Just eight days before next week’s election, Otsego County Treasurer Dan Crowell returned to his county post Monday and agreed to debate his GOP-backed rival, Edward Keator Jr. As the day wore on, however, it appeared increasingly doubtful that voters will see the two men on the same stage prior to Election Day.
Crowell, a captain in the U.S. Army Reserves who has been on active duty for most of the past nine months, had indicated last summer he would not seek re-election. The Democrat changed his mind, however, after his preferred replacement, independent Russ Bachman, was knocked off the ballot because of irregularities in his nominating petitions.
Keator, the treasurer for the village of Cooperstown and a resident of West Oneonta, cited prior commitments in turning down an invitation from the League of Women Voters to debate Crowell.
“Just because Mr. Crowell comes back to town at the eleventh hour doesn’t mean we all need to drop everything for him,” Keator said. He insisted that “the voters know where I stand.”
Crowell said he has no interest in lobbing criticisms at Keator, whom he defeated four years ago by taking 6,305 votes. Keator garnered 6,149 votes.
Crowell has earlier said there is distinct possibility he could be placed back on active duty for a prolonged period. On Monday, he said he plans to serve out his four-year term should voters decide they want to keep him on the job.
“If re-elected, I will serve a four-year term happily,” the Middlefield resident said.
He said he could not rule out the possibility that the Army will put him back on active duty. But if that happens, he said, it would likely be for a shorter period than his deployment this year.
Otsego County GOP Chairman Vince Casale ripped county Democrats for putting pressure on Keator to debate Crowell, calling it “a half-baked scheme to defraud voters of this county.”
While Republicans applaud Crowell for serving the nation, Casale said, county residents “deserve to have a treasurer who is committed to working full-time.”
County Democratic Chairman Richard Abbate said Keator should agree to a public debate with Crowell so voters can determine where he stands on taxes, county finances and the deficit-ridden Otsego Manor nursing home, now slated to be sold to a private operator.
“I don’t know why he’s not debating,” Abbate said of Keator. “It only hurts him and it hurts the residents of Otsego County.”