marsh said this option was too expensive and declined to pursue it.

Marsh said the Monday night Democratic caucus was “right by the book, just the way it should have been.”

He is considering running for highway superintendent as a write-in candidate. The four-year post pays $47,000 a year.

“It’s just too early, you know,” he said. “I think I can win, but the problem is getting people to show up.”

Stairs could not be reached for comment.