County clerk candidates offer differing perspectives

Oswego County clerk candidates Michael C. Backus (left) and Phillip E. Vasho visited The Valley News last week to discuss their platforms and goals for the office. Backus is a Republican while Vasho is a Democrat. The election will be held next Tuesday, Nov. 6.

by Carol Thompson

The next Oswego County Clerk faces many challenges as the office has been shrouded in controversy.

Two candidates are vying for the position.

Republican candidate Michael C. Backus said he will do a “personal evaluation” to determine what needs to be done. Democrat Phillip E. Vasho said he will take immediate steps to correct the problems that he said have gone on far too long.

The candidates sat together Friday and answered questions as to their plans for the office.

Vasho said he chose to run because he saw the need for change. “I looked at the situation and saw that we could definitely use some change in the county clerk’s office,” he said.

Backus said he chose to run because it’s an office he feels he can be very beneficial.

“I’m 28 years old, I’m a young person growing up here…as a young person I hope to be a part of the next generation of leaders that are growing up here in the county,” he said.

Both candidates hold political leadership positions. Vasho serves as the chairman of the City of Fulton Democrat Committee. He said if elected county clerk, he will step down from his committee seat immediately.

Backus serves as the chairman of the Oswego County Republican Committee. He said he will separate the two positions and make a clear distinction between his two roles.

A special election is being held for the position of county clerk due to the death of longtime clerk George Williams.

If elected, Backus said he has many connections in state government to assist with the transition as well as an association with other clerks throughout the state.

Backus currently works in the office of Assemblyman Brian Kolb. Backus’ campaign efforts have the support of State Senator Patty Ritchie, Assemblyman Will Barclay, former state Senator and U.S. Ambassador H. Douglas Barclay, Assemblyman Bob Oakes and former U.S. Senator and current lobbyist Alfonse D’Amato.

Vasho said he is running a grass-roots campaign with little financial assistance and added that his experience as a legislator is what he can bring to the office. He said he served five years on the legislature committee that oversees the clerk’s office and learned much about the operations of the office through that experience.

Backus said he will take the time to personally evaluate each aspect of the clerk’s office.  Vasho said he will take immediate action on some issues, including an independent audit of the entire department.

“The clerk would never allow the county treasurer to see his books,” Vasho said. “I think that’s wrong and the books will be opened to the county treasurer.”

Vasho said he will open the doors to any investigators. It has been reported that the clerk’s office was served with a subpoena by the U.S. Attorney’s office seeking 10 years of books and records.

Backus said he has no proof that investigators have been looking into the clerk’s office.

To read the rest of the story, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397

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