With Otsego County Rep. Pete Oberacker designated the presumptive winner in the election to replace state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, in Albany representing the 51st Senate District, the balance of power in the county’s Board of Representatives will narrow considerably. However, the ruling party in Otsego County won’t change as a result of Oberacker’s expected resignation.
For the past three years, the Board of Representatives has been split between the county’s Democrats and Republicans/Conservatives. However, because the county districts are not equal sizes, the 14 representatives get weighted votes tied to the number of residents in their districts.
There are 6,228 total weighted votes in the county’s system. Since 2018, the Republican/Conservative caucus has held a weighted majority, 3,421 to 2,807.
In 2018 and 2019, the groups shared legislative power, with Republican Dave Bliss, Cherry Valley, Middlefield, Roseboom, becoming board chair and Oneonta Democrat Gary Koutnik becoming vice chair.
However, Koutnik retired last year and Conservative party member Meg Kennedy, Hartwick, Milford, New Lisbon, was selected as vice chair in January.
Oberacker, a Republican, represents the county’s southeastern towns, Decatur, Maryland, Westford and Worcester. His district holds 534 weighted votes, not enough to flip a weighted majority to the Democrats in his absence. When Oberacker resigns, his caucus will still hold a weighted majority, 2,887 to 2,807.
According to the Otsego County Board of Representatives’ Rules of Order, there will not be a special election to replace Oberacker. Instead, according to Rule 6, “the Board has the authority to fill the vacancy within 30 days by appointment of a resident elector of the district where such vacancy exists.”
According to the rule, each county committee can recommend a replacement, but it will be the Administration Committee, chaired by Kennedy, that will choose the replacement and offer a resolution to the full board. The board must vote on the replacement candidate and the candidate must win a majority of the weighted vote to be approved. The appointee would serve until a replacement is elected in 2021 and sworn in, in January 2022.
Oberacker, a Maryland businessman, led Schoharie County farmer Jim Barber, a Democrat, by nearly 22,000 votes, 64,014 to 42,336, after election day and early voting results were tabulated Tuesday, Nov. 3. Absentee ballots are not included in those totals. Although absentee ballots appear to be breaking sharply for Democrats this election cycle, the number of absentee ballots in District 51 is not expected to be large enough for Barber to win and he conceded the race late Tuesday.
Absentee ballots postmarked by Nov. 3, were required to be received by Tuesday, Nov. 10. Military and overseas ballots can be returned and counted until Monday, Nov. 16.
Local election boards have until Saturday, Nov. 28, to report official election numbers.
Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7218.