Internal party conflict among Cortland County democrats

CORTLAND, N.Y. – The Cortland County Democratic Committee is undergoing a drastic change in leadership since the November election.

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Despite electing a Democratic sheriff, re-electing a Democratic mayor and maintaining majority rule on Cortland Common Council, some local Democrats say they have grown frustrated with internal conflict within the party.

“There’s always turmoil after an election,” said Trish Hansen, who resigned as city chairperson of the committee last month. “It’s time for a change … hopefully we can bring our party back together and move forward.”

Since the election, five officers of the executive committee of the Cortland County Democratic Committee have resigned.

Sandy Price, a Cortland County legislator, resigned as chairperson of the committee Nov. 11, citing health concerns.

Dick Bushnell, also a county legislator, recently stepped down as vice chair, saying he was unable to fulfill the responsibility of the position.

Other resignations included the committee’s treasurer, Katherine Hennessy; city chairperson Trish Hansen, who stated relationship problems with the executive committee as her reason for stepping down; and town chair Joan Robinson, who said she agreed to serve in the position as long as Price remained the chairman of the committee.

“I’m frustrated and I need a break,” Hansen said, who still stay on as a general member of the committee. “I think it’s time for me to step aside and let someone else … who can work with some of the individuals on the executive committee better than I’m able to.”

Hansen, a former city councilwoman, added that she has considered running for office again in the future.

Tim Perfetti, a Homer Democrat, was recently elected, in a unanimous vote, as chair of the committee beginning Dec. 1.

Perfetti has run several political campaigns for local democrats, most recently for Mark Helms’ campaign, the Democratic sheriff-elect who beat out his Republican opponent by only a few hundred votes.

“He was just an attractive candidate,” Perfetti said. “He had a lot of positive things to say.”

Perfetti described the resignations on the committee as “a mass exodus all at once.”

“It certainly kind of left a ship rudderless, and I think the organization, like any organization, can’t be left without somebody in charge or at the top of the structure,” he said.

Perfetti, along with newly elected vice chair Donna Johnson will be responsible for electing a new city chair, town chair and treasurer.

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