District 7 Rep. Dave Bliss, a 1976 Cooperstown Central School graduate and longtime CCS softball coach, won election as the new chair of the Otsego County Board of Representatives on Wednesday in a close vote during the board's reorganizational meeting at 197 Main St. in Cooperstown.
Although former Chairwoman Kathleen Clark retained her seat in November, her tenure as board chair has been in doubt since the election with the new split make-up of the board. In addition to District 13, where Danny Lapin beat Len Carson, Jr., Democrats flipped seats in District 2 (Butternuts, Morris, Pittsfield), where Michele Farwell beat two other candidates to replace retiring former board chair Jim Powers, and in District 12 (Oneonta), where Adrienne Martini defeated incumbent Craig Gelbsman.
All the Democrats plus three Republicans voted to elect Bliss (including Bliss). The weighted vote was 4,373 for, Clark cast her 554 votes against the resolution. 862weighted votes were counted as abstaining and 439 absent. Oneonta’s Gary Koutnik unanimously elected vice chair, replacing Ed Frazier Jr.
Although the board is evenly split between Republican and Democratic members, because of the weighted voting system — the districts have wildly differing populations, therefore the representatives’ votes are weighted accordingly — Republicans still retain control of the board, similar to a situation in 2012 when there was also a 7-7 split.
There are 6,228 weighted votes on the board, with 3,115 needed for a majority. The Republicans control 3,421 weighted votes to 2,807 for the Democrats.
Clark, who became board chair in 2012, was unanimously re-elected to lead the board in January 2016, but a year later a potential challenge from Carson nearly unseated her. In January, she got 3,341 votes for, and 1,948 against, including Carson plus the four Democrats on the board. Republicans from District 7 (Middlefield, Cherry Valley, Roseboom), Bliss, and District 6 (Decatur, Maryland, Westford, Worcester), Pete Oberacker, abstained.
On Wednesday, Clark no longer had the votes of Gelbman (356 weighted votes) and Powers (503 weighted votes). So while the three Democratic pickups were not enough to flip control of the board, the added votes were be enough for the Democratic caucus to help give the chair position to Bliss.