November 4, 2009
4 new aldermen elected
1st Ward race too close to call as Democrat holds a 7-vote lead
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Fifth Ward Republican Common Council winner Dan Quail, congratulates Republican Susan Briggs on her victory Tuesday over Democrat John Daniels in the Cortland County Legislature District 14 race.
The Common Council will have four new faces come 2010. And, if unofficial election results announced late Tuesday night stand up, the Democrats will increase their 5-3 majority by one alderman.
The tightest and only undecided alderman race came in the 1st Ward, where Democrat Jane Hodgson leads Republican Robert Craig Jr. by seven votes, 293 (50.6 percent) to 286 (49.4 percent). There are 62 outstanding absentee ballots in the ward. Under state Election Law, the ballots will be counted next Tuesday.
The 1st Ward’s voter registration numbers break down as follows: Democrats, 579 voters or 38 percent of the total; Republicans, 526 voters or 35 percent; non-affiliated, 299 or 19 percent; and Independence Party, 73 voters or 4 percent.
Hodgson declined comment after the unofficial and incomplete results were disclosed. Craig, who like his opponent is running in his first race, said he is excited.
“It could be better, it could be worse — we’ll just have to wait and see,” Craig said, emphasizing the civility in the 1st Ward race. “Jane and I didn’t get into negative campaigning. We just knocked on doors and did our thing. Facts are facts and anyone can sling mud.
The two candidates are battling to succeed outgoing Republican Val VanGorder.
Democrat Linda Ferguson earned the 7th Ward’s seat with 153 votes, or 58.6 percent. Her opponent, Republican Tim Armstrong, dropped out of the race last month, but still received 108 votes, or 41.4 percent. There are 36 outstanding absentee ballots in the 7th Ward.
“For not having an opponent, I really had to struggle,” said Ferguson, who has never held political office before. “I feel like I fought the whole Republican Party. But I’m really excited.”
Ferguson plans to “attack the budget” upon taking office, with an eye on keeping services and eliminating waste.
“I was happy to see the hiring freeze,” she said of the council’s Oct. 20 resolution to stop hiring for city jobs. “They should have done that before.”
In the 5th Ward, incumbent Republican Dan Quail topped challenger Eric Prior, who ran on the “Priorities in Order” ticket, by a vote tally of 186 (63.1 percent) to 109 (36.9 percent), with 11 absentee ballots outstanding.
Quail said that in campaigning door-to-door, he found that voters, if given a choice, preferred a sales tax increase to further property tax increases. He said during the coming term, his focus will be on cutting costs.
“We have to get control of medical expenses,” Quail said. “We need to get the (city employees’) unions to partner with us, and we need to figure out how to pay for police and fire services. We’ll look at consolidating police forces and creating a fire district — the challenge is finding a willing partner.”
In the 3rd Ward, incumbent Democrat Ken Dye fended off Republican challenger John Barden by 183 votes to 145 votes, or a 55.8 percent to 44.2 percent ratio. There are 12 absentee ballots yet to be counted in the 3rd Ward.
If these results all stand, the Democrats will increase their majority over the Republicans on the Common Council to 6-2 from their current 5-3.
Two of the new Democratic aldermen, both political newcomers, faced no opposition.
Democrat Stephanie Hayes was elected to the 2nd Ward seat with 258 votes; she will replace outgoing Democrat Clay Benedict.
In the 6th Ward, Democrat Mark Leonard won handily to capture the seat vacated by Democrat Susan Feiszli, who ran for mayor. Neither Hayes nor Leonard has previously held political office.
Two incumbent aldermen — Brian Tobin (D-4th Ward) and Tom Michales (R-8th Ward) — both cruised to unopposed victories.
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