PLATTSBURGH — Though Republicans could take control of the Clinton County Legislature in 2020, officials generally agree that not much will change about how it runs.
"We operate as much as a nonpartisan body as possible," Legislator and Minority Leader Mark Dame (R-Area 8) said.
"Every now and then a partisan issue pops up and, given the fact that we all are practicing politicians, it can get in the way.
"But for the most part I don’t see any major changes. We all have respect for each other."
AREA 3 CLOSE
Unofficial results from Tuesday's election showed that Republican candidates Rick Potiker and Calvin Castine flipped Areas 5 and 1, respectively, and Area 7 re-elected Robert Timmons, securing five seats for the Republicans, currently in the minority.
In Area 3, Republican incumbent Mark Henry brought in 31 more votes than Democrat Jerry Marking, but Henry did not declare victory since absentee and military ballots have yet to be counted.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 69 of the 103 absentee ballots — which must be postmarked by Nov. 4 and received by Nov. 12 — sent out had come back, County Board of Elections Republican Commissioner Greg Campbell said.
None of the four military ballots, which have a deadline of Nov. 18, had been returned.
All those remaining ballots will be opened Tuesday, Nov. 19.
CLERK BREAKS TIE
Should the legislature end up split between Republicans and Democrats, by law, Clinton County Clerk John Zurlo — a Republican — is supposed to break the tie.
If that is the case, Zurlo does not plan to simply stay with the party line and will, instead, defer to the legislature.
He hopes that either Republicans will take six seats or the legislature ties but comes to an agreement.
"I never had to make that decision because they’ve come to an amicable conclusion," he said.
"They know best. It’s their board and whatever they decide to do, I would listen."
Zurlo did say that he believes Henry will be re-elected, since absentee ballots tend to go by the same percentage as the poll tallies.
County Legislature Chair Harry McManus (D-Area 1) and Democratic Majority Leader Patty Waldron (Area 6) echoed Dame's comment that the legislature is nonpartisan.
McManus said that dates back to former Chair Jimmy Langley's leadership.
"I passed that along to all of my legislators in my 12 years and I think it’s going to continue."
"I believe all of us will do our best to maintain the integrity of that office and not let politics come into play," Waldron added.
Since Carol Blakeslee failed to unseat Timmons, Waldron will remain the board's sole female member, as she has the past six years.
"I’m happy to say that gender really doesn’t play a role," she said.
"But, yes, it would be nice if there were more females involved in politics in general on the local level.
"I would encourage more females to run in their local races."
McManus pointed out the Groundhog Day-like nature of the Area 3 race, since Marking and Henry's last match-up for the seat in March 2018 also came down to absentee ballots.
And in July, with write-ins and absentee ballots, Henry also came out ahead of Marking in the Independence Party primary by just three votes.
McManus anticipates that final results will leave Republicans with six seats and believes the legislature will pick someone who has the experience to lead the board, though he declined to speculate on who that might be.
Rumors have circulated that Dame is a frontrunner for chair, which he would consider an honor, privilege and welcome challenge.
"However, I’m not sure if my personal life will allow that to fit in at this point so we’ll have to wait and see what happens, what my colleagues want to do on both sides of the aisle."
Dame said it would be premature for him to speak about any changes he might make prior to his possible selection.
He respects everyone on the legislature.
"We’ve had some differences of opinion, there’s no question about that, and some different political philosophies, but that’s really what every board should be made up of."
McManus — who must step down at the end of this year due to term limits — expects the legislature to continue to prioritize economic development.
"I think it’s the greatest legacy we can leave to the people here: good-paying jobs and opportunities for our young people to make a choice as to whether or not to stay in our area or leave."
He cannot wait to come back in five years to see how far Plattsburgh International Airport has come and what businesses have set up shop on the former Clinton County Airport property.
McManus said the legislature voted unanimously to invest $500,000 in order to secure a federal grant to develop the former airport land, remarking that economic development situations are never controversial.
"Every one of us have been on board and I’d be shocked if that didn’t continue over the next four years."
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