OSWEGO — Voters across Oswego County overwhelmingly rejected a Republican-backed effort to increase the length of county legislator terms, but Republicans added three more seats to their already overwhelming majority in the county’s legislative body and come January will outnumber Democrats more than 10 to one.
More than 17,000 voters cast ballots in Oswego County on Proposal Number One, which asked if the 25 county legislators, which were all up for election this year, should have their term of office increased, from two years to four years, effective immediately starting in January. Republicans, who introduced the legislation, won a 23 to two majority in the county legislature, but voters rejected the measure almost two to one, with 11,516, or about 65 percent, of county voters objecting to the term extension and 6,185, or about 35 percent, in favor of the four-year terms.
Should county legislators serve four-year terms?
|# of Votes||6,185||11,516|
|% of Vote||34.94%||65.06%|
Prior to the vote, Republicans repeatedly said the term extension stemmed from amendments to the state’s election law, which the proposed legislation stated resulted in a “prolonged election season every other year, running from February to November.” The Democratic minority repeatedly questioned the timing of the move and called it politically motivated at a time the Republican Party was poised to further increase its majority.
Legislature Chairman James Weatherup, R-Central Square, who won re-election unopposed Tuesday, said simply that Republicans put the measure up for public review and the people voted it down.
“We worked under two-year terms before and we’ll keep working under them,” he said. “It is what it is.”
Legislature Majority Leader Terry Wilbur, R-Hannibal, who also ran unopposed Tuesday, called the referendum an opportunity for county residents to express their voice, and said the failure of the measure wouldn’t impact how Republicans in the legislature operate.
“Every legislator is elected to do a job and we’re all going to be committed to that job whether it’s two years or four years,” he said. "It was voted down, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a negative reflection on anybody or anything — other than the people who said, ‘no, we want to bring you back to the polls every two years.’ Look at tonight — we have an overwhelming Republican majority that’s going to be leading the county.”
Legislator Tom Drumm, D-Oswego, who like Weatherup and Wilbur won re-election unopposed Tuesday, was a vocal opponent of the proposition over the last several months. Democrats lamented the timing of the measure and said it was rushed into existence after candidates had already decided to run for two-year terms.
Democrats in the past proposed similar reforms as part of a broader package that included reducing the number of legislators, Drumm said, but noted Democrats ran “a small-scale voter education program” to let people know about the measure and what he described as it being “done the wrong way.”
“On numerous occasions, I offered Republicans ways to make this something that could be feasible in the future, that could go to referendum in the future, that was done the right way,” he said. “Voters agreed this was put out in a rush and I appreciate the voters for seeing through this and making the right decision.”
Wilbur said Republicans could have done a better job educating the public on the referendum, but noted it’s not clear if the Legislature would pursue the measure again in the future. Wilbur did, however, note in other counties similar measures have failed once before ultimately being approved.
Weatherup said four-year terms have been discussed in the past and would likely be talked about in the future, but for now wouldn’t be a top priority for Republicans.
“I would say, at least at this point, the public has spoken and we’ll respect their wishes and go back to work,” Weatherup said.
Despite the failure of the referendum, Weatherup said the 23 to two majority resulting from Tuesday’s election was a reaffirmation of the Republican caucus’ efforts to reduce taxes and enact business-friendly policies. Weatherup pointed out the county Legislature has been fiscally responsible in recent years, holding taxes steady even in the face of increased mandates handed down from Albany, and said Tuesday’s election affirmed legislators are doing what the people want.
“We’re happy that the people of the county have positively affirmed that we’re going in the right direction,” Weatherup said. “It was a pretty good win for Republicans. But it’s not just a Republican thing, I think people are generally content with the direction the county is going.”
Wilbur said the apparent powerful Republican majority would line the caucus up “to better continue to serve constituents throughout the county.” Wilbur said Republicans would continue efforts to keep taxes low, attract business and ensure county residents are able to raise and provide for their families.
“Having that majority of 23 Republicans sitting in our caucus is just going to add to the diversity of our caucus, help the discussions and in the long run it’s going to move the county forward,” Wilbur said, noting having lawmakers with various backgrounds and experience would continue to benefit the county.
Drumm, who is set to be one of two Democrats in the county Legislature alongside Marie Schadt of Minetto, expressed disappointment with the performance of Democrats, and said moving forward the party would need to run more candidates for the county Legislature. Despite the overwhelming Republican majority, Drumm said the Democratic duo would work to build partnerships across the aisle.
“There are certainly issues within the county Legislature where we can cut through politics and get things done,” Drumm said. “I think that’s feasible, and we’ll continue to do the important things we’ve been doing, like be fiscal watchdogs and call things out we don’t see as the best for taxpayers and the best for the community.”
Oswego County 2019 Election Results
|Oswego County office||Candidate||# of Votes||% of Vote|
|Gregory Oakes (R, C, I)||14,896||99.18%|
|Family Court Judge|
|Thomas Benedetto (R, C)||11,636||68.41%|
|Lou Anne Rucynski Coleman (I)||5,353||31.47%|
|Legislative District 1|
|Michael G. Yerdon (R)||480||66.67%|
|James Macklen (C)||239||33.19%|
|Legislative District 2|
|Herbert G. Yerdon (R)||539||67.29%|
|Carl E. Anson Jr. (C, OTH)||262||32.71%|
|Legislative District 3|
|Edward A. Gilson (R)||492||96.66%|
|Legislative District 4|
|David M. Holst (R)||675||99.56%|
|Legislative District 5|
|Roy Reehil (R)||461||99.35%|
|Legislative District 6|
|John Martino (R)||383||98.97%|
|Legislative District 7|
|Bradley Trudell (R)||910||99.45%|
|Legislative District 8|
|Paul House (R, C, I)||493||100%|
|Legislative District 9|
|James Weatherup (R, I)||392||98.99%|
|Legislative District 10|
|Mary Ellen Chesbro (R, C)||495||99.00%|
|Legislative District 11|
|Linda L. Lockwood (R)||491||99.59%|
|Legislative District 12|
|Richard P. Kline (R, C)||495||99.80%|
|Legislative District 13|
|Patrick Twiss (R)||686||99.71%|
|Legislative District 14|
|Stephen Walpole (R, I)||605||99.67%|
|Legislative District 15|
|Nathan Emmons (R, C, I)||481||98.97%|
|Legislative District 16|
|Thomas Drumm (D, WOR)||421||98.59%|
|Legislative District 17|
|Timothy F. Braun (D)||298||33.86%|
|Laurie Mangano Cornelius (R, C, I)||582||66.14%|
|Legislative District 18|
|Robert Wilmott (R, C, I)||538||99.45%|
|Legislative District 19|
|Marie C. Schadt (D, C)||866||99.31%|
|Legislative District 20|
|Tim Stahl (R, C)||399||99.75%|
|Legislative District 21|
|Terry Bucky Wilbur (R, C, I)||759||99.48%|
|Legislative District 22|
|James L. Karasek (R, C, I)||789||99.50%|
|Legislative District 23|
|Morris Sorbello Jr. (R, C)||517||99.23%|
|Legislative District 24|
|Marc Greco (R, I)||665||99.70%|
|Legislative District 25|
|Ralph Edward Stacy Jr. (R)||573||98.79%|