Office seekers in Steuben County can now turn their focus to November after primary elections were settled last week with absentee votes now part of the final tally.
Politically, this has been anything but a quiet, off-year election, according to election officials in Bath, with increased interest in many towns, challenges to nominating petitions in some municipalities, and lots of questions about the process of running for office in other communities.
There are a host of independent candidates running across the county, with office-seekers for dozens of seats stumping under party banners like “Family First,” “Peace & Goodwill,” “Ready for Work” and “A Voice for You.”
“This year there has been quite a stir” in some towns, a Board of Elections official observed on Friday, pointing out Hartsville, where even the Democrats had a party primary for justice.
But higher interest does not always translate into a glut of candidates. Evidence of this can be found in one of Steuben County’s more populated municipalities, Hornellsville. When voters enter the polling booth in Hornellsville on Nov. 7, they will see only one candidate listed for two seats on the town board, and no candidate names on the ballot for tax collector. Both positions carry four-year terms.
Hornellsville is not a sleepy little burg, or just a dot on the map between Hornell and Rochester. With a population of 4,150, according to the 2010 US Census, two villages within its borders, more than 2,000 housing units and nearly 200 businesses, Hornellsville has an active government, overseeing an annual budget of about $2 million.
Two major economic development projects are getting underway as well. The new St. James Mercy Hospital will be built within the township, part of a multi-million dollar medical office campus at the old Kmart plaza. And work will begin late this year or early next on a new Nissan dealership, part of a Simmons Rockwell expansion that will also include a larger Ford lot.
Republican Ronald E. Kennell is running reelection to the town board, but Dan Broughton, whose seat is also up this year, is the Republican candidate for supervisor. Republicans, with a heavy enrollment advantage in the township, couldn’t find a candidate to run for Broughton’s seat on the council.
The same goes for tax collector, where incumbent Republican Sharon Ames is leaving that post and running for town clerk, where as deputy clerk she has been filling in for Sheryl Isaman, who is on medical leave. Ames has an opponent in November, Jessica LaFrance, who has the Democratic line and an independent ballot spot.
So Hornellsville will see one name to fill two seats on the board, and no names for tax collector.
“(Those positions) will (still) be on the ballot, because the offices are up this year,” a county elections official confirmed Friday.
Broughton, currently the deputy supervisor, said Republicans attempted to find another candidate for the town board but didn’t get anywhere.
“We tried to get some people to run, but no one wanted it,” Broughton said of the second board position.
It was the same story for the Democrats at a party caucus earlier this month. Hornellsville Democratic Chairman George Prete said about 12 people attended the caucus — a good turnout for Democrats — but no one was ready to step forward for the town board at this time.
There is still a pathway to election for Hornellsville residents interested in serving on the town board or as tax collector — mounting a write-in campaign. At the Board of Elections, officials say a write-in candidate will earn the office, provided voters write down their name and they get some votes.
The county Board of Elections suggests candidates who are considering mounting a write-in campaign contact the board and reveal their plans.
“We recommend that they call us and let us know,” said Kelly Penziul, the Democratic commissioner.
If the board knows about a write-in campaign, they will be on the alert for those votes on election night, Penziul said. The board can also explain to candidates the proper way to complete a write-in vote so it’s sure to be counted. And if voters call the board inquiring about a race, the board will tell them that a particular candidate is not on the ballot, but is running as a write-in, Penziul said.
Broughton hasn’t given up the effort to recruit a candidate for a write-in campaign for board.
“I have a couple of people in mind, but I want to ask them first,” Broughton said.
Broughton’s name will be the only one that appears on the ballot for supervisor. Highway Superintendent Jason Emo is also running unopposed, having both the Republican and Democratic lines.
For his part, Broughton said the current town board is focused on preparing a town budget — “crunching a lot of numbers” — while keeping a close watch on the economic development projects. If he is elected supervisor and the town enters 2018 minus a board member and tax collector, Broughton said the board will consider its options. He said he favors combining the clerk/tax collector positions, but that is a discussion for another time, after Hornellsville voters have their say, limited as it may be.