Four Cortland County Legislators leave the Republican party (Interview and photos with each inside)

On Wednesday, Cortland County Chair Paul Heider announced that three of Cortland County’s legislators decided to leave their political party. All three that he announced were republicans, and they decided to continue as independents. We later found out that the correct number was four legislators, and we have both the press release and an interview with each of the legislators below; along with the press release from Legislative Chair Heider.

Photo taken from the Cortland County Website.


Here’s the press release that Heider sent out on Wednesday:


“We received a call this morning at our Cortland County Legislative Clerk’s Office advising us that three Republican Legislators, Legislator Joseph Nauseef, Legislator Kelly Preston and Legislator Linda Jones, have changed political parties and are no longer affiliated with the Republican party.  While I am disappointed by anyone leaving the Republican Party at this time, this decision will have no impact on the day to day workings of our Legislature.  It does not matter what party affiliations our Legislature is made up of, every Legislator is treated fairly regardless of their political affiliation.  For me, the most important issue facing this County right now is ensuring that every resident who wishes to be vaccinated against COVID-19 is able to do so.  That mission will not change in light of this announcement.



The fourth republican county legislator decided to leave the party and be independent - Chris Newell.

We asked the four legislators why they chose to leave the republican party and why now:

Linda Jones

Photo taken from the Cortland County Website.




“The reason all of us changed was the pressure from the party to always vote party line.” She followed by saying, “It started back in March when we voted against spending $127,000.” The $127,000 expense went towards the study that was done to “tell us how to operate”, as Jones put it. She finished by saying, “It passed, but the other NO votes were four Democrats and we (Jones, Preston, and Nauseef) were looked at as going with the Democrats, and that wasn’t acceptable.” 

Her press release can be found at the bottom of this article.


Kelly Preston

Photo taken from the Cortland County Website.


“This was a personal decision for me; not based on anything from the chairmen (Paul Heider) or anything else. I had been contemplating leaving the Republican party and becoming an Independent for probably a year. Before the general election, I stopped myself. I thought just wait, and let the politics play out. This is not some publicity stunt. This is a true personal reflection on myself.”

She continued, “Once that was done, my goal for 2021 was to become an Independent and not play any party politics. In our County, what I have seen and there is a political divide; even at our level. I have heard ‘them’, ‘us’, ‘what are they doing’, ‘what are we doing’, and I don’t like that. I think it’s time for us to act as a group and do what’s best for our County. Today, it was the right thing for me to the right time.”

She continued, “I don’t like to see Americans hurting each other and killing each other at the federal level. That upsets me. I think this country needs to come to terms. If me taking a stand to remove myself from any party politics...If that in any way gets other people to stop and think about what’s going on, then I’m doing my job.”

When asked what her supporters have said to her and how they reacted to the news of her leaving the Republican Party, Preston stated that “ they said to me ‘I trust you; do what you have to do.’” 

Her press release can be found at the bottom of this article.


Chris Newell

Photo taken from the Cortland County Website.



“I think it was four years in the making. Donald Trump is Donald Trump. You can go on and on about him, but none of the other republicans seem to stand up to him (Trump)....And that, to me, disintegrated the party. Hopefully, the republicans can get their act together without Trump being so vindictive and carry on.”  He added that he finalized his decision to leave the party a few days after January 1st.

Newell did not send out a press release.


Joe Nauseef

Photo taken from the Cortland County Website.




“When I ran for election, I made a solemn promise to everyone that I talked to.” He continued, “I talked to Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives, Libertarians….and I told them that I would be voting in the best interest of all of them. I’m not going to play party politics. I refuse to play party politics. There’s been a lot of issues that have happened throughout this year where we’ve been pressured by the Republican party to vote the party line. When we didn’t vote on the party line, we were chastised and sometimes even punished. 

There have been times where I was removed from all of my standing committees and then be placed back on them. Most recently, a move was made to change people’s committees around two committees that I was working very solidly on - JPS and the Highway Department Solid Waste. Of course I made a lot of noise on those committees, because situations came up that weren’t in the best interests of my constituents and I voted against them. Those two committees...I was just removed from, even though I asked not to be removed because I have been working hard on those committees.”

His press release can be found at the bottom of this article.




Press Releases from Jones, Preston, and Nauseef (Separate releases)




When I was elected in 2014, I visited the homes of residents from all parties. I knew, if elected, I would represent everyone regardless of their party affiliation. I have always kept that promise. 

I did not take my oath of office to protect the political interests of any party. My mission has always been to address the challenges this county faces and to listen to each and every resident. 

I have regretfully found that both the Republican and Democratic parties, even at the local level, seem to be consumed with party lines, winning elections and control. This has caused us to have  a broken political system that I can no longer tolerate.  

After almost a year of careful consideration, I have made the decision to register as an Independent with no party affiliation.

I  take great pride in working for this county and will be able to continue to serve it free from the controls of others and not adhering to another’s authority. I am quite capable of acting and thinking for myself and the people of this county in a non partisan way.  

James Cash Penny (founder of J.C Penny) said “The best teamwork comes from people who are working independently toward one goal in unison.” Our major parties should take note of this, forget about politics, numbers and the next election. We need no D’s and R’s after our names in our local legislature. They only get in the way of doing our jobs.



Kelly Preston - Cortland County Legislator Homer LD10 

PRESS RELEASE January 13,2021


I have decided it is in the best interest of my constituents that I change my political affiliation to "Independent". I was brought up and have run my life as an independent thinker. It only makes sense that I continue independent thinking in my political life.


In the three years I have served on the Cortland County Legislature, I have found that the Republican members are not always right, nor are the Democrat members. To belong to a particular caucus and be pressured into a vote goes against my principles. I believe that many people are frustrated with partisan politics, both at the local and federal level. Independents (or no party affiliation) practice a non-partisan democracy. I hope that other members of the County Legislature consider removing themselves from political caucuses and commit to working for the people in this county, not a political party.


The trust my community places in me to make well informed decisions on their behalf is a priveledge I do not take lightly. I assure you that I will continue to make these decisions as a well informed and independent legislator


Linda Jones





Joe Nauseef’s Press Release


I took the decision to run for county legislator very seriously. I had always taken an interest  in county government but found a lack of transparency that the county provided to its citizens. I became frustrated as time went on and I saw the county legislature make decisions on spending that I felt were unnecessary. As a taxpayer I was concerned about my taxes going up every year!  I wanted to stay  updated on what was being done in the county and  began to follow  Legislator Linda Jones social media page. She was very transparent and honest about what was going on in the county government. Finally I had found the transparency that I desired. I  saw that  her efforts in being transparent sometimes led to  bullying and attacks. I often chimed in on her page and after a suggestion from her strongly began to consider my run for Legislator of LD-12. I was not getting the communication and transparency from my current legislator and felt that he was part of the "establishment" that was not working for the taxpayers. I made the decision to run after many long talks with my wife. While I was out campaigning,  I had numerous talks with people who didn't even know who their current legislator was. Some Democrats questioned why I was at their door.  My answer to them was that I was there because I felt that if I secured the seat I would be working on behalf of all residents regardless of party. I promised to not play party politics, always be transparent and to vote no on wasteful spending. Fiscal responsibility was the number one goal on my platform. I felt that the tax payers of Cortland County were simply taxed enough already!

My first year as legislator has been full of obstacles and disappointment as I paved my way forward and stuck to my campaign  promises. It started with my opposition to hiring a consulting firm for $127,000 to tell us how to do our jobs. I made it very clear that as we were in the midst of Covid-19 that the county did not need to spend $127,000 dollars to know that tough decisions and cuts would need to be made. I stated that with the uncertainty of where we would fall with the loss of sales tax,we had no choice but to make tough decisions, Many employees would be facing layoff,  furlough and possible job elimination.. A consulting firm did not need to tell us these things, It was already in our lap! I shared the information with my constituents , and was quickly joined by other legislators who came on board to issue statements of their pledge to vote no on this Transpro consulting expenditure. The first were Legislators Jones and Preston. These two legislators have always been in line with my way of thinking and they have been inspirational and supportive, helping me and encouraging me along my path. The vote was narrowly passed as 7 legislators voted no. After that time things became very hard as I had many things thrown in my direction to try and stop me from doing my job as effectively as I desired. The Republican chair of the legislature became angry at me for not " supporting"  and not voting for the hiring of Trans-Pro. I was threatened with ethics charges and removed from all of my standing committees only to be placed back on them when other people became involved and questioned why.  Months later, an ethics complaint did come through and was unanimously declared by the Ethics Board that I had done nothing unethical or illegal in my transparency and communication to my constituents. Most recently, the Chairman of the Legislature made a move to rearrange the committees.  I was removed from two committees that I had worked very hard to  bring the voice of my constituents to. I voted  no to raises and tier steps because many employees  were out on unemployment and jobs were being cut.

On another front I very publicly stood up for our local trash haulers when the county wanted to raise the tipping fees at our landfill. I fought hard for a meeting with our haulers to hear their feelings on this as it affected them. Myself along with Legislator Jones and Stock pushed hard and finally got that meeting to happen. My transparency brought on more negative attention from the Chair. I asked to not be moved from my committees as I felt I was doing the job well for my constituents in both the JPS and Highway/Solid waste committees. I told the Chair that I felt I was merely being punished again for challenging the "establishment". It was  to no avail as I was moved to other committees.   

The great divide between both of the major parties in our nation right  down to our county level has made it very difficult for me to do my job effectively for the taxpayers of Cortland county. There is always pressure to side with your party at all times. As I stated during my election, I would not, and I will not play party politics. Because of my decisions, I have not felt the support or reassurance from members of the local Republican party with the exception of Legislators Jones and Preston. I have lost trust and faith on the local level .My vote will always be in the best interest of my friends, family and constituents of Cortland County. This  is why today I am making the choice to change to no party affiliation. An Independent  along with my friends and fellow Legislators Jones and Preston. We will continue to work hard for ALL of our constituents, But  without the constant pressure and threats from any party. I want all of my constituents, Republicans, Conservatives, Democrats or members of any other  party affiliation,  know that I have NOT left you ! I have left the Republican party. I will continue to work for all of you and do what is in the best interests of the taxpayers of Cortland County.

It is my hope that other legislators who are also tired of the pressure from party politics will join us in becoming non-partisan legislators and work for all.