Republicans rise in Rensselaerville

Steve Pfleging

Steve Pfleging

RENSSELAERVILLE — In a four-way race for town board, the two candidates running on the Republican line won. Incumbent Marion Cooke, a Conservative, was the top vote-getter and Jason Rauf, a Republican making his first run for office, came in second.

Democrat Steven Pfleging who was unopposed in his first bid for supervisor, won, but with just over 58 percent of the vote. Republican David Bowdish, who was on the ballot by accident, garnered over 41 percent of the vote.

In a four-way race for two assessor posts, the Republican-backed incumbents, Donna Kropp and Kathryn Wank, won handily.

Although there are more than twice as many Democrats as Republicans in Rensselaerville, the town board members as well as those holding other elected posts have been mixed.

The current supervisor, Valerie Lounsbury, a Republican, did not seek re-election. Neither did Gerald Wood, a Democratic councilman. Come January, the board will be led by a Democrat, Pfleging, and will have members from the Conservative, Republican, Democratic, and Independence parties.

Cooke has served on the board for eight years and has now won a third four-year term. She has lived in Rensselaerville for all of her 64 years. She grew up on a dairy farm and has watched most of the large farms that defined the landscape of her childhood disappear. She is pleased that the town’s zoning was updated last year and includes support for agriculture.

During her campaign, Cooke also said, “My biggest concern is volunteerism. We saw what happened with the ambulance. I’m worried about the fire company going the same way.” She noted, too, that members of the planning and zoning boards are also volunteers.

Cooke said, “There’s no time for volunteerism … It’s going to be a major issue. The young people aren’t staying in town anymore.”

Her running mate, though, is 30, and plans to stay in Rensselaerville. Rauf grew up in Medusa and has lived in Rensselaerville his whole life. He runs a small farm with hay and livestock, and he works as a mechanic for the town of Coeymans. He described himself as “fiscally conservative” and “level-headed” and said he would bring the voice of younger constituents to the board table.

The Democrats backed Robert Tanner, a fire company chief, and Marie Dermody, who formerly served on the town board and briefly served as supervisor.

Cooke garnered over 30 percent of the vote, most of it —253 votes — from the Republican line; she also got 82 Conservative votes and 32 on the Independence Party line. Rauf got close to 28 percent of the vote with all 338 votes on the GOP line. Tanner got over 24 percent with most of it — 239 votes — on the Democratic line and 47 on the Independence Party line. Dermody finished last at over 18 percent with all 227 votes on the Democratic line.

All of the results in this story, from the Albany County Board of Elections on Tuesday night, are unofficial.

In the supervisor’s race, David Bowdish told The Enterprise in October that he was surprised to learn he was on the ballot. The founder of a Tea Party group in Rensselaerville, Bowdish said he was discouraged now with politics, hadn’t attended the GOP caucus, and had declined the nomination.

“I’m going to quote the Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman, when they wanted him to run for president in 1884: I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected,” Bowdish said in October.

The Democratic election commissioner for Albany County told The Enterprise at the time that Bowdish’s name “was included on the certificate of nomination sent in by Republican leadership.” The nomination had to be declined within three or four days, he said; after that, it couldn’t be removed.

Pfleging, making his first run for office, said during his campaign that his goal is to keep Rensselaerville on an “even keel.” He has worked for the town as a clerk for both the planning and zoning boards.

He has run his own construction company, a Test of Time, since 2000. Pfleging has lived in Medusa since 2012, been part of its fire company for 15 years, and is currently the fire company’s chief.

“I’d like to keep the town going the way it is. It’s a quaint little town,” he said, adding, “I would like to bring in some small businesses to help the taxpayers.”

The assessors’ race was hotly contested in Rensselaerville, with the Democrats backing two candidates to challenge the Republican nominees.

Donna Kropp, a Republican who has been a town assessor for 12 years and Kathryn Wank, an Independence Party member who has been assessor for eight years, ran on their records.

Kropp is proudest of  the objective way in which she evaluates properties. “You make sure everyone is assessed appropriately,” she said.

Similarly, Wank said, “I am most proud of maintaining fairness.”

The Democrats backed Hébert Joseph, a Democrat making his first run for office; he said that, if he won, he’d be the first black person elected to office in Rensselaerville. Michael Weber, a Republican who had worked before as Rensselaerville’s assessor, was also backed by the Democrats.

Kropp received over 32 percent of the vote; most of it — 277 votes — on the GOP line; she also garnered 114 Conservative votes. Wank was second with over 32 percent, most of it — 235 votes — on the Republican line, with 94 Conservative votes and 48 votes on the Independence Party line. Joseph got over 20 percent, most of it  — 204 votes — on the Democratic line, with 22 on the Working Families Party line and 19 Independence Party votes. Weber got over 16 percent with all 199 on the Democratic line.

Two posts were uncontested: town clerk and highway superintendent.

Clerk Victoria Kraker, a Democrat, was backed by three parties; she got 323 Democratic votes, 155 Conservative votes, and 69 Independence Party votes for a total of 547.

She has been clerk for four years during which time she has revamped the records room. “I love helping people,” she said of her work.

Highway Superintendent Randall Bates, who is enrolled in the Conservative Party, ran on three lines. He received 291 Republican votes, 108 Conservative votes, and 115 votes on the Independence Party line for a total of 514.

When Bates became the town’s highway superintendent six years ago, he had a goal he thought might be impossible but is now in reach: “My goal was to have all of our roads in a state where we have a 10-year renewal plan,” he said of the town’s 77 roads.

More Hilltowns News

  • The Carey Institute for Global Good had jettisoned much of its core programming during the pandemic years while it figured out its own future. It has now changed its name to Hilltown Commons, and partnered with three different local organizations that now call its Rensselaerville campus home. 

  • Over his nine-plus years as Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s superintendent, Timothy Mundell has led the district through significant challenges, helping to establish a much stronger foundation for the next superintendent than he had coming in. 

  • “Farm life requires a level of discipline and common sense,” Garry told The Enterprise when she was appointed to the Appellate Division. “From my father I got a love of people that’s been really helpful to me.”

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