Lewis County primary has entrant who’d rather lose

People casts their vote in a previous election in Lewis County. Julie Abbass/Watertown Daily Times

LOWVILLE — Three Lewis County legislator races will see candidates vying for the top position in the Republican and Conservative primaries on June 22, but in one of those races, only one candidate wants to win.

In the Republican and Conservative primaries, voters will see two candidates on the ballot — Jeffrey G. Nellenback and Lawrence Hoffert — for the District 10 legislator position in the towns of Lewis and Leyden being vacated by Jerry King after 15 years.

Mr. Nellenback, who decided to run because he was “begged to do it,” said Saturday that he has since realized that his many commitments with the fire department, as a Christmas tree farmer and volunteer work with local cemeteries would make it impossible for him to do the job of legislator.

He tried to pull out of the race but was told by the county Board of Elections that it was not allowed.

“They said the best you can do is hope the other candidate wins,” he said.

Because his name is on the ballot, people can still vote for him, but he really hopes they don’t.

But Mr. Hoffert said he hopes to be chosen as the legislator because he wants to help people and because he wants to learn.

His candidacy is the fulfillment of a promise made by the movement he led for the county to become a Second Amendment Sanctuary in 2019.

When the county board said it wasn’t legally possible to grant the “2A” movement’s wish, movement spokesperson Beau Bailey, with Mr. Hoffert sitting nearby, vowed the group’s next move would be at the polls.

Mr. Bailey is now the mayor of Lyons Falls.

While Mr. Hoffert admits his desire is to break away from the stringent state gun laws to help “law abiding citizens,” he said that was just a part of his motivation.

“I want to see what it’s all about and I want to learn more and I want to contribute a little bit if I can.” Mr. Hoffert said. “Maybe my opinion will mean something to somebody, too. Maybe I can bring up a point on some of these issues that somebody hadn’t thought of or forgot.”

Mr. Hoffert is a truck driver with a passion for wildlife rescue and carpentry. Because he is off work in the winter and retirement is approaching, he believes he will have plenty of time to act as legislator.

If he wins the primary, he will go on to face Democratic Challenger Bethany Munn in November.

District 7: Towns of Turin, Martinsburg and Lowville

Gregory Kulzer, of West Lowville, vs. Joshua Leviker, of Turin

Four-term legislator Gregory Kulzer of West Lowville is again being challenged by Joshua P. Leviker, the sitting mayor of the village of Turin.

In the 2019 Republican Party primary, Mr. Kulzer won with 53% of the vote to Mr. Leviker’s 44%, 105 to 88. Mr. Kulzer will also be running as an independent candidate in November, regardless of the primary result.

Mr. Kulzer is finishing his eighth year in office. A graduate of SUNY Canton, he was the local milk inspector for the state since he moved to the area in 1999, retiring at the end of 2018.

Two of the accomplishments since being legislator that he is most proud of are the steps taken to help turn the county hospital around when it was in financial trouble and the completion of the Education Center, which he believes holds a tremendous amount of potential for the county.

As the board’s appointee to the Double Play organization, he hopes to ensure that a community center comes to fruition and he would like to work with the board to reconsider some of the stimulus money spending involving construction because of the currently high cost of materials.

Mr. Leviker is an estimator and project manager for a paving company in Syracuse, where he started as an intern. He also sits on the village of Turin Planning Board, is vice president of the Turin Ridge Riders snowmobile club and president of the county Snowmobile Association.

While working toward his associate degree in construction management at SUNY Delhi, Mr. Leviker said he was also a farm hand on the weekend, emphasizing his strong work ethic.

As legislator, Mr. Leviker hopes to lead positive economic impact and bring some change to the county.

He said he believes there is growth potential in the recreation and tourism sectors, especially in the south of the county where there is no manufacturing, and wants to find new ways to support farmers.

He believes voters want someone who is hands-on, leads by example and takes action. He says he is not that kind of a person who is a “Sunday morning quarterback” type, he’d rather get out there and do it and “lead by example.”

District 5: Village of Lowville

Richard A. Chartrand, of Lowville, vs. Erik J. Griffin, of Lowville

Mr. Chartrand and Mr. Griffin also faced off in the 2019 primary resulting in a 163 to 71 win for Mr. Chartrand, who has been a legislator since 2014.

Although he believes there have been many significant accomplishments by county government in his years on the board, the two that Mr. Chartrand is most proud of having been a part are the Education Center and consistently keeping taxes under the state-set increase limits known as the tax cap.

As the county board’s representative on the Lewis County Health System board, he is also excited about the $25 million surgical wing that is in the process of final state approvals.

He said he believes that with District 10 Legislator Jerry King leaving the board, he is the only member left with engineering and construction experience to the board’s table.

Bringing the “rails to trails” project to finish and the county’s work with Double Play are also important to Mr. Chartrand.

Mr. Griffin is currently employed at Enchanted Forest Water Safari and started his own business over the winter, Griffin’s Seasonal Services, offering landscaping, snow removal and other assistance to homeowners and businesses in the area.

He said he is running this year in support of the Second Amendment and to try to make the county a Second Amendment Sanctuary, as well as a Bail Reform sanctuary.

In general, he wants to “stand up against Albany and fight for our community,” he said, until there is a new governor in office.

A new idea Mr. Griffin would like to propose that he hopes would make it possible to lower taxes is a roadway fee that would be levied on someone who is stopped by law enforcement for using their cellphones while driving or causing an accident because of that use.

The revenue would be shared between law enforcement and the municipalities involved in the accident.

Other primary races include:

Denmark: James Der vs. Scott Doyle for supervisor; Scott Simmons, Keith Lee, Darlene Rowsam and Peter Jones for two council spots; Dennis J. Mahoney vs. Patrick Mahar for highway superintendent

Diana: Zachary Smith, Kelly Ritz and Allen Bango II for two council positions

Greig: Robert A. Johnson, Melissa Bailey and David VandeWater for two council positions

Watson: Vicki Roy, Jeffrey Hoch and Franklin Merry for two council seats

West Turin: Mary Wilton vs. Bethany Schindler for clerk

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