CLAVERACK — The Columbia County Democratic Committee (CCDC) met on September 23 at the Claverack Free Library for their Biennial Organizational Meeting and were charged with electing a new chairperson. Keith Kanaga, the outgoing chair, declined to seek another term. After a round of speeches, Sam Hodge, 35, was unanimously elected to become CCDC’s new chair.
Mr. Hodge, a lifelong Democrat, has always been politically engaged and active. He founded his high school’s young Democrats group, started a gay rights organization at his college campus and moved up the ranks of the College Democrats of America, becoming the national political director during the 2008 campaign.
Outside of politics, Mr. Hodge served as an assistant district attorney in Bronx County for nearly seven years, where he prosecuted violent crimes, including sexual assault and child abuse cases.
“I’m the product of public school teacher parents, so I learned quickly the power of public service and the importance of civic engagement,” said Mr. Hodge in a press release. “I’m humbled to have the trust and support of the Columbia County Democrats.”
Mr. Hodge, a resident of Claverack, takes over at a pivotal time for the party as Democrats are poised to take back the Board of Supervisors and win the Sheriff’s Office, according to the release.
“Our party is organized, engaged, and ready to put in the hard work to win,” he said. “We’re the party that is putting forward ideas to innovate and reimagine how local governments can make our energy costs lower, internet faster, and housing more affordable. We’ve got the ideas, candidates, and organization to win.”
In addition to Mr. Hodge, Erin Stamper was re-elected to serve as 1st Vice Chair. Ms. Stamper has been the 1st Vice Chair of the Columbia County Democratic Committee since late 2017. After starting in the world of campaign politics, she worked in public radio for a decade before returning to work elections here in Columbia County.
Brenda Gevertz was re-elected to a second term to serve as 2nd Vice Chair of CCDC. Ms. Gevertz has been a Ghent resident for 16 years and served as a Ghent Democratic Committee Representative. She is on the steering committee of IndivisibleColumbiaNY and is a past board member of The Chatham Synagogue. She previously directed two national nonprofit organizations and has a specialization in public administration.
David Berman was re-elected to a third term as treasurer and Annick de Bellefeuille was re-elected as secretary. Mr. Berman is a long time resident of Ghent and works as a technology consultant to major media companies. Prior to that he was an executive in a satellite company and vice president of CBS. Locally he has been instrumental in expanding broadband across Columbia County. Ms. Bellefeuille, a resident of Hudson, is a fiction writer and former journalist for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp.). She has participated in many local Democratic campaigns and served as the secretary to the Hudson City Democratic Committee before being chosen to fill that position for the CCDC.”
“The meeting was as much of a celebration of the past, as it was excitement for the future,” said Ms. Gevertz.
When Mr. Kanaga took the reins of the party in 2016, Republicans had the voter registration advantage, but now, five years later, Democrats have the advantage by more than 4,000 voters. In 2016, the county went for the Republican candidate for Congress by 1,500 votes, but in 2020, went for the Democratic candidate by more than 8,000. When he started, Democrats had nine seats on the Board of Supervisors, but now hold 13.
“Keith brought the heat,” said Mr. Hodge. “He focused on finding great candidates and building our party and it worked.”
Stephanie Sussman, Claverack Democratic town chair, said, “Keith has been a dynamic leader, one who mentors not only to influence and develop the people they lead, but who is able to read and react to different individuals and situations. He has inspired others in so many ways, not only through his leadership, but through his character, his courage, and his dignity through difficult moments, both personal and professional. He leads with grace, and it has been a joy to work with Keith.”
The CCDC meets every fourth Thursday of the month. For more information, visit columbiacountydemocrats.org.