Sterling wins; second seat too close
By Jamie Larson
Wednesday, September 16, 2009 1:15 AM CDT
Sarah Sterling has won her Democratic Primary bid for one of the two First Ward Alderman Seats on the Hudson Common Council. The race for the second seat was too close to call Tuesday night, with Geeta Cheddie leading incumbent alderman Carole Osterink by two votes, with six absentee ballots left to be counted.
Sterling won her seat with 51 votes, Cheddie received 44, and Osterink ended the night with 42. Eighty-four votes were cast in total in the ward Tuesday and the Columbia County Board of Elections did not say when they will count the remaining absentee votes.
Sterling and Osterink had received the Hudson City Democratic Committee endorsement and Cheddie forced a primary by collecting petition signatures. Cheddie has also received the endorsement of all other political parties in the city, but says she is and has always been a Democrat.
After the votes were tallied late Tuesday, Sterling said she was happy for the victory but having the identity of the second First Ward Democrat candidate still undecided leaves many unanswered questions for the election. If Osterink beats Cheddie when the absentee votes are counted the two Democrats will still face Cheddie in the general election on the other party lines. If Cheddie wins, she will run along side Sterling and both will be unopposed.
“I am pleased,” said Sterling, who held the position once before from 2006 to 2007. “It’s a great affirmation for me. I’m honored that the voters want to bring me back.”
The only other primary race in Hudson was for the Independence Party and Conservative Party nominations for Fourth Ward Supervisors. Incumbent Democratic Supervisor William Hughes won the Independence Party nomination four votes to none, and Republican backed Samuel Santiago won the Conservative Party endorsement four votes to Hughes’ one vote.
Tuesday also brought political bickering between HCDC Chairman Victor Mendolia and Cheddie.
Cheddie took offense to an e-mail sent by Mendolia to First ward Democrats on Sunday. The e-mail said Cheddie needed the Democratic nomination despite being backed by all other parties in the city because in the strongly Democratic ward the “conservative philosophies or erratic behavior” of the other party leaders could get in the way of her winning a seat on the council.
In his strongest comments Mendolia also denounced Cheddie for being difficult to work with when she served as deputy Democratic commissioner of the Columbia County Board of Elections.
“(Cheddie’s) tenure at the Board of Elections was fraught with acrimony and problems.” Mendolia’s e-mail states. “One commissioner even resigned, citing her withholding of information and a conspiracy to undermine his authority. When Virginia Martin became commissioner, she made every effort to retain Ms. Cheddie... When it became clear that Cheddie would continue being uncooperative, she was terminated. We as Democrats can not allow the partisanship and rancor that ruled the BOE during Ms Cheddie’s tenure to find it’s way into the Common Council chambers.”
Cheddie called Mendolia’s claims “spurious” and said he was spreading false information at the last minute to influence the primary vote. “There was no partisanship and rancor,” Cheddie said. “I in fact bent over backwards to help any party. The previous commissioner, David Cohen’s difficulty was with the Board of Supervisors not just me.”
Cohen, reached by phone, said that Cheddie had enjoyed increased responsibilities under his predecessor Ken Dow, who has praised Cheddie publicly for her professionalism. Cohen said that Cheddie hid information from him. “She wanted to run her own show,” Cohen said. “There was no way to have a working dialogue.”
Cohen said when he wanted to fire her he received resistance from Democratic county supervisors. He said he believes this was because her husband is Hudson First Ward Supervisor John Mussall.
Cheddie disputes allegations of being difficult to work with and said that she did not understand why Cohen didn’t feel he could fire her if Martin did so after only working with her for a month, two weeks of which Cheddie said she was on vacation. “Virginia came on with an agenda from the party,” Cheddie said. “It was foolish. I was stunned. Any rancor that was felt was only on victors part. We worked to help him.”
Musall said he was disappointed in Mendolia’s e-mail. “I’ve spoken with the chairman about my feelings,” Musall said. “I find it regrettable that false allegations, based on personalities, came into this campaign while my lovely wife Geeta tried to stay above board, above the fray.”
Mendolia said he had no issue with the timing of his e-mail and was doing his job by bringing the issues of Cheddie’s past to the voters. “I had long advocated for her dismissal from the BOE. We had a big problem with her. There was a general lack of cooperation. As the chair of the Democratic Party I felt it my obligation to demonstrate to Democrats in the ward why we were displeased with her and why we feel Carole and Sarah are our choice.”
Mendolia said that if Cheddie wins the nomination he will support her but it is his duty as committee chair to aid his committee-endorsed candidates. The e-mail, he said, was just politics. Cheddie said if she wins she hopes Mendolia apologizes for the claims.
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