Above: Aaron Rabiner, a candidate for village trustee in the Sullivan County village of Bloomingburg, in a campaign interview. Rabiner has a two-vote lead on incumbent trustee Katherine Roemer in a tight race that won't be resolved until next week.
It was a throw-out-the-bums kind of year in village elections across the Catskills, which were held yesterday, March 18. In the few village races in the region that were contested, most incumbents fared badly against upstarts and challengers.
Many of the races are nailbiters. Some results are preliminary due to razor-thin margins in races where affidavit and absentee ballots have yet to be counted. In a few races, a single vote separated the winners from the losers.
In the Delaware County village of Hancock, challenger Eugene Morgan ousted incumbent Mayor John Martin with 146 votes to Martin’s 93 votes — a huge margin for a village race. (In 2013, Morgan lost to Martin by one vote.) The unopposed incumbent trustees were both re-elected, Dawn Gotthardt with 187 votes and Patrick O’Brien with 180 votes.
In Fleischmanns, Mayor Todd Pascarella was defeated by Donald Kearney, who served as mayor of Fleischmanns in the 1990s. Kearney won 42 votes while Pascarella got 33. Another challenger, Lewis Grocholl, won one of the two trustee seats with 41 votes, while incumbent trustee Benjamin Fenton, with 36 votes, held on to the other seat by single vote. Challenger John Hoeko lost with 35 votes, while incumbent Larry Reilly lost with 34.
The Delaware County village of Stamford was one of the few places where an incumbent did well. Mayor Joan Hinman kept her seat with 145 votes, while her challenger, Flerida Santana-Johnas, lost with 67 votes.
In Bloomingburg, the Sullivan County village where a large new Hasidic Jewish population is struggling for control of the village’s government amid accusations of voter fraud and anti-Semitism, the race for a single village trustee seat is tight. Aaron Rabiner, a member of the Hasidic community who is challenging incumbent village trustee Katherine Roemer, is ahead by just two votes, according to the Times Herald-Record.
Rabiner’s win isn’t final. With the Sullivan County Board of Elections examining each vote, the official tally won’t be ready until next week. According to the Times Herald-Record, several affidavit ballots won’t be opened until March 25, and could swing the election either way.
In the Greene County village of Athens, all the incumbents lost their seats to challengers, several of them newcomers to politics, according to the Daily Mail. Mayor Chris Pfister was defeated by Rick Surrano 256 to 243, and incumbent trustees Anthony Patsky (229 votes) and Bob June (237 votes) were defeated by Marla Butler (261 votes) and Rickie Gabrielle (245 votes). The race was close enough that if any absentee ballots appear, the final tally could change.
In Catskill, newcomer Heather D. Bagshaw, the marketing manager for Greene County Tourism, won a slot as village trustee with a 197-vote lead. Meanwhile, the two incumbents who trail her are a single vote apart: James Chewens with 182 votes and Patrick McCulloch with 181 votes. Absentee ballots, which are still being counted, will determine the final outcome of that race, which at least one incumbent will lose, according to the Daily Mail.
Things are too close to call in Coxsackie, which held a hotly contested races for mayor and for two trustee slots, according to the Daily Mail. Thirty-six absentee ballots will determine the outcome of the race, in which only 13 votes separate Mayor Mark Evans from his Republican challenger, Greg Backus, and only 15 votes separate the three trustee candidates vying for two slots: the two incumbents, Stephen Hanse and Paul Sutton, and challenger Donald Daous. While the incumbents are all currently in the lead, things could change quickly.