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WHO WILL CONTROL THE COUNTY LEGISLATURE?
December 10, 2011 - Ray Hall (Archive)
Despite internal bickering Chautauqua County Republicans managed to survive the November elections and hold on to a one-member majority on the County Legislature. That should bode well for County Executive Greg Edwards since he will again have a majority of lawmakers to help implement his programs and approve his operating budget. But there is a fly in the ointment.
It began when the Republican caucus invited Legislator Robert Duff (R-C- Dist #3-Dunkirk-Sheridan) to leave the Republican caucus. Mr. Duff is strong willed and has a powerful dislike for partisan politics. Those characteristics frequently clashed with his fellow Republicans and even put him at odds on more than one occasion with the County Executive.
With Duff the Republicans hold a 13-12 majority and will once again select the Committee Chairs and the Chairman of the County Legislature. But that might depend on Legislator Duff: What will Mr. Duff do? Will he organize with the Republicans or will he exercise his independence and organize with the Democrats? If he did that, and there’s no certainty he will, Democrats would control the County Legislature.
If that happens Mr. Duff might be in line for a powerful Committee Chairmanship since the Democrats would fill the Committees and select one of their own as Chairman of the Legislature.
Regardless, Robert Duff is going to be the most sought after legislator in Mayville. He has the power to alter the course of County Government. I know Bob Duff and I know he will listen to everyone, but I expect he will keep his decision to himself until he makes up his mind.
While Democrats on the Count y Legislature do not seem to be actively campaigning to bring about realignment they are certainly aware of the circumstances. That awareness was evidenced last week when incumbent Democrats and their newly elected counterparts met to choose leaders for the New Year.
In a surprise move the Democrats unseated Keith Ahlstrom (D-Dunkirk), former Chairman of the County Legislature and leader of the Democratic Caucus. Mr. Ahlstrom simultaneously serves as Chairman of the County Democratic Party, a situation that has been criticized by Republicans.
Even rank and file Democrats were dismayed when Mr. Ahlstrom, while Chairman of the Democratic Party, endorsed a Republican Mayoral candidate and a former Legislator confided that Keith’s leadership style was often heavy handed and intimidating.
Democratic Legislators chose Lori Cornell (D-Jamestown) to replace Mr. Ahlstrom as their leader. Her selection is at once refreshing and welcome.
Ms. Cornell was the most obvious choice, particularly since Maria Kindberg chose not to seek reelection from District 15 in Jamestown. The Dems new leader is bright and has a sense of purpose. Perhaps her greatest asset is her attitude. She has a good attitude, she doesn’t look at “who is wrong” she looks at “what is wrong” and that attribute will surely have a positive impact on county government.
Besides her mannerisms Lori Cornell has an exceptional understanding of county government and that will serve her well. Moreover, she is unafraid to utilize the talents of her colleagues. Not only will she involve the entire Democratic Caucus in doing the people’s business, she will reach across the aisle with dignity and respect.
She values the knowledge and ability of veteran lawmakers like Tom DeJoe (D-Brocton) who serves on the Audit and Control Committee as well as the Public Facilities Committee. She will forthrightly seek advice and input from Legislators like Chuck Nazzaro, a financial professional, particularly in matters dealing with the county budget.
Even newcomers to the Legislature will not be overlooked: New members such as Tom Earlandson, a retired JCC professor who was elected from District # 8 (Frewsburg, Kiantone, and Busti) has much to offer Chautauqua county.
Regardless of who controls the Legislature, whether Lori Cornell becomes Chairman of the Legislature or remains the Minority Leader, the selection of Lori Cornell is a significant and refreshing change.
In the meantime if the Republicans want to maintain control of the County Legislature they must mend fences with the Gentleman from Forestville. Who knows? Maybe Mr. Duff wants the Chairmanship. That has happened before.
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Hon. Lori Cornell (Double click to enlarge)