Berne election will be hotly contested

Enterprise file photo
William J. Conboy III, left, swears in Supervisor Sean Lyons in 2018. Lyons is seeking re-election this year, challenged by retired State Police Lieutenant Margaret Christman.

BERNE — After decades of dominance in Berne, the Democrats lost the town board majority in the 2019 elections, but have a full slate to take on the GOP this fall.

A lawsuit over a small-party line has revealed Berne political candidates who had not yet officially announced their campaigns. 

“We wanted to announce the candidates all at once in a nice ad,” Kevin Crosier, who chairs Berne’s Democrataic committee, told The Enterprise before confirming the candidates for the newspaper, “but you’ve got to write the story.”

In 2019, GOP-backed candidates Mathew Harris and Bonnie Conklin were elected, leaving a single Democrat. 

The Republican administration has been highly controversial, having illegally fired at least two employees for ostensibly political reasons, installing convicted felon Tom Spargo as chairman of the planning board, and appointing a code-enforcement officer, Chance Townsend, who lacked certification at the time

Running for supervisor on the Democratic line is Margaret Christman, who is a retired New York State Police lieutenant; and running for town board are Tim Lippert, Jennifer Merrill-Fuller, and Patrick Martin.

The Democrats are holding a primary rather than a caucus this year because of the logistics associated with remote meetings, such as internet accessibility and the means of voting in real time, as is the practice of a caucus, Crosier said. The primary is in June.

Four town council seats are open this year because Harris resigned in February, and that seat can be filled by appointment only until the next election. 

Barbara Kennedy is running for highway superintendent, Debra Flagler is running for tax collector, Melanie Bunzey — an incumbent — is running for tax collector, and Al Raymond and Alan Zuk — also incumbents — are running for the two town-justice positions. 


GOP slate

Berne Republican Party Chairwoman Lauren DeBrino Miller declined to comment via email on that party’s candidates “while the case is going on,” and did not respond to a follow-up question about how the two relate. 

However, the names in court papers are:

— Leo Vane Jr., who was appointed to fill Harris’s vacancy and confirmed for The Enterprise last month that he was seeking election this November;

— Sean Lyons, who was elected supervisor in 2016;

— Dennis Palow, who was elected to the town board in 2016;

— Anita Clayton, a Democrat, currently the town clerk, who announced her retirement from that office this year and who, according to former Deputy Town Clerk Jean Guarino, is running for town board; and

— Thomas Doolin, a Berne resident who does not currently hold public office in the town.

Highway Superintendent Randy Bashwinger — the former chairman of Berne’s Republican committee and current county Republican chairman — is not named in the suit but confirmed for The Enterprise last month that he is seeking re-election. 


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