There's some competition for the Cayuga County Legislature chair seat as the body's January reorganization meeting approaches.

At least two Democrats — Patrick Mahunik and Ben Vitale — have announced they are running for chair. Republican Andrew Dennison said he, too, was considering throwing his hat in the ring. It was not clear Thursday if other Republicans or Democrats were interested. The Cayuga County Legislature chair is a full-time position and receives a salary of $30,000. The base pay for legislators is $10,100.

Current Chairman Keith Batman, re-elected this year, said he had not yet decided if he will run for a third chair term in 2018.

"This year has been quite a year because of doing administrative and chair duties, so I just kind of need to take a step back," Batman said Thursday. "It's been very, very intense and time consuming."

Vitale, however, said the only reason he is running for chair is because Batman told him he will not run again. Batman did not immediately respond to The Citizen's follow-up request for comment Thursday.

"I have a lot of respect for Keith," said Vitale, who was also re-elected this year. "My own intentions were to be chairman sometime in my second term. I'll be going into my second term, so I wouldn't have done it if Keith was going to run."

He praised Batman's stepping up to the plate when former county administrator Suzanne Sinclair resigned in March. Vitale said he's uncomfortable promoting himself for the post but, he said, "I want to do what's best for the county." He thinks he has time to devote to the many meetings and work that has to be done, too.

Mahunik sent an email out to legislators announcing his intention to run for chair. He added that if Batman decides to run again, legislators will have to decide. 

"As I look at our Legislative body today, I see the disconnect and unwillingness to work with each other, which I saw when I was first elected," Mahunik wrote in his email to legislators. "This cannot continue."

Dennison said he's made mention to some legislators that he would be interested in the post. He does not want to see Batman as chair again, he added. Dennison said he was particularly peeved when he found out new Cayuga County Administrator J. Justin Woods had been sworn into office last Friday without any notice. 

"There's too much Albany and D.C. stuff going on in Cayuga County, and it shouldn't be that way, just plain and simple," Dennison said. "Our current chairman does not need to continue to be our chairman. If he's up for a vote, I'll vote against him."

Dennison said he'd like to have Republicans and Democrats evenly split the committee chair positions, and the vice chair to be the opposite party of the chair. If elected, that's what he would do, he said.

Minority Leader Paul Pinckney said there were a couple of Republicans interested in chair, but he said the party is still deciding, as are the individuals. Pinckney said he hopes to run for chair in the next year or two, but he said he does not have enough time this year.

The Republican Party is expected to caucus on Sunday to choose a chair candidate, and the Democratic Party is expected to caucus on Monday.

Legislators will vote on a chair at the Cayuga County Legislature's reorganization meeting. That will take place at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 4 in the Sixth Floor Chambers of the Cayuga County Office Building, 160 Genesee St., Auburn. 

Staff writer Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (315) 282-2237 or gwendolyn.craig@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.

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County Government Reporter