Bashwinger holds 17-vote lead as highway superintendent

The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia

Randy Bashwinger, Republican candidate for highway superintendent in Berne, listens on Election Night to Kenneth Weaver, who held the post until he resigned last September and won on the Republican line just last year. 

BERNE — In a town where Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 3 to 1, a Republican got 17 more votes cast Tuesday than the recently appointed Democratic highway superintendent in a race to oversee the largest portion of the town’s budget.

With such a narrow result, the winner could still be determined by not-yet-counted absentee ballots. With his lead as of Wednesday, Randy Bashwinger, 43, is the apparent heir to former Republican highway superintendent Kenneth Weaver, filling the remaining three years of Weaver’s four-year term.

Bashwinger is a project manager for Capital District Contractors and Decks, and Ed Hampton, 60, has been an equipment operator for the town’s highway department for 10 years.

By the unofficial results from the Albany County Board of Elections, Bashwinger had 573 votes to Hampton’s 556. For both, it was their first bid for office.

To fill a vacancy on the town board, the appointed incumbent, Democrat Dawn Jordan, beat Republican Richard Otto, with 588 votes to his 508. This leaves the town board as all-Democratic.

At a Republican gathering on Tuesday night, Weaver and Bashwinger both said they believe the Republican line was helped by Weaver’s departure in September for what he felt was a drop in support for him by the town board.

It was a repeat upset for the Democratic candidate for highway superintendent, when last year Weaver switched his party line, believing that a promise by incumbent Democrats to preserve his benefits in retirement had gone wrong. The margin was larger then, with Weaver taking 9.6 percent more of the vote when all the ballots were counted.

Out of 1,924 registered voters in Berne, 46 percent are enrolled as Democrats and 16 percent as Republicans. Twenty-five percent are not affiliated with a political party, 6 percent are Independence Party members, and 3 percent are Conservatives.

A family affair: Claire Scram, 9, peers away from the ballot filled out by her mother, Stefanie, to look over at her brothers, Blake and Grant, standing at the sides of their father, Walter, working on another ballot inside the Berne firehouse on Election Day. The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia

 

The superintendent position has a $52,224 annual salary allotment and councilmembers each get $3,529.

For the council seat, Jordan was able to win because of her second line. With Democrats against Republicans, the vote was 499 to 508. Her Independence Party line added another 89 votes.

Weaver’s 2013 opponent, Scott Duncan, had a second line, with the Independence Party bringing him 49 additional votes.

Neither candidate for superintendent this year had second endorsements as the race was spurred late in September by the abrupt resignation of Weaver. He said then he felt the town board would no longer support him. The board had authorized the supervisor to seek bids for roadwork for which Weaver hadn’t submitted the required paperwork.

Hampton oversaw the paving projects that were outlined in that paperwork and decided to forego retirement to become the highway superintendent. He has handled purchasing for the highway department for the past several years and managed the purchase of large equipment in the last year.

“If they’re going to say there could be a snowflake, well, up here you’re going to get a couple inches. Elevation dependent, you have to really, really be on the ball as far as when to call them out,” he said in a campaign interview of snowplow drivers and the superintendent position. Hampton did not return calls on Wednesday.

Bashwinger grew up in Knox and now lives in the Berne hamlet with his wife and seven children. A Berne-Knox-Westerlo graduate, he has sold construction materials for Kamco Supply and Bellevue Builders Supply, working most recently as a project manager for Capital District Contractors and Decks. He is a volunteer member of the Helderberg Ambulance.

East Berne results in hand, Randy Bashwinger stands in Peg Warner’s kitchen, where Republicans gathered on Election Night, as the room erupts in celebration that he netted 17 votes ahead. Before a supporter returned from the East Berne polling site, the results of the other two districts in Berne had had Bashwinger losing to Democrat Ed Hampton. The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia

 

Twenty minutes before polls closed, Bashwinger was on the dark shoulder of Route 9, just above the Berne polling place, hefting a four-by-eight-foot piece of plywood into place.

Bashwinger told The Enterprise two of his white painted signs with red letters were staked into the ground at 6:30 p.m., uprooted and tossed sometime after. His signs have been tampered with throughout the campaign, he said. He displayed a picture taken by another man of signs for Republican State Senate candidate George Amedore found stacked off of Filkins Hill Road, uprooted from their place on the side of the road.

“The best way to fix that is to win the race,” he said.

“It’s like watching musical chairs,” Otto said later of campaign signs placed and misplaced near the highway garage in the Berne hamlet. “Every time you go by, there’s a different sign out.”

Otto and Bashwinger said their main effort leading up to the election was put into picking a road or section of the town and going door to door. Bashwinger said he didn’t get to about 150 homes before Election Day but he plans to visit them still, with the idea that people should meet their highway superintendent.

Jordan said she did the same, knocking on doors and meeting residents to discuss town government. Of the many positive responses she got, some were to the news that the town’s tax rate was going down, she said.

“It was just really nice to spread good news…,” she said. “For the most part, your expectation is that the price of everything goes up.” She said residents asked about the town’s spending, Internet access, and the town’s purchase of a large piece of property on Game Farm Road to be used for recreation and conservation.

“It wasn’t a big thing,” she said of the property in her conversations, adding that people continue to suggest possible uses.

Jordan was appointed to her seat a year ago, after Bonnie Conklin, the only Republican on the board, resigned. In 2011, Jordan had come in third in a four-way race for two council seats, one of which was picked up by Conklin.

As the youth council liaison, Jordan said she would like the board to work on a reference for following the town’s purchasing policy and work on planning for the town park. She hopes to see a project improving the town’s pavilion and playground equipment start in 2015, but a recent meeting with park designers Parkitects Inc. has just begun the planning process.

After her added year is up, Jordan said she would like to run for a full four-year term.

“It’s just a great group of people to work with…,” she said. “I enjoy having people come to the town board with their issues. I enjoy the planning and community building.”

More Hilltowns News

  • Todd Gallup, of Berne, pours slop for his pigs.

    Stephen Hadcock, Beginning Farmer Educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension, told The Enterprise that, over the last decade or longer, he’s seen an increase in the number of people who have taken steps to start their own farm. The Enterprise spoke with Hadcock and new Berne farmer Todd Gallup for insight into the process of starting a farm from scratch. 

  • Vandalism was discovered in Westerlo’s town park this week, with graffiti artwork and crude phrases scrawled around the pavilion. 

  • At its Sept. 10 regular meeting, the Knox Planning Board decided to wait until next month to weigh in on the Knox Town Board’s re-application to rezone approximately 80 acres of land at the intersection of routes 156 and 157 to a multi-use recreational district.

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