CANAJOHARIE — Republican Benny Goldstein is likely to be the next town of Canajoharie supervisor after Democrat Ron Dievendorf said on Thursday he does not plan to file a lawsuit regarding questionable ballots in the race.
“Reluctantly, and with great regret, I will not be challenging the election results,” Dievendorf said.
Dievendorf’s announcement followed Montgomery County Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Terry Bieniek’s decision to agree to certify the results of the election, in which the candidates are separated by just four votes (342 to 338), calling it his “administrative duty.” That decision places the onus of any legal fight on Dievendorf, Bieniek said.
The results have been in limbo ever since a manual recount on November 18 found exactly four ballots on which voters filled in the “O” of Dievendorf’s middle initial rather than filling in the bubble. Bieniek said he believes those ballots should be counted for Dievendorf, whose middle name is Owen, because Bieniek believes the voters clearly intended to vote for the Democrat. But Republican Commissioner Terrance Smith disagreed, saying voter intent was not clear, meaning the decision to count those ballots would have to be made in court.
In a written statement on Thursday, Dievendorf said he was upset that the financial burden of potential litigation would fall on him. The Democrat technically has until Dec. 8.
“If you look at the four ballots in question, it is self-evident that those residents voted for me. To make me personally finance a lawsuit to validate those votes is a travesty on our electoral system!” Dievendorf wrote. “In a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats 2 to 1, the tie vote speaks volumes about the lack of trust and absence of knowledge or experience of my opponent. To my supporters, a heartfelt thank you.”
The town of Canajoharie has 2,419 registered Republicans compared to 1,493 registered Democrats, according to the Montgomery County Board of Elections. Goldstein, a newcomer to Canajoharie, relied heavily on party affiliation during the campaign. Dievendorf is well known in Canajoharie, having lived there since 1971 and twice serving as the village’s mayor.
If the election results had gone to court and a judge had decided to allow the four ballots to be counted for Dievendorf, the likely result would have been a tie. In which case, the four-person Town Council would have determined the outcome of the election, with the council having the option to choose either candidate or opt for someone else entirely, Bieniek said.
Without a lawsuit, Goldstein, who is originally from Israel, will become the next town supervisor. Out of the gate, he said he plans to do a lot of listening.
“I’m going to ease myself in,” he said Thursday. “There’s a Hebrew saying that says ‘talk a little bit, do a lot.’”
Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.