This Still Matters: My pre-election endorsement of Cortney Bailey for Enfield Supervisor
Posted October 31, 2021
Put most succinctly: We need change. Enfield needs a change.
The heart of Democracy is the election. And the heart of any election is choice; real choice, meaningful choice. Without choice, an election becomes a sham. Totalitarian nations often showcase that sham. Their leaders predetermine the election’s outcome. The party-chosen favorite predictably wins. The people never truly exercise their purported franchise, except on paper. That “election” serves as mere window dressing, an allusion of democracy. It becomes wasted effort. Best the State had never expended the time and money to conduct it.
This fall in Enfield, the problem proves a bit different. Our lack of ballot choice was not dictated by controlling authority, but rather by a self-imposed coupling of apathy with—as I will later explain—the understandable human desire for self-preservation and personal respect.
On its face, this November’s ballot for Enfield Town offices holds zero choice. The ballot lists just one candidate for Town Supervisor, the current holder of that office, Stephanie Redmond, appointed to her position, controversially, last January 12th. That same ballot lists only sufficient Town Councilperson nominees to fill the slots available. Candidates for Town Clerk, Highway Superintendent, and Town Justice, elected or appointed incumbents all, run unopposed, each cross-endorsed by each of the two major parties. Faced with this lack of choice, one might ask, “Why bother to vote?”
But choice happens when you make it happen. And I urge you to do just that. Please, this Tuesday, November 2nd, go to the polls at the Enfield Community Center and write in Cortney Bailey for Enfield Town Supervisor. Write—preferably print—her name in the space provided at the bottom of the Supervisor’s column. Do so legibly. Do so thoughtfully. And remember that Cortney spells her first name without any “u.” As I’ve written on flyers that so many of you have either received in your mail boxes or at your doorstep, it takes so little effort to write in Cortney’s name. But that little effort will pay big dividends in making Enfield a whole lot better in 2022.
First, her biography, for those of you unfamiliar with her background. Cortney Bailey is a farm-raised 40-something wife and mother of two. She lives as my neighbor on Gray Road. And as I like to say, Cortney has two big dogs and an even bigger heart when it comes to our community. Cortney is a bookkeeper by profession. She volunteers as President of the Enfield Community Council, a position she’ll need to relinquish if elected Supervisor. Personal achievement may lie at the core of Cortney’s personality. But she is not a career politician. Serving as Enfield Supervisor is not a life’s goal for her. Nor does she view Supervisor as a launching pad to achieve some grander position. Quite the opposite. As Cortney Bailey has written regarding the office of Supervisor:
“This is not a glamorous position. It’s not making a lot of money. It’s not a job you do unless you truly wish to serve. I wish to serve.”
And serve us well, Cortney Bailey will.
But again, you must write in Cortney Bailey’s name to make her election as Enfield Supervisor a reality.
Why the write-in route? Well, it’s because Cortney Bailey, quite simply, became the victim of circumstance with a touch of political naiveté added in.
A political Independent, and by choice not a member of either major party, Cortney Bailey began her low-key candidacy for Enfield Supervisor last spring. I agreed to assist her so as to give our November Enfield election a needed alternative to its otherwise predetermined outcome. Indeed, as she juggled multiple jobs and family responsibilities, Cortney confided in me that only with my help would her candidacy happen. She needed a door-knocker. We secured the required number of petition signatures. We submitted them by the legal deadline. But then….
State law—obviously written for the benefit of the major parties—requires an Independent candidate to sign “a certificate of acceptance or declination of an independent nomination” and do so within a mere three days of the late-May petition submission deadline. A political novice, Cortney did not intuitively know she had to fulfill that largely-symbolic obligation. And—thank you, today’s USPS—the Board of Elections’ advisory of its requirement did not reach Cortney in the mail until after the deadline had passed.
Cortney Bailey could have spent thousands in legal fees to claw her way onto the ballot. But like any wife and mom of limited resources, Cortney did not have the “mad money” or hidden donor cash to invest in such things. Instead, Cortney chose to work her community connections to her advantage; the hometown allegiances that have made her—and her achievements—so well known in Enfield. Cortney Bailey decided to run as a write-in candidate. She did not bankroll her candidacy with a ton of money. Instead, she underwrote it with a ton of community good will.
Let’s stop for a moment. Why should you write in Cortney Bailey’s name on the ballot this Tuesday? What makes her the preferable candidate? Why do we need Cortney Bailey as Enfield’s next Supervisor? The answers to these questions lie at the core of why I endorse Cortney Bailey and urge you to vote for her with the stroke of your pen. Cortney Bailey is different. She’s an independent. She’s non-political. She’s non-confrontational. And most importantly, she wants to bring peace to Enfield governance.
In many ways, when it comes to politics, Cortney Bailey is an outsider looking in. Here’s how she relates to the office of Enfield Supervisor; words that speak volumes as to what Enfield has done right and what it has done wrong these recent years. From her own political flyer, I quote Cortney Bailey:
“I have weighed the pros and cons of running for this office. Ultimately, I feel that our residents need our Board to work together and be productive. I have felt for the past few years that our Board is either fighting each other needlessly, or doing things that are either pointless or not things we as residents actually want.”
Cortney Bailey continues:
“Personally, I am happy helping Enfield with the Enfield Community Council. I enjoy helping make programs for our community possible with the wonderful team we have formed. In good conscience though, I can’t sit back and complain that ‘someone needs to do something’ when I know I can! If I don’t step up, why should someone else?”
From Cortney Bailey, don’t expect some grandiloquent political oratory from which she extolls her many accomplishments or offers her insightful vision for the future. That’s not Cortney’s style. Cortney Bailey’s too modest and plain spoken to engage in political bombast. Rather, as Cortney Bailey sees it, we in Enfield and its arm of government should take it one day at a time; one challenge at a time. That, for me, would offer refreshing change.
This essay is about Cortney Bailey, not about me. I will not succumb to the temptations some might goad me to engage in. I will not take this opportunity—the platform for my endorsement of Cortney Bailey—to excoriate the current appointed Supervisor for her actions during her nearly two past years in public office. Nor will I counsel her that her potential defeat this Tuesday might become a lesson learned. The latter admonition would only bring scorn from certain circles with accusations of patronizing misogyny. Rather, I will speak the following words from my heart. I’ve placed them on the flyer that many of you have already received:
“I, for one, am tired of approaching 6:30 each second Wednesday in the month with a pit in my stomach, asking myself, ‘What will they throw at us tonight?’ I know Supervisor Cortney Bailey will change the tone. She and I may disagree from time to time. Fine. That’s functioning Democracy. But afterward, Cortney Bailey and I will smile at each other from across the table, shake hands later, and leave the meeting as friends. I’d welcome that. We’d all welcome that.”
And as I further wrote:
“We need a Supervisor who won’t close meetings; who won’t chase pet causes; and who won’t block meaningful measures to keep us safe from COVID-19. We need a skilled bookkeeper who knows budgets. And yes, we need a healer, a leader who knows that everyone is welcome at the table, who invites opinion, and who shares the Heart and Soul of Enfield. We need Cortney Bailey as Supervisor.”
Cortney Bailey as Supervisor would bring a breath of fresh air to our Town, one long overdue. We must stop the fighting, the posturing, the “I win; you lose” smash mouth politics that has somehow made Enfield the political black sheep of Tompkins County, the Tabloid Town that the downtown media writes about, and of which outsiders laugh at and deride. We must stop being the southern Finger Lakes equivalent of The Jerry Springer Show.
A mediation consultant recently termed Enfield politics the Wild Western Hills of Tompkins County. Whether its genesis lay in the fracking debate, or the Black Oak Wind Farm controversy, or skirmishes subsequent, the friction point always seems to involve the insertion of activism, the efforts by some to extend Enfield’s political reach well beyond its borders, to solve the world’s problems before it solves its own. Like me, Cortney Bailey is not an activist. She believes the office of Enfield Supervisor exists to solve Enfield’s problems… and to solve them well.
Cortney Bailey will not initiate controversy for controversy’s sake. She will not launch into initiatives that lack a meaningful local connection. She will not seek to embroil Enfield government in matters that lack an immediate community tie-in; matters better left to state or federal authorities to resolve. Cortney Bailey will focus on roads, our economy, our Town finances, our children, and our community’s future. She will not embroil Enfield in some messy leadership dispute within the Cayuga Indian Nation. And though we have never discussed the issue, I’m sure Cortney would not waste needless effort seeking to erect regulatory barricades against some phantom Nestle Bottling Plant that the incumbent fears will soon arrive, but which common sense dictates will never darken Enfield’s door.
Early on, as she’d signaled her intentions to compete, Cortney Bailey made it clear to me that she was running as her own candidate, not mine or anyone else’s. Her priorities and mine may not always mesh. She is not my political clone. Never expect that Cortney will serve as a surrogate for that elusive “Bob Lynch candidacy for Supervisor” that some in Enfield’s prominent power elite have incessantly speculated about, but which never happened—and never will. I volunteered for Cortney Bailey’s campaign and circulated petitions on her behalf, because I believed in the benefits of choice… and also of change. And I believe in her. We need a down-to-business, Enfield-centered focus for our government, one based on positive accomplishment for our community; on collegiality and on political inclusiveness; not upon preening, posturing, and personal assault.
I tried long and hard this campaign season to recruit fresh faces to populate our Town Board’s table. In some instances, I encouraged trusted leaders from our Town’s past to return. These candidates would have provided contrast and invited comparison to those already positioned on this fall’s Enfield ballot. But with the lone exception of Cortney Bailey, I came up dry. And the reason behind this reluctance to commit became so simple to explain.
Prospects have seen what happens to those who stray from what I’ve come to view as the Enfield brand of political correctness. Question, even mildly, the engrained ideological orthodoxy of the Favored Few and you find yourself targeted. Few choose to contribute their evenings and their energy to municipal service when their reward becomes verbal venom unleashed at Town Board meetings by Enfield’s self-anointed political arbiters of appropriate thought; or in malevolent posts spewed forth on social media. Prospective candidates reason they’ve got better things to do with their lives. They need not become Enfield’s newest political punching bag.
I, for one, can take the incoming. As a former reporter, I have a thick skin. But most do not. We are a small town that seeks and expects small-town harmony and neighborly acceptance. Trust me. Cortney Bailey will accept our valued political diversity. She will invite contrasting opinion. She will learn from it. We all will learn. We all should.
We need a uniter as our Supervisor. We need an achiever as our Supervisor. We need a healer as our Supervisor. We need Cortney Bailey as our Supervisor. But you must do your part. Please write-in Cortney Bailey’s name at the bottom of the Supervisor’s column on your Enfield ballot, Tuesday, November 2nd.
Polls are open 6 AM until 9 PM, Tuesday, November 2nd, at the Enfield Community Center, 162 Enfield Main Road (the new community center that Cortney Bailey’s leadership helped the ECC purchase.) Please vote. Please help us all make a difference. We need change. We need better.
Proud Supporter of Cortney Bailey for Enfield Supervisor
Then written in the wee hours after the returns came in:
Post-Election; One Enfield
Posted early Wednesday morning, November 3, 2021:
The election is over. The voters have spoken. But they did not speak with a singular voice.
It remains true that approximately half of those who turned out to vote in Tuesday’s Enfield Elections (Nov. 2nd) chose to continue with Stephanie Redmond as our Town Supervisor. Hers is the position she was appointed to fill last January 12th, a night I will always recall as marking far less than Enfield’s finest hour. But the past lies behind us. We must move forward. And move forward we must, as One Enfield.
I will make no apologies for the sweat, time, and treasure I expended these recent weeks to elect another talented woman to become our Supervisor. Every dime was well-invested. For reasons amply shared in recent days, I believed Cortney Bailey stood as the preferable candidate. I still believe she does. Cortney, I, and our small army of passionate Enfield cheerleaders worked tirelessly to overcome incredible odds. We sought to surmount a total lack of knowledge amongst the electorate that Cortney Bailey was even running for anything. We used every tool in our toolbox. And to start from ground zero and propel Cortney’s voter support to as high as 60 per cent of that achieved by a ballot-recognized, appointed Supervisor—and to do so in less than two weeks’ time—remains an incredible feat. I’m glad to have been part of the effort. Well done, Cortney. Well done, Enfield.
This is not a time for victory laps, for personal slights, for snide accusations, and certainly, not for retribution. This is a time for pulling together, for dedication to a common goal, that goal being the betterment of the community we all deeply love.
More than for any other reason, I supported Cortney Bailey for Supervisor because I sensed that her distinct leadership skills—her soft power—might actually turn this troubled town around. I say that because to continue with the status quo, to trudge treacherously on our rocky path through this beloved place we call home, will lead us to destroy ourselves from the inside out. I believed Cortney Bailey would have brought real change—a country-born punch to the gut kind of change—political transformation that might actually set us straight. But it would be the punch of a unique pedigree, one delivered with a velvet glove of cooperation… and always with mutual respect.
We can do better than in our past, our recent past. We must do better. Beginning today, under Supervisor Stephanie Redmond, let’s try. I’m sure Cortney is ready. So am I.
And lastly, my post-election analysis of the Enfield Supervisor’s race:
Be Kind. Be Humble
Posted Saturday, November 6, 2021
Legend has it, Presidential candidate Mitt Romney told the tale. As chief executive of Bain Capital Management, Romney held a board meeting to inquire why a dog food company in which Bain had invested was performing poorly. Executives offered alternative excuses. Then one at the table hit the nail on the head. “The dogs don’t like the food,” the analyst told Mitt. Remember that, Enfield.
First, let’s settle one thing. Stephanie Redmond will be our Town’s Supervisor these next two years. Tuesday’s election settled the issue. We deserve Ms. Redmond our respect for the office she’ll hold and for her electoral accomplishment, such as it was, given the circumstances.
But Enfield remains a Town divided. The November election proved that as well. So this is not a time to gloat, to be cocky, or to stretch one’s victory into some sort of governing mandate. A mandate to impose and extend one’s rule as head of our Town’s government this election was not. Let me explain.
A close look at the numbers confirms my logic. 693 Enfield residents voted either on Election Day or through early voting. (At this writing, absentee ballots have yet to be counted.) Stephanie Redmond was the only candidate for Supervisor listed on our ballot. Cortney Bailey, though a declared candidate since the spring, failed to be listed for lack of one little paper she failed to sign back in May. Many Enfield voters did not know of Cortney’s candidacy until they were told. I tried to inform them. But I could not reach everyone in time. Despite our lack of information, 205 of us—including me—took the effort to write in Cortney’s name. We sought change. We demanded it.
Another 146 of us, frankly, would have preferred that giant oak tree outside our door to be the Supervisor rather than Stephanie Redmond. They left the column for Supervisor blank. They may have voted for other offices, but not for hers. I talked to several of those non-participants after they’d voted on Election Day. They didn’t know Cortney was running. Had they known, they might have supported her. That’s why I say, quite assuredly, that a ballot without choices is a ballot without meaning.
Stephanie Redmond continues as our Town’s titular head with only minority support. Of those trooping to the polls, Supervisor Redmond earned just 49.4 per cent of the same-day or early machine vote. (Ms. Bailey, to the extent her candidacy was known, earned 29.6%, the “oak tree” 21.1%). Ignoring the oak tree, and keeping limited voter knowledge in mind, Cortney Bailey received nearly 60 per cent of the support that Ms. Redmond did. And Redmond held the Democratic nomination by default. There’d been no primary.
Of those who won in Tuesday’s election, Stephanie Redmond was Enfield’s poorest performer. In no other instance did write-ins or non-participation overwhelm a listed candidate. For Town Councilperson, Jude Lemke garnered 75.2 per cent among those coming to the polls; Cassandra Hinkle, 54.7 per cent; and James Ricks, 57.3 per cent in his separate election to finish out an unexpired term. Yes, for Hinkle and Ricks, the results were underwhelming. Yet those two still improved over Stephanie.
Faring far better than our appointed—and now, elected—Supervisor, were Town Clerk Mary Cornell, securing 86 per cent voter endorsement; Highway Superintendent “Buddy” Rollins, 85 per cent; and Town Justice Betty Poole, at a whopping 89.3 per cent. Enfield voters like them all. They affirmed that admiration through their votes.
So don’t blame apathy. And don’t blame laziness. Enfield takes its democracy seriously. Indeed, seriously enough to flip the ballot over.
In those back-of-the-ballot Enfield referenda, though each was poorly publicized, the three Board-submitted initiatives that would have extended future terms for Town elected offices, including Supervisor, each lost handily. Yet in each, voter participation proved amazing. Depending on the referendum you choose, only 41 or 42 voters, a mere six per cent, chose to ignore those propositions. Whether for or against the changes, Enfield’s electorate proved their passion in exercising their franchise. And I note that the referendum that lost worst was that for a four-year Supervisor’s term. It got support from only one voter in three.
No, the lack of participation—the lack of an incumbent’s affirmation—in Tuesday’s election for Enfield Supervisor was no fluke. And I may be the only person in our Town’s Government with the ba—, err, moxie to say what I’ll say at this moment. This was a vote of No Confidence in Stephanie Redmond as our Supervisor. Or maybe it was a vote of No Confidence in Enfield Town Government overall.
We, my Town Board colleagues, must do better. We must listen to our citizens. We must stop fighting among ourselves. We must stop fighting with those outside our Board with whom we disagree. We must govern as a team.
Put plainly, as Mitt Romney learned the hard way, the “dogs” don’t like the food put before them. Like Mitt, we in this Town also have some hard lessons to learn.
We wish Cortney Bailey well. She holds a bright future in Enfield.