County Dems address contention over AD 125 endorsement

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Some contention was raised after the Cortland County Democratic Committee’s endorsement last week of legislator Beau Harbin in a crowded race for NY’s 125th Assembly district.

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Harbin is one of two Democrats from Cortland out of a total of seven candidates vying for the job.

Family Counseling Services CEO Lisa Hoeschele is the other candidate from Cortland seeking to be nominated.

On Sunday, she criticized the committee’s decision claiming it “breaks the long-standing precedent of the party to choose not to endorse during a primary.”

Hoeschele also questioned whether or not county by-laws allow for an endorsement prior to a primary.

In response, Democratic Committee Chair Tim Perfetti said the party is permitted to do so, referring to the most recent occasion when Judge Elizabeth Burns was endorsed as the primary democratic candidate for the NY 6th Judicial District race.

To choose a candidate to back for assembly, Perfetti says an electronic ballot was held among all committee members who live in District 125 – a total of 48 members, or more than 76% of the whole committee.

Harbin won the endorsement with 56% of the vote, according to Perfetti.

Running the race from Tompkins County are Jordan Lesser, Seth Murtagh, Sujata Sidhu Gibson, Jason Leiffer and Anna Kelles.

See full statements from Hoeschele and Perfetti below:

As a candidate in the crowded race for the 125th NY Assembly district, I question the legitimacy of a recent vote by some members of the Cortland Democratic Party to “endorse” a candidate in this race, breaking the long-standing precedent of the party to choose not to endorse during a primary.

Only residents of the committee that live in the district were allowed to vote in this “ballot,” in direct contradiction of NYS Revitalization act rules that state that electronic ballots must be by unanimous consent of all members of the organization, not just a small number.

In addition, the fact that the party did not tell all the candidates that any such endorsement vote was pending – but allowed one candidate to participate not only in the web-based meeting and the conversation leading to the vote, but also allowing that person to vote without recusal – smacks of banana republic-style leadership.  I call on members of the Democratic Party to hold local leadership accountable and to maintain appropriate legal and ethical election methods. -Lisa W. Hoeschele

When an endorsement of a democratic candidate for a specific election is under consideration, the Cortland County Democratic Committee (CCDC) bylaws state the CCDC Chair, with the support of the CCDC members from that specific election district, is authorized to endorse a democratic candidate in a primary or general election.

This bylaw was last applied in 2018 when the Committee endorsed Judge Elizabeth Burns as our primary democratic candidate for the NY 6th Judicial District.

Recently, CCDC endorsed a democratic candidate for the 125th NY State Assembly seat.

The CCDC Executive Committee authorized an electronic ballot process for all CCDC members who reside in the 125th District. All seven democratic candidates for this legislative seat were on the ballot which included an option to not endorse any candidate. Over 76% of the members participated, and Beau Harbin won the endorsement with 56% of the vote. – Tim Perfetti

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