Former Yates Co. DA to run for bench

John Christensen The Chronicle-Express
Former Yates County Clerk Julie Betts (right) introduces Jason Cook as a candidate for County Judge.

Former Yates County District Attorney Jason Cook today announced that he is running as a Republican for Yates County Court Judge in this fall’s election. Approximately 80 friends, family, and supporters, including several members of county, town and village government, attended as Cook made the announcement at a Jan. 27 luncheon hosted at Elks Lodge #1722 in Penn Yan.

“I’m here to make it official: I am formally announcing my candidacy for Yates County Court Judge,” said Cook to applause. “I love this community and feel strongly that it is my duty to give back to it.”

Speaking of the role a county judge must play, Cook said, “The people who come before the County Court may be facing the most trying times in their lives. They need to have confidence in the person making legal decisions that will have far reaching consequences,” he added. “My experience has prepared me well for this role and, should I be elected, I will serve with the highest level of honor, integrity, and compassion.”

Cook was introduced by recently retired Yates County Clerk Julie Betts, who said, “Yates County residents are very fortunate that Jason has made the decision to run for County Court Judge. During the many years that I’ve known Jason, he has been an exemplary public servant. As our District Attorney, Jason was extremely dedicated, doing everything he could to make Yates County a safe place to live. He stood up for what’s right, protected the innocent, and sought fair punishment for the guilty.

“Jason Cook has all the right qualities that we need in our County Judge,” Betts continued. “He is kind and caring, but firm and resolute, and would be fair and just in any decision he needed to make. He is experienced and hard working and simply put, there is no one more qualified to hold this office. Throughout 2016, I will proudly lend my name to help Jason win the election.”

Cook, 45, as an avid hunter and outdoorsman, says, “I will honor and protect people’s rights and freedoms, upholding our Constitution and especially the Second Amendment,” he noted.

A graduate of Ithaca College and Dickinson Law School, Cook resides in the Town of Milo. He is active in the Penn Yan Lion’s Club, Penn Yan Kiwanis, and United Methodist Church, where he serves as a Lay Reader.

The Cook family has lived in Yates County for at least five generations, and still operates a large family farm just outside of Penn Yan.

Cook is the first to make an announcement that he is seeking the seat currently held by The Hon. W. Patrick Falvey, who has been Yates County Judge since 1988, when he was appointed by Gov. Mario Cuomo to fill the vacancy left by the death of Judge Fred Dugan. Falvey, who was eventually endorsed by both the Republican and Democratic Parties, won election to the seat that November and has been re-elected twice since then, most recently in 2008.

After being elected as District Attorney in 2009 following the retirement of Susan Lindenmuth, Cook served in that role from 2010 to 2013, when he was defeated for re-election by current Yates County D.A. Valerie Gardner. He previously served as an Assistant D.A. in Yates, Schuyler, and Steuben counties and worked in private legal practice for Davidson & O’Mara early in his career. Cook currently serves as an Assistant D.A. in Chemung County.

The General Election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8. County Judge terms in New York State are for 10 years, and state law requires county judges to retire by Dec. 31 of the year they turn 70. Falvey will be 70 years-old in August.

Yates County Board of Election Commissioner Robert Brechko says whoever wins the election in November of this year will start a new 10-year term in January 2017.