SCOPE hosts forum for county judge candidates

John Christensen The Chronicle-Express
From left, SCOPE president John Prendergast, with Yates County Judge Candidates Valerie Gardner, Matthew Conlon, and Jason Cook.
John Christensen/Chronicle-express

The Yates County Chapter of Shooters Committee on Political Education (SCOPE) hosted a public forum for the three candidates seeking election as Yates County Court Judge: Yates County District Attorney Valerie Gardner, Penn Yan Village Court Justice Matthew Conlon, and Chemung County Assistant DA and former Yates County DA Jason Cook.

Held at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 14 at the Penn Yan Elks Lodge, the forum was emceed by SCOPE Chairman and Benton Town Supervisor John Predergast.

The election is to fill the vacancy created by the required retirement, after 28 years on the bench, of Yates County Court Judge W. Patrick Falvey, who reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 this year. The three candidates are competing in the Republican Primary to be held Sept. 13. The Yates County Court Judge immediately presides over criminal court, surrogate’s court, and family court, and after two years, will qualify to be named Acting County Supreme Court Judge. The Judge is also the head of the Yates County Drug Treatment Court as a diversion program from Criminal Court.

Prendergast opened with prayers for Carolyn and George Schaeffer, Yates County Democratic Committee members who were injured in a recent accident in Vermont, and for the Bastille Day massacre victims in Nice, France. Addressing the audience of approximately 80, Prendergast also expressed his disappointment in the voters of Yates County that more people did not attend.

The three candidates drew lots to determine initial speaking order. Cook spoke of his fifth generation heritage and lifelong commitment to Yates County, as well as his experience in the courtroom. 

Gardner spoke of her experience in all the courts the judge presides over, but especially the responsibilities in Family Court, which she says is the busiest and most labor-intensive of all the courts. 

Conlon spoke of his 26 years experience as a lawyer, both as a former assistant DA in Yates County and as a defender, and urged anyone who wants to see what kind of judge he will be, to visit the Penn Yan Village Court any Monday night.

All three candidates are seeking the Republican and Conservative nomination. Gardner and Conlon are both seeking the Democratic, Working Families, and Green Party nominations; and Cook and Gardner are both seeking the Independence, Women’s Equality and Reform Party nominations. That’s a total of eight primaries that will be held Sept. 13 to determine the ballot lines for the Nov 9 general election.