New citizen votes for first time in Homer

New Voter

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Kyoko Horton poses Tuesday in a voting booth at the Homer Town Hall. Horton immigrated from Japan and voted for the first time during the general election. She said she also wants to serve jury duty to fulfill her responsibilities as a citizen.

Staff Reporter

HOMER — When Kyoko Horton, of Homer, was sworn in officially as an American citizen last February, she told the Cortland Standard the two rights she would treasure most as a citizen were serving on a jury and voting.
Tuesday at Homer Town Hall, the native of Japan who first moved to the United States in 1981 and came to the Cortland area in 1997, exercised for the first time one of those rights when she stepped into the voting booth.
“I understand my vote might not make a difference, but then again, it might,” Horton said after casting her vote. “It’s too bad I missed last year’s excitement, but this year I finally made it.”
Horton didn’t want to discuss how she voted, saying she generally shies away from arguments over politics.
“At work we had a little commotion the other day, but I try to avoid arguing. I just think it’s empty,” she said, noting that she and her 25-year old daughter, who lives in San Diego, try to avoid political discussion whenever possible. “I try to choose people as much as I can that are close to my mind on most issues.”
The long history of women seeking the right to vote worldwide made using her right especially important, Horton said.
“The history of women making the effort to gain the right is something I appreciate,” she said.
Although she wouldn’t discuss her votes, Horton said she relished the opportunity to shape her community for her 14-year-old daughter, who lives with her in Homer.
“When you vote, you have a chance to affect the next generation also by who you choose,” Horton said. “I wanted to choose the right people for my daughter’s generation.”
Horton said she wanted to bring her younger daughter to the polls with her, but homework got in the way.
“Maybe next time when I have confidence that I know what I’m doing,” she said.
Horton was accompanied at Town Hall by her friend, Elynor Depue, who walked her through the voting process.
“This is something that’s important to her and I wanted to be here,” said Depue, who said she and Horton have become friends since Horton moved to the area in 1997.
Horton said she followed political news on the radio, and through discussion with friends, but said she could always be more informed.
“I’d like to get more information about what’s going on,” she said. “I probably need to study even more next time.”
It seems almost certain that Horton will jump at the next opportunity to exercise her right to vote.
As for serving on a jury, Horton said she looked forward to the opportunity, but didn’t mind waiting.
“With the jury, I don’t really know,” she said. “I’ve heard a lot of different stories from people,  some not good, some good, so I’ll wait to see about that.”


Voters support Arcuri for his stance on Iraq, balance in Congress

Staff Reporters

CORTLAND — Tuesday’s win by Democrat Mike Arcuri, the Oneida County district attorney, over Republican state Sen. Ray Meier in the 24th Congressional District was part of a statewide and nationwide shift in power toward Democrats.
A Democrat has not represented Cortland County in Congress since it was part of the 32nd Congressional District, a seat held by James Hanley of Syracuse from 1973 to 1981. Hanley died in 2003.
The House of Representatives, for the first time since 1994, is firmly in Democratic control after the party picked up the minimum of 15 seats necessary to gain a majority, and adding additional seats on top of that.
Arcuri’s more than 1,000-vote win in Cortland County paralleled the results districtwide for the seat that has been held by Republicans for more than 60 years.
According to the unofficial results tabulated by the Cortland County Board of Elections, Arcuri took 7,418 votes in the county to Meier’s 6,141. Libertarian candidate Michael J. Sylvia III received 155 votes, leaving Arcuri with about 54 percent of the votes cast in that race in this county. He received 53 percent of the votes districtwide.
“I don’t know how anything in the world could ever top this. I’d like this night to go on forever,” Arcuri told supporters in Utica.
Meier thanked his supporters and told them not to feel bad.
“It was just not our year,” he said. “When you stand up for what you believe in, the fight is always worthwhile. Don’t be discouraged.”
Cortland County had gone in favor of Republican President George W. Bush in the last two presidential elections. Before the unofficial results started coming in, Arcuri’s Cortland County coordinator, Bob Messinger of Cortlandville, said Democrats couldn’t previously afford to be too optimistic here.
Much of the success, said “heavy-duty volunteer” Sean Mack, stemmed from the viability of the Arcuri candidacy.
“We felt good, but you’ve just got to out-work your opponent, and we tried to out-work him every step of the way. It’s really Mike — he’s such a fine individual, and such an astute candidate. He was just right for us,” Mack said after it became clear that Arcuri had taken the district.
“You’ve got to be an exceptional candidate to win as a Dem in a heavily Republican congressional district,” Mack added.
In the county Democratic Party headquarters on Church Street, about 30 people gathered and watched the national election coverage on a television set, cheering as the Democrats racked up more and more congressional seats.
The county Republican headquarters on Port Watson Street was more reserved, with just a handful of people present.
As he tabulated the results being called in after the polls had closed, city Alderman Tom Michales (R-8th Ward) said both candidates had certainly spent a significant amount of time in the district, but that he expected Meier to win by a significant margin.
Cortlandville Town Board member Ron Rocco said the results might be an indication that changes need to be made, at both the state and national levels.
The majority of voters interviewed Tuesday at six local polling places supported Arcuri.
They cited his stance on the war in Iraq and the need for balance in Congress as the driving forces behind their decision.
Betty and Bob Thomas, who live in Cortland and are age 62 and 64, respectively, said they voted for Arcuri because he said he’d work to bring troops home from Iraq soon.
“He’ll get us out of something we shouldn’t have been there for to begin with,” Bob Thomas said, after voting at the Grange Building in Cortland.
Louis Loiselle, 37, of Cortland, said he voted for Arcuri to help balance out the makeup of Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives.
“I don’t like extremism from any point of view,” he said, after voting at the Dexter Park Building on Elm Street “I would like to see a little more balance in politics.”
Loiselle said he also voted for Arcuri because he supports stem cell research.



Incumbents win Assembly seats, towns pick officials

From Staff Reports
Wins by incumbent Assembly members Gary Finch and Barbara Lifton were among the handful of contested races for Cortland County area offices.
The following is a summary of unofficial results from local races:
123rd Assembly District
Incumbent Republican Gary Finch (R-Aurora) received about 60 percent of the overall vote in the district, topping Democratic challenger Barbara Abbott King, who received about 40 percent, a margin of 20,472 total votes to 18,866.
In Cortland County, Finch received 58.5 percent of the vote, or 2,988 votes, to King’s 41.5 percent, or 2,119 votes. The district includes all of Cortland County, except the city of Cortland and the towns of Virgil, Cortlandville and Preble.
Late Tuesday night, Finch said he still wasn’t going to assume he was victorious, but he said the apparent lead in the polls felt good.
“It appears as though I’m ahead at the moment and that feels pretty good right now,” Finch said. “It was a low-key race, there was no negativity involved, and I thought it was a good opportunity to discuss the issues that are important to our district.”
Finch said the issues he was looking forward to addressing, in what will be his fourth term in the Assembly, included low graduation rates in high schools in his district, high taxes and low milk prices.
125th Assembly District
Two-term incumbent Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca) beat Republican challenger Jim Rohan by a margin of 67 percent of the vote, 17,656 total votes to 8,258.
In the Cortland County portion of the district, which includes the city of Cortland and the towns of Virgil and Cortlandville, Lifton took 63 percent of the vote to Rohan’s 37 percent, or 4,511 votes to 2,659.
Speaking at Democratic Headquarters in Cortland Tuesday night, Lifton touted her record as the deciding factor in the campaign.
“I said I was going to run on my record. I put my record out there again and again, and I think my record won me this race,” she said.
Lifton praised Rohan, who was unavailable for comment, for running a positive campaign. “It was kind of a low-key campaign, not very heated, but I think we had a good discussion,” she said.
129th Assembly District
Incumbent Republican Brian Kolb won a fourth two-year term in an uncontested election, with 23,892 votes, including 191 from Preble in Cortland County.
51st State Senate District
Incumbent Republican James Seward, who ran unopposed, won a two-year term with 46,897 votes, excluding those in Herkimer County, which are not available this morning. Seward’s total includes 8,287 votes from Cortland County.
State Supreme Court
In a true departure for Central New York that likely reflected a groundswell for Democratic candidates, Democrat Elizabeth Garry, from Chenango County, defeated Republican Dennis McDermott of Madison County for a 12-year term.
Garry will be the lone Democrat on the nine-justice Supreme Court, according to Russ Oeschle, executive assistant to the district administrative judge, and is the first Democrat elected in the 6th District in at least the last 30 years.
“I’ve heard it said that there hasn’t been a Democrat elected here since as far back as the New Deal,” Oeschle said, referring to President Roosevelt’s Depression recovery efforts in the 1930s. “I don’t know how long it’s been, but historically, the court has been made up of Republicans.”
Bill Wood, Democratic Chairman for Cortland County, said this morning he did not believe there had ever been a Democrat elected to the 6th District Supreme Court, although he wasn’t sure of that fact.
Garry received 103,526 votes, including 6,701 from Cortland County, to 88,879, including 5,869 from Cortland County, for McDermott, who has served as interim justice for the retired William F. O’Brien since February. Neither Garry nor O’Brien could be reached for comment.
Cortland County Coroner
Republican Whitney B. Meeker received 7,055 votes in an uncontested election for a one-year term.
Democrat David Makar defeated Republican Daniel Tier III with 2,335 votes to Tier’s 1,887 votes.
Makar had lived in Dryden for two years, and said he had initially thought his chances were a bit slim.
“I worked really hard, and I wanted to meet as many people across the entire town of Dryden as I could,” Makar said Tuesday evening, after it became clear from the unofficial results that he had taken the one-year council seat.
Tier is finishing the term of incumbent Michael Hattery, who won a Tompkins County Legislature seat.
“Looking at the districts all across the county, and obviously Dryden is just a portion of the county, the Republican ticket across the county took an unfortunate turn across the board,” Tier said, adding that he wondered if this was a referendum on the national political climate.
Republican Patricia Gutchess won the race for a one-year term as town supervisor, while Republican Terry Wolff was elected to a four-year term as town justice.
Gutchess won out over Democrat Sherry Ewanciw with 132 votes to Ewanciw’s 64 votes.
Gutchess said that she’s “pleasantly surprised,” and although the district is heavily Republican, she did not assume that she was going to win. Meanwhile, Ewanciw said she had a feeling that a Democrat would have a difficult time breaking into the district.
Ewanciw hopes to serve the community in some other capacity or position.
Both Gutchess and Ewanciw said that the development of a town park is a good direction for the town to go in, and Ewanciw wished her former opponent well.
Wolff won a four-year term as justice, with 112 votes, compared with 81 for Democrat Rosasharn Lavens.
Republican John J. Norman received 1,025 votes in an uncontested election for a four-year term as town justice.
Todd Loope received 175 votes in an uncontested election for a three-year Town Council seat.
Republican Joanne Brown and Craig Cihocki received one-year Town Board terms, with Brown getting 202 votes and Cihocki 127.
Staff reporters Evan Geibel and Corey Preston contributed to this article.


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Assault charges dropped in BB gun case

Staff Reporter

A Cortland County judge dropped assault charges against two Homer students, citing insufficient evidence the victims were harmed.
According to decisions handed down by Cortland County Judge Julie Campbell, the August indictments against Terry Elwood, 17, of 4047 Elwood Road, Taylor, and Zachary Walter, 17, of 17 North West St., Homer, lacked evidence that the two boys caused any physical injury to five classmates when they shot them with an airsoft gun back in May.
“The victims here sought no medical treatment and did not curtail their activities. Nor did they report anything coming close to ‘substantial pain.’” Campbell wrote. “The People have not established prima facie evidence of physical injury necessary to sustain any of the assault charges.”
However, Campbell continued by saying the students’ conduct should not be minimized, and is “indefensible” in the “post-Columbine area.”
Assistant District Attorney Wendy Franklin said through her secretary Tuesday that she would not comment on the case because her office is “still considering it ongoing.”
 “I think justice was done and the process worked,” Elwood’s attorney, Mark Suben, said. “It’s unfortunate it had to go this far.”
“We’re very grateful,” Chip Elwood, Terry Ellwood’s father, added. “This should have never gotten to this level in the first place.”
Each boy was indicted on three counts of second-degree assault, a felony, and nine counts of third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, after a 15-year-old student filed a complaint with the State Police, stating he was shot in the cheek on May 25 in the parking lot of Homer High School.
If the boys had been convicted of the felonies, they could have faced a fixed sentenced of two to seven years in state prison.


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