Rural Heritage candidates liven up Sullivan County politics

Politics around here has always been a little more complicated than Republican vs. Democrat. And with gas drilling emerging as a big -- and party-busting -- issue in the upcoming town elections across New York State, the political landscape is getting even more interesting.

Last week, Sullivan County realtor David Knudsen, who lives in the town of Delaware, blogged about how gas drilling turned what would normally have been a sleepy little Democratic caucus into a veritable rally:

The Delaware Youth Center was packed. There was a line of local Democrats out the door waiting to sign in. We ended up with 112 local registered Democrats inside, plus a couple of dozen friends and observers. The atmopshere was almost electric, and most of us were amazed that so many people turned out, on both sides. The county Democratic Party chair even schlepped out to Callicoon to be a part of it (although he couldn't vote.)

The outcome? Avowed drilling foe Steve Lundgren was picked over the presumptive nominee, Ed Sykes, in the race for supervisor. (Knudsen writes that Sykes will likely be the Republican nominee, meaning that the two will face off again in November.)

Lundgren is also running on a new party line -- the Rural Heritage party, a newly-organized ballot line that seeks to promote agriculture and rural small businesses. From the Sullivan County Democrat last week:

It’s not a traditional organized party – there’s no chair or commiteepeople, and anyone who wants to run on the line has to individually petition the county Board of Elections with the appropriate amount of signatures.

Cindy Gieger, who’s seeking the District 5 County Legislator seat, explained the platform as one that includes “small, rural, private-sector businesses,” including farms.

“For too long, I believe we’ve waited for a magic bullet to come in the form of big business,” she told the audience.

And here's another story from the Times Herald-Record, which notes that the Rural Heritage candidates are being a bit coy about the gas drilling issue as a group:

Rural Heritage supports the idea of building a creamery, a slaughterhouse and such things as getting high-speed Internet and developing agro-tourism. But the candidates aren't taking an official position on the most controversial issue facing the western towns: gas drilling. Candidates dodged that question collectively and individually at the news conference.