For years, Cortland was run by Democrats, and Cortlandville by Republicans. That was just the way it was. But continued Republican control of the Cortlandville town board is no longer a sure thing.
For the first time in recent memory, Democrats have a candidate for every board position, including supervisor. If the GOP wants to keep Cortlandville, this year it’s going to have to fight for it.
“We’re up for it obviously,” said Connie White, chairwoman of the Cortland County Republican Committee. “I’m excited about our candidates. They’re out every night working together.”
Tim Perfetti, chairman of the county Democratic Committee, said he thinks his party has the potential to take control of the town board.
“I do think there’s a strong chance that we’re going to prevail in these elections,” he said.
In particular, Perfetti pointed to a state Comptroller report that faulted Cortlandville for improperly using $22,600 in town funds to build a public boat launch on former town board member Greg Leach’s property. Perfetti said the scandal, as well as two Article 78 cases, which also involved Leach and which the town lost, have helped sour town voters on GOP candidates, even if most of the old board members are now gone.
White, however, said the Democrats are overplaying their hand. The boat launch incident, she said, was not the scandal it’s being portrayed as.
“Nobody’s a thief,” she said. “Nobody walked away with anything.”
Moreover, the current slate of candidates seek economic growth, which she said the Democrats will stymie.
“My candidates are running for the town,” she said. “The Democrats are running against the town. They don’t like the town. They want to change things.”
But Perfetti said that what the town needs is transparency.
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and I hope that sunlight continues to shine on Election Day,” he said.
Supervisor Richard Tupper, who served on the town board for 15 years, announced his retirement in April. Tupper’s absence leaves Theodore V. Testa as the only incumbent.
But Tupper said that while the other Republicans may be new to the Cortlandville board, they are not novices.
Thomas A. Williams, for instance, served nearly eight years as a county legislator. Williams, a retired state trooper, had also worked as homebuilder and business owner.
Williams acknowledged the playing field has changed in Cortlandville.
“Those seats, historically, have gone pretty much uncontested,” he said.
Jay E. Cobb of McGraw has also held elected office — a term as McGraw mayor, several terms on the village board. He has been a McGraw firefighter for 45 years, including time as chief and assistant chief.
Cobb is the only Cortlandville board candidate from the McGraw area.
“We wanted to try to get somebody from that side of the town,” Tupper said.
Theodore V. Testa, the only Republican incumbent in the race, has served on the board for 28 years.
“I work for the people. I’ve always done what I’ve thought is the best for Cortlandville,” he said. “I just try to do what’s good for the community. I try to be fair with everybody.”
Testa touted his work helping create the town’s two parks, one of which is named after him.
GOP newcomer Jeff Guido, a history teacher of 26 years at Cortland Junior-Senior High School, is seeking a post left vacant by Democrat Randy Ross; that term runs through the end of 2021.
Guido served two terms on the Cortland Common Council from 2001 to 2005. He moved to Cortlandville 11 years ago.
He’s running, he said, “to be given the opportunity to continue to do the very good job that’s been done.”
A priority for Guido is the Gutchess sports complex project; he would like the town to pursue partnerships with local businesses to reduce the taxpayer burden.
Two years ago, Doug Withey was the first Democrat in five decades to be elected to the town board. Now he’s running for supervisor, and he’s optimistic he and fellow Democrats Robert R. Martin and Donna M. Johnson, as well as Bekkie Bryan, will prevail. But he also realizes they have an uphill fight.
“We’re running with optimism but as the underdog,” he said.
Withey worked for the Cort-land city water department for 35 years, including 17 as superintendent. After retiring, he set up his own business, W2 Operator Training Group, which trains water and wastewater system operators. Withey cited his leadership, management and business experience. He said his main priority is the Gutchess Sports Complex.
“We’ve got to make that sustainable,” he said. “We’ve got to find a way to make that work.”
Martin, director of facilities for Cortland Enlarged City School District, said his desire to run “stems from observing that things need to be done much better in Cortlandville.”
He has management and administrative experience and promised “to bring integrity, fiscal responsibility and community involvement back to Cortlandville Town Hall.”
Donna Johnson, administrative secretary in the Cortland County Office of the Assigned Counsel for 10 years, is also the co-owner of Crown City Travel for more than 25 years. She has served on the Cortland school board as well as treasurer and trustee for the Cortland Elks Lodge.
“Cortlandville needs to follow current laws, which are in place regarding prudent expansion and development,” John-son said.
She would like the town to “pursue solar and environmental opportunities, while not disrupting our residential and farm districts.”
Bekkie Bryan, a physical education associate professor at SUNY Cortland, moved to Cortlandville in 2014.
“I believe our town deserves more transparency in the decisions that are made that affect our community,” she said, adding the town board should “reflect the demographics of the community” and needs female members.
The town of Cortlandville also has a contested race for town justice. Mary Beth Mathey, a Republican and Conservative, faces Robert J. DeMarco, who is running as an Independence candidate. The two are running for the job of retiring justice Francis J. Casullo, a Republican.