No surprises in Berne’s uncontested election, GOP carries on

Joe Martin

BERNE — What little room there was for the unexpected in Berne this election is now closed, with voters affirming the three uncontested candidates put up by the Republican and Conservative parties. 

Town board member Al Thiem was re-elected to his first full, four-year term by 504 votes, according to the unofficial Albany County Board of Elections results, after having served as an appointed board member in 2022, then elected to fill out a partial term later that year. 

Planning board Chairman Joe Martin was elected to the town board with 494 votes, in his first run for office. Martin will be replacing Anita Clayton, who did not seek re-election. 

Thirty-nine people wrote in a town board candidate.

For town justice, Jeff Harvey was elected with 538 votes, with seven people writing in. 

Their election was all but a done deal since July, when Democrats revealed, to much surprise and dismay, that they would not capitalize on the GOP’s many scandals over the past two years — including unpaid bills, unlicensed code-enforcement, and a potential First Amendment violation — and let the Republican slate run unchallenged, insisting that it would be wise politically to go all in during the 2025 election, when three, instead of two, board seats will open up. 

In a letter to the Enterprise editor defending the Berne Democratic Committee’s long-term strategy, Bryon Christman, the husband of Peggy Christman, who ran for supervisor against the ultimate victor, Dennis Palow, said that Berne Democrats “failed” the candidates in 2021, “and if they wish a different town government administration in the future, they need to get involved and act.” 

“For the time being,” he wrote, “I believe we have some good members on the current board who want to do good things for this town.”

In interviews with The Enterprise prior to Election Night, both Thiem and Martin had said that they hoped to serve the residents of Berne to the best of their abilities. 

When Thiem was first appointed, he told The Enterprise that he was “not happy with the division I see in this country,” and feels that “we all need to work together to make it a place that our children can be proud of and enjoy the same freedoms that we grew up with.”

Earlier this year, Martin wrote to The Enterprise in an email that he was “excited to get out and start doing the work, meeting with residents and hearing where I could do better as a community member,” and that he was particularly focused on issues regarding land use and conservation. 

Berne’s elections have been dominated by the GOP in recent years, after the Hilltowns, which are made up mostly of enrolled Democrats, experienced a red wave corresponding with the 2016 election of Donald Trump. 

Berne still has 791 Democrats to just 577 Republicans — which is barely more than 569 people who are not enrolled in a party — but Democratic candidates got slammed in 2021, losing every contested race after a particularly nasty campaign that involved false claims against their candidates. 

More Hilltowns News

  • Patrick Corbett is accused of stealing “an ATV, a keyboard, night vision binoculars, hunting equipment with apparel, two safes that contained a total of 6 guns, over 3,000 rounds of ammunition, and several other items,” according to Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple. 

  • Incumbent Rensselaerville Justice Gregory Bischoff won re-election by only nine votes, trailed by his Republican opponent, Richard Tollner. Although the Albany County Board of Election has released its official general election results, some ballots have been sent back to voters to be cured of any defects, and the final total for the Rensselaerville justice race won’t be known until the end of the month. 

  • Nearly a month after Election Night, the Rensselaerville justice race votes have been finalized, securing incumbent Gregory Bischoff as the winner by a margin of just nine votes over his opponent, Republican Richard Tollner. 

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