The battle for the Binghamton City Council’s sixth district seat has reached a conclusion following a legal dispute between Republican Mayor Jared Kraham and the council’s Democratic supermajority.

In November, the district’s voters failed to elect a new representative when Democrat Rebecca Rathmell and Republican incumbent Phil Strawn won 550 votes each. Both Kraham and the newly-elected council claimed authority over the appointment, a disagreement that made its way to the Broome County Supreme Court.

In February, Judge Joseph McBride ruled for the council’s Democrats but stipulated that the appointee must be a Republican, tasking Broome County GOP Chairman Benji Federman with making the pick. Federman then nominated Strawn, though the council chose to appoint Michael Kosty, a sales consultant at Matthews Auto Group, instead. In a statement released Tuesday, Kraham said he considered pursuing further legal action but has since decided to look ahead to November.

“With a special election just months away, I am stepping in to end this circus,” Kraham wrote. “Residents have made it clear they are sick and tired of this issue. They want City Council to get back to work. While our case for overturning this appointment is strong, forcing City Council to comply with the law would cost taxpayers 10s of thousands of dollars in additional legal expenses. It would mean restarting a legal process, and months more of litigation.”

He accused the council of breaking bipartisan precedent, referencing past cases of unanimous consent of candidates nominated by their party chairs.

Before the vote to appoint Kosty on March 22, Michael Dundon, who represents the seventh district, argued that the appointment would help the council move forward, emphasizing his distance from the original dispute. Strawn disagreed, saying that if the council truly wanted to move forward, they would not have appointed Rathmell in January.

“This legislative body has already spent more than enough time and taxpayer money on an issue that has long been settled in our favor,” wrote Councilwoman Kinya Middleton, the majority leader. “It’s about time that we can focus fully on the important issues at hand — Binghamton still has the [third]-highest poverty rate in the state, food deserts are increasing throughout our city and news of shootings has been constant. Addressing these issues is our top priority as we work to best serve Binghamton and the many constituents we work diligently to represent on a daily basis.”

Both Rathmell and Strawn are running in the November special election. In an emailed statement, Rathmell reiterated her commitment to serving the district’s residents. accusing Kraham of “throwing a fit” in the face of a Democratic-controlled council.

“What should, however, be considered a ‘clear and willful violation’ of local law was the Mayor’s lawsuit against council in the first place — particularly given members’ repeated attempts to recommend alternatives to court that would have effectively avoided the ‘damage for taxpayers’ he now claims to care so deeply about,” Rathmell wrote.

She said Kraham had “become far too accustomed to” manipulating the council’s previous 4-3 Republican majority. The Democratic near-sweep last November represented a major comeback for the party, which organized to unseat multiple incumbents.

Though the dispute has ended, before Kraham made this announcement, Federman criticized Democrats for ignoring the will of voters and the judiciary.

“The court order was clear — the City Council must appoint a Republican in consultation with the Republican chairman,” Federman wrote in a statement. “City Council’s action [appointing Kosty] was illegal — plain and simple. These Democrats would rather break the law and violate a court order than work on behalf of Binghamton residents. We look forward to City Council being held accountable for this unlawful act.”

Editor’s Note (4/4/24): This article has been edited to include clarification that Federman’s quote was provided before Kraham made this decision.