Sullivan County Democrat
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Democrat Photo by Matt Youngfrau

AILEEN GUNTHER AND crew need campaign no more. The Democratic widow of former Assemblyman Jake Gunther handily won Tuesday’s 98th Assembly District faceoff with Republican and former Sullivan County Commissioner of Planning Alan Sorensen.

Gunther Grabs
98th Assembly Seat

Editor’s Note: All results are unofficial, and the results of some local races may change once the tally is finalized later this month.

By Matt Youngfrau
SULLIVAN COUNTY — November 7, 2003 – One of the longest and toughest campaigns in recent Sullivan County history finally came to an end Tuesday.
Now, it’s a wait-and-see game for the results of Tuesday’s elections to become clear.
Things can and will change once the votes are recounted and the affidavit and absentee ballots are tallied. The election commissioners are hoping to start counting the absentees and affidavits around November 12. However, that is not definite because the board is short-handed and may not have recanvassed (recounted) all the votes by then.
As it stands now, the Democrats may have regained control of the Sullivan County Legislature. Aileen Gunther convincingly won the seat vacated by her late husband, Jake. In the towns, there were many upsets in the supervisor and council races.
98th Assembly District
The 98th Assembly District includes all of Sullivan County, as well as the towns of Deerpark, Greenville, Wawayanda and Minisink and the cities of Port Jervis and Middletown in Orange County.
The Democratic and Working Families candidate was Gunther. Her opponent was former Sullivan County Planning Commissioner, Republican and Conservative candidate Alan Sorensen.
At press time, in Sullivan County, Gunther had 11,423 votes compared to Sorensen’s 7,202 votes. In Orange County, Gunther garnered 7,012 votes to Sorensen’s 3,666 votes. That works out to 62.9 percent of the vote for Gunther and 37.1 percent for Sorensen.
“I am overwhelmed and grateful,” Gunther said Tuesday night. “I will continue Jake’s work. I want to thank Jake first and foremost. I also have to thank my family, friends and all the good people of the 98th Assembly District. I also wish to thank Congressman Maurice Hinchey and Senator Chuck Schumer.”
Sorensen and his wife, Jane, were grateful to all that helped in their campaign. Sorensen was proud that he had a good showing in the polls.
Sullivan County Legislature
All nine Legislature seats were up for grabs, and all were hotly contested.
In fact, on Election Day, tempers boiled over at the Neighborhood Facility in Monticello with an incident between District 8 Legislator Bob Kunis and Sullivan County Democratic Party Chair and Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Tim Hill.
While there are conflicting reports, it is agreed that both thought the other was interfering in the elections. Tempers flared, and police had to be called to the scene.
District 1
District 1 consists of the towns of Bethel, Cochecton, and Tusten and the eastern half of the Town of Delaware. The current legislator is Democrat, Conservative, and Working Families candidate Chris Cunningham. His opponent was Republican Businesswoman Margaret Hazen.
At press time, it looked like Cunningham will retain the seat. Cunningham received 1,876 (70.31 percent) votes to Hazen’s 792 (29.69 percent).
“I feel positive tonight,” Cunningham commented. “I am optimistic we will regain control of the board. It was a good campaign, and this is a good night.”
If the Democrats do get control, will (as has been rumored) Cunningham become the new chair?
“We will discuss it if that is what the Democratic majority wants,” Cunningham said in response. “I am interested in the job. We will work together for what is best for the county.”
District 2
District 2 consists of the towns of Highland, Lumberland, and the southern part of Mamakating. The current representative is Democrat, Conservative, and Working Families candidate Kathleen LaBuda. Running against her was Republican and Sullivan Voters First candidate John LiGreci, Lumberland’s supervisor.
It appears LaBuda will retain her seat. LaBuda earned 1,336 votes (54.98 percent) as compared to LiGreci’s 1,094 votes (45.02 percent).
District 3
District 3 consists of the Town of Rockland, most of Neversink, and the northern part of Liberty, namely Parksville. The current incumbent is Republican/Conservative Greg Goldstein. His opponent is former County Coroner, Democrat and Tired Taxpayer Party candidate Elwin “Woody” Wood.
Goldstein apparently retained his seat. Goldstein earned 1,366 votes (58.45 percent) to Wood’s 971 votes (41.55 percent).
District 4
District 4 consists of the majority of the Town of Mamakating. It was represented by Republican and Mamakating First candidate Don Trotta. His challenger was former Legislator and Democrat/Conservative candidate Jonathan Rouis.
At press time, it appeared Rouis regained the seat he lost last year. Rouis earned 796 votes (54.48 percent) as compared to Trotta’s 665 votes (45.52 percent).
District 5
District 5 consists of the towns of Callicoon, Fremont, and the western parts of Liberty and Delaware. Republican Majority Leader and Conservative candidate Rodney Gaebel is the current representative. His opponent was businesswoman and Democrat and Working Families candidate Joan Kern.
Gaebel convincingly kept his seat, garnering 1,435 votes (66.71 percent) to Kern’s 716 votes (33.29 percent).
“We have a lot on our plate,” Gaebel remarked. “We need to move the county forward.”
If the Republicans somehow maintain control, will Gaebel, as rumored, become the new chair?
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he responded.
District 6
District 6 includes the central and eastern portions of the Town of Liberty and a western part of the Town of Fallsburg, specifically Hurleyville. It is currently represented by Republican and Conservative Jodi Goodman. Her opponent was Democrat and Working Families businessman Kevin Hopkins.
At press time, it appeared Goodman will retain her seat. Goodman earned 1,059 votes (56.75 percent) to Hopkins’ 807 votes (43.25 percent).
District 7
District 7 consists of the southeastern sliver of the Town of Neversink and most of the Town of Fallsburg. The current representative is Legislature Chair, Republican, and Conservative Leni Binder. Her opponent was Fallsburg businessman, Democratic and Equal Justice candidate Nathan Steingart.
It appears Binder has kept her seat. Binder received 991 votes (54.78 percent) as compared to Steingart’s 818 votes (45.22 percent).
“This was not a nice campaign,” Binder said. “It is unfortunate. I always said that I represent everybody. I will continue to do that.”
If the Republicans retain control, will Binder look to hold onto the chair?
“I will not run for chair again,” Binder said in response.
The control of the Legislature seems to hinge on Districts 8 and 9. Numbers varied throughout the night and, at one point, seemed very close. Final results will be known after all the ballots are counted.
District 8
District 8 consists of the northern third of the Town of Thompson and a southern portion of the Town of Fallsburg. The current representative is Republican, Conservative, and Legislature Vice Chair Bob Kunis. His Democratic and Equal Justice challenger was attorney Ron Hiatt.
For now, it appears Hiatt has captured the seat. Hiatt has 914 votes (53.23 percent) to Kunis’ 803 votes (46.77 percent). However, at one point, it appeared there was only a 56-vote difference. Recounting and the absentees and affidavits will decide this one.
Still, Kunis yesterday published a statement, conceding the race to Hiatt and seeking cooperation.
“My opponent, Ron Hiatt, worked very hard and deserves the victory,” Kunis said during yesterday’s legislative meetings. “I congratulate him and stand ready to assist in any way I can so that the transition on January 1 is smooth and the people of Sullivan County and the constituents of District 8 continue to receive the professional representation that they deserve. I wish him luck.”
District 9
District 9 includes the majority of the Town of Thompson. The current incumbent is Republican and Conservative Jim Carnell Jr. His opponent was Democratic and Working Families businessman Sam Wohl.
It looks like Wohl has won the seat. Wohl earned 1,089 votes (50.75 percent) to Carnell’s 1,057 votes (49.25 percent). However, at one point, it appeared Wohl had a more than 200-vote lead.
Again, both candidates are cautious, optimistic and waiting until all votes are counted.
Neither party chair is ready to concede.
“Right now, nothing is final,” commented Sullivan County Republican Party Chair Greg Goldstein. “It is too close to call. Until all the votes are certified, we are not ready to concede.”
His counterpart was much more confident.
“This is the third consecutive election that the Democrats have won control of the Legislature,” Hill said. “This one is more meaningful.”
Other County Races
County Clerk George Cooke II, the Democratic and Conservative candidate, ran unopposed. He received 12,930 (100 percent) of the votes.
The current incumbent Sullivan County Coroner is Republican and Conservative Dr. David Sager. His opponent was Democrat Robert Cordani.
It appears Sager will retain his job. Sager earned 9,997 votes (61.90 percent) as opposed to Cordani’s 6,154 votes (38.10 percent).
There were two statewide propositions on this year’s ballot. The first was “An Amendment Exclusion of Indebtedness Contracted for Sewage Facilities. The proposed amendment to Article 8, Section 5 of the Constitution would extend for ten years – until January 1, 2014 – the authority of counties, cities, towns and villages to exclude from their constitutional debt limits indebtedness contracted for the construction or reconstruction of sewage facilities.”
In the county, the proposal was defeated. There were 4,865 votes (53.63 percent) against, while there were 4,207 votes (46.37 percent) for it.
Proposition Two was, “Elimination of Small City School Districts from Constitutional Debt Limitations. The proposed amendment to Article 8, Section 4 of the Constitution would eliminate school districts that are coterminous with, or partly within, or wholly within a city having less than 125,000 inhabitants, from the entities subject to a general constitutional debt limitation.”
That proposition was also defeated. It received 5,171 votes (58.32 percent) against it, while 3,696 votes (41.68 percent) were cast for it.

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