BETHLEHEM Signs expressing support for Bethlehem Town Police began cropping up throughout town around the New Year, would later be seen as a harbinger for what was to come on Election Night.
The Republican Party historically dominated Bethlehem, with only a handful of Democrats holding the Supervisor seat in more than 100 years. A stark contrast to today’s political scene, as incumbent Town Supervisor John Clarkson presided over a town board full of fellow Democrats.
A labor dispute between the town and its two police unions carried a pall over the political campaign season. Soon, the signs of support began to take on a political strategy of their own when the town’s highway department removed signs for violating local signage laws. As Election Day approached, talks between the two parties had ceased. When endorsements were announced, the police union stood behind a young Republican challenger in Jim Foster for supervisor, along with his party mates.
A week before the elections, Clarkson and Foster faced off in a forum where audience members witnessed Foster firing barbs over the Normanskill Landslide and town finances at his opponent, with Clarkson responding back.
As districts reported back in piecemeal, the numbers favoring each candidate shifted. At one point, Foster was ahead of this incumbent by 100 votes. The night would end with a margin in Clarkson’s favor, but still too close to call. A tally of absentee ballots revealed Clarkson as the winner, by only 12 votes. Only time will tell whether the issues raised this election will impact the next one, as a special election is set to be held next year for one of the board seats.