Former Woodstock supervisor Jeremy Wilber’s bid to reclaim his old office gained propulsion with a landslide victory in the September 13 Democratic primary, in which voters also chose Town Board candidates Jay Wenk and Ken Panza to carry the party’s banner in the upcoming general election.
Unofficial results from the county Board of Elections showed Wilber trouncing councilwoman Terrie Rosenblum by a tally of 407 to 90 in the supervisor contest. In a four-way race for two Town Board seats, incumbent councilman Wenk, with 294 votes, and community activist Panza, with 293, earned Democratic nominations, edging Peter Cross, a member of the Planning Board, who received 272 votes. David Gross, who is chair of the Woodstock Environmental Commission, trailed the field with 150 votes.
After the last of four local polling places had reported its primary results, Wilber delivered a brief victory speech at the Java Lounge above Joshua’s Restaurant on Tinker Street, where most of the candidates monitored the unfolding verdicts on a laptop computer. “It’s not over. It’s not November yet, so it’s too soon to pop Champagne, but we’ve put down a marker here,” said Wilber, who served as supervisor from 2000 to 2007. “I think it’s going to be a good year for Democrats in Woodstock.”
Said Wenk, who previously served on the Town Board from 1990 to 1993 and is in the final year of his current term on the board: “I am looking forward to working happily and productively with a new Town Board at the beginning of the year.” Panza, who avenged a defeat in the 2009 Democratic primary, said, “I am very happy that Jay and Jeremy, whom I supported, won. Most astounding is how poorly Terrie did, compared to Jeremy.”
The Woodstock Republican Committee (WRC) will select its party’s candidates at a caucus scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. (not 6 p.m., as previously reported) on Thursday, September 15, at Town Hall. Wilber and Panza are actively seeking the Republican endorsement and will be formally nominated by WRC members for consideration at the caucus. Wenk said after the Democratic primary that he would decide at the caucus whether to accept a GOP nomination if it is offered. Lorin Rose, an independent candidate for supervisor who did not participate in the Democratic primary, is expected to challenge Wilber for the Republican endorsement at the caucus.
Wilber, Wenk, and Panza — and incumbent town justice Frank Engel, who is running unopposed for reelection — are registered Democrats whom the WRC could endorse through a so-called Wilson-Pakula exception. According to a local Republican who wished to remain anonymous, the WRC is unlikely to unveil any new candidates for supervisor or Town Board at the caucus. Meanwhile, two Republican incumbents who are running unopposed for new terms, town clerk Jackie Earley and highway superintendent Mike Reynolds, are certain to add their own party’s nomination to the Democratic endorsements they previously received via the Wilson-Pakula route.
The general election will take place on November 8. In Woodstock, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about four to one, the Democratic endorsement represents at least a putative advantage, although incumbent supervisor Jeff Moran won reelection in 2009 as the nominee of the Republican and Working Families parties, having lost the Democratic primary. Wilber and Wenk have already secured the Working Families ballot line for their respective offices in this year’s general election. (That party had also endorsed Gross, but Gross announced that he would abandon his campaign after failing to gain the Democratic nomination.)
In a September 14 interview Rosenblum, a first-term councilwoman, took her primary defeat in stride. “I ran my campaign the way I wanted to, so whichever way (the primary vote) came out was OK,” she said. “In the beginning I told Jeremy, who originally got me involved in town politics, that I respect him, so my run wasn’t against him. I wish him well and am sure he’ll do a great job.” Rosenblum, who has resumed her role as chair of the Woodstock Democratic Committee, added that she and the WDC would actively support their party’s nominee, Wilber, in the general election. Her own plans do not currently include another run for elective office, said Rosenblum.
Gross, too, reacted philosophically to the outcome of the primary. “It’s a democracy. I didn’t like the decision, but I accept it. I now have a lot of work to do as chair of the Woodstock Environmental Commission,” he said, citing as a priority the commission’s effort to explore legal options for prohibiting or impeding the use of the natural-gas extraction method known as hydrofracking within the town’s borders.
Town Board members and town justices serve a term of four years, while the supervisor serves a two-year term. To date the town’s two other elected officials, the town clerk and the highway superintendent, have each served for two years, but voters in the general election will have an opportunity to ratify or reject a local law extending the terms of those officials to four years.++