Ulster County Democrats have taken back the majority in a county legislature they lost in 2007. Unofficial returns on election night show Democrats with twelve of the 23 seats and the Republicans with eleven, with all 163 election districts reporting.
Republicans currently hold a twelve to eleven majority.
Legislature chairman Terry Bernardo is leading a close race against Democrat challenger Lynn Archer in the Town of Rochester. Bernardo leads by ten votes with 183 absentee ballots to be counted. “We’ll just keep counting,” she said election night. “We had a lot of powerful people against us.”
Veteran legislator Bob Aiello’s loss in Saugerties to newcomer Chris Allen made the critical difference in the shift in control.
The Democrats could pick up another seat if Bernardo loses. Democrat Tim Distel got within 46 votes of Craig Lopez.
Republicans on the other hand were not close to picking up any other seats.
Thirteen seats were contested. Each party had five unopposed candidates.
All results are unofficial. Absentee ballots will be counted in two weeks.
With an apparent Democratic majority, speculation quickly shifted to leadership positions in the 2014 legislature.
Former chairman Dave Donaldson of Kingston, the current minority leader, said he wasn’t interested after serving as legislative leader in 2008-09. Jeanette Provenzano of Kingston is the party’s senior member, but lost the contest for chairman to Donaldson in 2008.
Tracey Bartels of Gardiner is not enrolled in any party, but is endorsed by Democrats. Donaldson said he thought Bartels would be “a good choice for chairman.”
Candidates for legislature chairman must secure a majority in their own caucuses, usually in late December, and then at least twelve votes in the 23-member legislature at the organizational meeting in early January. Leaders are elected in party caucus on an annual basis. The chairman appoints standing committees of the legislature and special committees approved by the legislature.
The legislature is the policymaking branch of county government. It also votes on the annual executive budget and all appointments.
The chairman is paid $19,500 a year, majority and minority leaders, $12,500 each. Rank-and-file legislators are paid $10,000. Terms of office are two years.
In other races, two-term Democrat comptroller Elliott Auerbach defeated Republican Linda McDonough by about 4000 votes, half his margin three years ago.
Casino gambling was approved by Ulster voters 22,132 to 15,668 in incomplete results.
Richard McNally a Rensselaer Democrat, defeated Greene County attorney Carol Donnelly Stevens by 4100 votes in Ulster. County clerk Nina Postupack drew 35,193 votes compared with 27,193 for family court judge Marianne Mizel. Both Republicans were running unopposed for third terms.